Many prominent Hui intellectuals in Republican China chose to collaborate with the CCP after 1949, adopting a new Islamic discourse that catered to the socialist regime. Given that they showed no interest in socialism before the CCP’s victory, their new intellectual positioning was often viewed as a pragmatic move. This paper complicates this view by showing that many of these intellectuals presented themselves not as Marxists but as strategic allies of the new regime. While they highlighted common “egalitarian” ideals of Islam and Marxism, they also strived to create an autonomous space for Muslims by highlighting distinct and “superior” features of Islam. This paper focuses on the ideas of Chen Keli, a faculty member at Beijing University and China Islamic College in the early 1950s. He was a prolific writer and translated Arabic works of Muslim reformists, including Palestinian socialist Bandali al-Jawzi. The work of these scholars inspired Chen to present Islamic history from a dialectical materialist standpoint. Chen argued that Islam shared many of socialism's egalitarian and progressive features, yet he insisted that Islam transcended socialism and offered humanity a better future. Chen dedicated himself to converting Islam into an ideology he called Islamism. He considered himself a pioneer, yet he inherited many of his ideas from Muslim scholarship of the Republican era—scholarship that was itself a product of Chinese Muslims' intellectual connections to Indian and Arab reformists. The paper will also demonstrate how the CCP responded to Islamism, an intellectual endeavor that led to Chen’s execution in 1970.