Pore-water chemistry can have a fundamental influence on the shear behaviour of soil. To study the effects of salt concentration and desalinization on undrained shear behaviour, a series of ring shear tests was conducted on Chinese loess saturated with various NaCl solutions of differing concentration, under the same initial void ratio and consolidating stress conditions. Results showed that the peak and steady-state shear strengths increase as the NaCl concentration increases only up to a certain level. When this level is exceeded, any further increase of NaCl concentration results in lower shear strengths. After desalinization the peak and steady-state shear strengths recover to those of the original sample, showing that the salinization of loess is reversible. A pore pressure ratio of 0.6 can be used as a criterion to assess whether liquefaction can be induced in saturated loess. These findings may provide a useful explanation for progressive or seasonal activity of some irrigation-induced loess landslides in the Chinese Loess Plateau.