Can China be global blockchain leader without crypto?
The PRC wants to lead the way with blockchain development, but shouldn't it also change its anti-crypto stance before it can be the global leader?
Beijing may hold a negative stance against decentralized currencies but blockchain – the technology that underpins all crypto – remains of great interest to the PRC and the country is now looking at a raft of intellectual-property-protection projects based on this emergent technology.
A number of incentives, such as subsidizing patent fees and tax credit rewards, are now reportedly being offered by local authorities to protect blockchain intellectual-property rights. According to Bloomberg, these are being rolled out by an increasing number of private Chinese companies as Beijing strives to gain ground on foreign competitors.
Head of Eiger Law’s intellectual property and technology practice in Taiwan, John Eastwood, told Bloomberg that “US universities and corporations are still doing amazing research and development, but it does not have the same support from the government as in China. That could lead to China pulling ahead.”
A rising number of patent applications have also been filed by Chinese companies in recent years. According to local media outlet Sina.com Chinese companies submitted 550 patent applications on blockchain technology around the world between 2008 and 2017. This means it has surpassed the US and South Korea to become the world’s largest blockchain patent applicant.
Chinese tech giants are also helping the country’s attempt to lead the way with blockchain adoption and development. Just last week retail giant JD.com announced the launch of a new blockchain platform which will allow its enterprise clients to develop applications and smart contract-based systems. The “Retail as a Service” (RaaS) strategy aims to help companies that lack detailed knowledge of blockchain technology to take advantage of its potential. The system competes with the Amazon Web Services (AWS), blockchain-as-a-service platform announced by the American online retailer in April.
Alibaba is also very keen on leveraging blockchain development and holds 43 related patents which cover areas of invention, design, and utility. The internet giant is reportedly second only to the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which has filed 68 blockchain patent applications. Alibaba also believes it can use the technology to combat counterfeit products and expand access to quality healthcare in China.
Despite China going full steam ahead with blockchain development, its negative stance towards crypto-currencies could be stifling further innovation. Ian Liu, a senior intellectual property associate at Deacons law firm in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg that “in this regard, China is not leading the world in terms of how it recognizes and regulates blockchain assets.”
While Baidu, JD.com and Alibaba, have already “recognized the importance of blockchain as a future technology,” Liu says China’s attempts to crypto-currency ban may ultimately slow the country’s blockchain development efforts.