Nation leads world in blockchain projects

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Since Feb 15, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission at the Cyberspace Administration of China has been implementing Regulations on the Management of Blockchain Information Services, under which providers must file their information on the listing system within 10 days of launching the service.

Qulian's Li said that blockchain as a distributed ledger technology provides a very good tool for the supervision of finance and related sectors, adding that blockchain can be used to counter fake documents, or to provide real-time tracking of wealth management products.

Li added that Qulian is working with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to draft industry standards. Although some reports have said a national blockchain standard will be established this year, Li does not expect it to happen so soon, especially as the industry needs more freedom to develop.

Sin, from Deloitte, said that to help adopt permitted technology, the government needs to understand blockchain and see how it works under existing regulations.

Kong Hui, senior data analyst with Blockdata, said: "To some extent, regulations act as a kind of support to the industry. When the industry is unregulated, some companies can make money easily, but it will be insecure for all industry players. But if they know where the bottom line is, it will be clearer for companies to know where they can head to."

Blockchain is not a magic fix for all industries. "If it is just used to build an immutable database for higher transparency, then the rate of return should be questioned," Kong said.

Li said there are some deficiencies in blockchain technology in terms of how it can be expanded, privacy exchange and protection, as well as anti-attack capability.

Sin said, "We are starting to realize that some cases of use will be better supported with other technologies such as Open API ... rationalizing such cases is a healthy sign." Open API is a publicly available application-programming interface that allows third parties to share a proprietary software application or web service.

Blockchain spending worldwide is expected to reach $11.7 billion by 2022, according to a report by global consultancy International Data Corp. Respondents to PwC's survey believe that in three to five years, China will lead the global trend in developing blockchain.

"Currently, we don't see a huge difference between blockchain development in China and the US in terms of the business-to-business market," Li said.

He added that once the technology is mature enough to unlock the consumer market, blockchain development in China will be much faster than in the US, thanks to the country's fast-growing internet industry and large user base.

In 2017, many observers expected blockchain to bring disruptive change to the world. But the industry was soon hit by the cryptocurrency collapse. The value of bitcoin, one of the world's most popular virtual currencies, plunged by more than 80 percent last year from its record high of nearly $20,000 per bitcoin in December 2017.

"When all the noise, hype and speculation dies down, we expect an increasing focus on the real application of the technology in solving real business problems to create solid synergetic values," Sin said.

Kang, from the Blockchain Research Center of China, said the easing of cryptocurrency investment will be conducive for the healthy development of blockchain. This will allow capital to flow to applications that generate real value and services, he added.

"In the initial stage, there could be some products that do not fully accord with the characteristics of blockchain, but developing blockchain applications needs to be done step by step," Kang said, adding that 2019 will be a year for such applications.

Kong, from Blockdata, said it is still too early to talk about how disruptive blockchain can be. "It is still at a nascent stage and will only be upgraded to blockchain 2.0 if it really finds its roots in serving the real economy," she said.

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