China's Biggest Political Event Sees Talk of Blockchain's Potential
Chinese policy advisors from across various sectors have been weighing in on domestic blockchain development during the first days of an ongoing annual political event.
Commonly known as the "Two Sessions" - comprising the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - the event this year has already seen a wide range of comments on blockchain from provincial and municipal representatives to CEOs of major internet firms. The event started on March 3.
The NPC is China's top legislative arm, which proposes policies and oversees its enforcement, while the CPPCC serves a consultative function for lawmakers, with its membership coming from corporates and political parties, as well as ethnic groups in China. Both events are hosted every spring over the course of 10-14 days at national, provincial and municipal levels.
While the topic of blockchain has yet to make it to the lawmakers' agenda, comments from CPPCC members have brought attention to the tech to both local and national political events.
Applications are key
While China has already clamped down on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and fiat-to-crypto order book trading since September 2017, the government is still stepping up its support for turning blockchain technology into real-life applications.
Speaking to that effort, Pony Ma, CEO of Chinese internet giant Tencent, said in a press Q&A session during the CPPCC conference that his firm is actively exploring various scenarios that could see the application of blockchain technology, according to a report from Sohu.
"Although the invention of blockchain is [excellent], the key to its future lies largely in actual applications. Meanwhile ICOs remain highly risky. We do not intent to participate in launching our own cryptocurrency."
Echoing that comment, Li Yanhong, CEO of search giant Baidu, said that, while blockchain technology is revolutionary, it's still a very early stage, according to China's tech news Leiphone.
The comments are largely in line with recent developments of the two internet firms, as Baidu and Tencent have both recently launched blockchain-as-a-service platforms in order to facilitate companies that seek to develop applications using the tech.
Meanwhile, Zhou Yanli, currently a CPPCC member and former vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, doubled down on his belief that blockchain applications promise to play a major role in improving the efficiency of the insurance industry in China.
China has already seen joint efforts in piloting blockchain application within the insurance industry. As reported, in April 2017, a group of 10 insurance companies said it had completed a blockchain trial in the country.
Calls for change
Yet as interest in the technology grows, some policy advisors are casting doubts on aspects of the blockchain industry.
For instance, Zhou Hongyi, chairman of internet security firm Qihoo 360, commented:
"The only real application of blockchain I can see so far is bitcoin. And yet in the history of blockchain development, lots of exchanges and wallets have been hacked, which proves blockchain technology needs serious security improvement."
Meanwhile, Ding Lei, CEO of internet technology firm NetEase, believes that a lot of the current attention given to blockchain is driven by speculation.
"Applications should be developed in accordance to actual market needs, instead of just using the name of blockchain for speculation," he said.
Addressing the issue of speculation, Wang Pengjie, a CPPCC member from minor political party Zhi Gong, proposed a regulatory framework that would potentially treat tokens as public stocks, saying, "A regulated cryptocurrency exchange platform under the oversight of People's Bank of China and Securities Regulatory Commission would serve as a formal way for companies raising funds through ICO and trading cryptocurrencies."
Cities take a focus
While the event has seen notable comments at the national level in Beijing, city-level conferences have also discussed ways to foster blockchain developments.
According to Leiphone, in China's Guangxi Province, policy advisors from the provincial CPPCC have already proposed the drafting of crypto-friendly guidelines to attract firms that design, develop and implement blockchain applications.
Similarly, CPPCC members at a city-level conference in Chengdu suggested that the local government should have a policy in place to build an incubation center to foster adoption of blockchain technology in the city's financial services.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Hangzhou, the city where e-commerce giant Alibaba is headquartered, said the it would make blockchain one of its top priorities for 2018, in an effort to foster quality development in the field.
People's Great Hall image via Shutterstock