An influential government authority responsible for planning China's economy has said blockchain will form an integral part of the country's data and technology infrastructure.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told reporters Monday blockchain will join other emerging technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) in underpinning the systems China uses to manage the flow of information in the coming years.
Originally the State Planning Commission, the NDRC is a cabinet-level department that draws up policies and strategies for the direction of the Chinese economy. It has a wide brief that covers everything from investments into public transport to running anti-monopoly probes as well as overseeing corporate debt issuance.
On how new technologies, including blockchain, would be integrated, high-tech director Wu Hao said the NDRC would "work with relevant departments to study and issue relevant guidance to promote the development of new infrastructure [and] revise and improve the access rules that are conducive to the sustainable and healthy development of emerging industries."
What that means for blockchain's future in China is hard to know, because the NDRC has a complicated relationship with the broader industry.
An NDRC subsidiary has been working on a new Blockchain Service Network (BSN) that would provide companies with access to the tools they need to develop blockchain-based applications. Having already launched for domestic commercial use, it will open for global companies later this week.
However, last April the NDRC included the country's substantial bitcoin mining sector on a draft proposal for the industries it wanted "eliminated" from China. The body quietly removed mining from its list of undesirable industries weeks after Xi made his thoughts on the great potential of blockchain abundantly clear in October.
In the past, the NDRC has issued guidance and supportive policies for industries considered vital for the government's economic strategy. It signed an agreement with the China Development Bank in late 2018, to provide 100 billion yuan ($14.1 billion) in financial support to companies working in emerging tech, such as AI and IoT.
Whether the NDRC is planning on providing a similar level of support to companies working with blockchain is not yet known. But as support for the technology now goes all the way to the top, blockchain firms may well soon find themselves treated more favorably, as they are in nations such as South Korea.
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