Chinese President Xi Jinping Comes to Terms With Blockchain

Chinese President Xi Jinping may not like cryptocurrencies, but he is a fan of the blockchain. For a nation that has cracked down on the cryptocurrency industry more than any other jurisdiction, as evidenced by a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and bitcoin trading in the mainland as well as a target on bitcoin mining, the process by which more coins are created, his acceptance of the blockchain is surprisingly refreshing. He reportedly said:

“A new generation of technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communications, internet of things and blockchain is accelerating breakthrough applications.”

While President Xi Jinping’s celebration of the blockchain is juxtaposed by the country’s intolerance for cryptocurrencies, it’s a step in the right direction. He said he wants China to “become the global center” for technological innovation.

China has seemingly been able to separate the blockchain from cryptocurrencies considering that in spite of the broader ban in Beijing blockchain startups and government officials have been working together to unlock the potential of the technology in the region, as CNBC reported. Meanwhile, as anecdotal evidence, hundreds of Chinese locals attended a recent blockchain conference in the United States where a pair of sessions were given in Mandarin.

But Bobby Lee, who is the co-founder of China’s maiden bitcoin exchange BTCC, which has since rebranded and whose China trading capabilities have been shuttered, suggests that the lines surrounding blockchain technology often get blurred.

Technological Revolution

President Xi Jinping in his speech to the Chinese Academies of Sciences and Engineering acknowledged the feverish pace at which technological innovation has been unfolding in the 21st century, saying: “A new round of scientific and industrial revolution is reconstructing the global innovation map and reshaping the global economic structure.”

But in key ways, Xi has shut the door to that innovation by clamping down on what once comprising the lion’s share of bitcoin trading. But if you ask Lee, he reportedly believes that at some point, the ban on bitcoin trading will be eased and China could adopt a licensing process, he’s just not sure when.

Blockchain pioneers including the likes of Wences Casares and Joseph Lubin have offered perspective on cryptocurrencies that might serve Xi well, with Lubin recently saying that “cryptocurrencies should remain unfettered” as it relates to regulation. Casares, the CEO of blockchain startup Xapo, once described the harmony in which the blockchain and bitcoin are designed to operate, saying: “If you were to remove the bitcoin, miners would disappear and so would the blockchain.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Gerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.