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China names blockchain trial zones after its crackdown on cryptocurrencies

Wangwukong | Stone | Getty Images

China has designated some cities and entities to trial blockchain applications, underscoring the importance Beijing is attaching to this particular technology.

In 2019, President Xi Jinping called on China to “seize the opportunities” presented by blockchain, giving his personal backing to the technology.

The Chinese capital Beijing and mega city Shanghai as well as Guangzhou in the south are all part of the pilot projects. Local government departments, universities, banks, hospitals, car companies and power firms are among the 164 entities chosen by China to carry out trial blockchain applications.

Blockchain originally referred to the technology that underpinned the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It is a public, tamper-proof and immutable ledger of activity. It is also “decentralized” meaning it is not run or owned by a single entity.

But the definition of blockchain has widened as many different industries look to use the technology for a variety of applications. Other names like “distributed ledger technology” or DLT are now often used and bear differences to the original bitcoin blockchain. Still, the idea of a single authentic record of activity is attractive.

China’s cyberspace regulator along with other regulators issued a notice on Sunday in which it called on provincial-level regulators to “give full play to the role of blockchain” in areas such as data sharing, optimizing business processes and reduce operating costs.

All the pilot units should “give priority to adopting blockchain software and hardware technologies,” the notice said.

China’s blockchain push comes after it renewed a crackdown on cryptocurrency trading and mining last year. Beijing has long-viewed bitcoin and other digital coins as a threat to financial stability.

Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China is pushing ahead with the rollout of a digital version of the country’s yuan. However, it is not a decentralized cryptocurrency like bitcoin. It will be controlled and issued by the Chinese central bank.

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