As lawmakers jockey to chastise technology leaders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (for the dastardly future crime of earning potential profits by providing a payment service to millions of people), America’s greatest economic foe, China, has quietly built a substantial lead in the race for leadership in technology’s newest battleground: Blockchain Technology.
This was an exciting week for cryptocurrency holders. Bitcoin prices surged as much as 40% Friday after China’s Xi Jinping urged his fellow citizens to “seize the opportunity” afforded by blockchain technology. The Chinese leader’s statements on blockchain are believed to be his first in-depth remarks on the technology. His comments stressed the importance of stepping-up research on the standardization of blockchain to increase China’s influence and rule-making power in the global arena.
2019 has been a busy year for China. While the United States bemused itself with bipartisan bickering, China quietly pursued global leadership in blockchain technology. During the year, China successfully moved nearly their entire population off of paper money and onto digital currency solutions. This change affected Chinese citizens of all economic levels. Even panhandlers on the streets of Beijing no longer solicit coins and bills, they instead display their QR code for donations to their digital bank accounts.
China’s central bank also announced a verification system this week called the Certification of FinTech Products that will certify 11 types of financial technology hardware and software widely used for digital payments and blockchain services. This initiative follows a year-long public education campaign where China’s central bank published and disseminated pamphlets and other educational materials heralding the benefits of digital currencies and explaining the capabilities of blockchain technology to streamline commerce and fight corruption.
China’s intention of dominating this new technology has been made clear – first with covert foundational initiatives and now overtly with President Xi’s announcements and the sponsoring of these programs. This is all advantageous for a command economy like China, which can now recapture lost innovation through streamlined implementation, a phenomenon now materializing. Washington’s struggles with endless equivocation and ineffectiveness reflects the Western world’s general indecisiveness, allowing China to establish itself as the global blockchain technology and cryptocurrency leader.
Blockchain technology stands poised to rebuild the way that data, digital assets and currencies move around the globe. The global financial landscape will be restructured to reflect the immutability and instant transferability of blockchain-based assets and currencies. Gone are the days of waiting for third-party transaction validations. Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, IBM, The Bank of England, The Bank of Japan, the ECB, the Federal Reserve and the IMF have all commented on the inevitability of this changing paradigm, but no operator has gone as far as the Bank of China to position itself as a leader for this coming reality.
The Chinese government has moved forward with formal policy to ready itself and its population for a digital economy, passing a new law (effective January 1st) aimed at “facilitating the development of the cryptography business and ensuring the security of cyberspace and information”. Among other things, this law also makes it illegal to falsely claim that blockchain technology is fraudulent. The new legislation, and indeed President Xi’s comments, were anticipated by many as China readies the country for the launch of its state-backed cryptocurrency – which is expected as soon as December.
When we finally see the inner workings of China’s national cryptocurrency, we can be certain that its blockchain architecture will likely be a long way from the decentralized, trust-less principles upon which Bitcoin, Ethereum and other public blockchains are based.
China’s interest in the space appears to have had a positive impact on already established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, by adding global legitimacy to the cryptocurrency industry overall. Only time will tell the true cost of America’s war on its innovators. China has taken the first steps toward dominating the future of the internet and of finance. The first shots in the “Blockchain Wars” have been fired and America barely noticed.
Managing Partner & CIO