On September 4, 2017, the People’s Bank of China shut down local crypto exchanges over escalating concerns that unregulated assets, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, allowed PRC residents to bypass the country's strict capital controls. Photo: iStock

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is calling for a more relaxed regulatory framework for blockchain to enable an “industrial scale” breakthrough for the technology.

China’s vice-minister of industry and information technology Xin Guobin reportedly told an international manufacturing forum in Beijing on Monday that one way of “optimizing” the operational environment for blockchain technology could be with an easing of the current regulatory environment.

Blockchain was of strategic importance, said Xin, because it has the capability to improve traditional finance credit systems, prevent information forgery and also bring about savings for a number of sectors including e-commerce, medical care, social security, Internet of Things and energy.

Last month Xin Guobin told another industry meeting that while high-tech manufacturing is growing rapidly in China and now accounts for more than 12% of the country’s industrial output – and spans high-speed rail, AI, Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing as well as blockchain – the innovation capabilities of the sector remain weak and are still often dependent on foreign technical input.

“The road ahead to build China into a strong manufacturing country is still very long,” said Xin, echoing the core tenants of the PRC’s grand Made in China 2025 scientific and industrial strategic plan. Xin added that to help kick-start increased high-tech innovation, China will now start implementing measures that will open the country’s markets to increased foreign capital.

However, China is already undoubtedly a world leader in blockchain. State news agency Xinhua claimed in May that China had already formed “a complete industrial chain” in terms of blockchain-related hardware manufacturing, services and applications services, while in 2017, of the 400 global patent blockchain applications made, more than half came from China. Tech giant Alibaba is said to own 49 of these, which is more than any other company in the world.

Vice-Minister Xin Guobin’s words this week came as new data reveals that there are now more than 4,000 firms in China that have taken the words “blockchain” or “distributed ledger” as part of their company name.

The data, from Chinese high-tech sector market researcher Qixin.com, shows that already this year more than 3,000 companies have used blockchain as part of their company title. This sharply contrasts to the less-than-600 who did so in the whole of 2017.

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