China and Australia have very different outlooks when it comes to crypto-currencies. The former is making every effort to prevent its people using, trading or even reading about digital assets while the latter is welcoming them in order to improve efficiency in various industries. The same cannot be said about blockchain, however, as both nations are eager to strive for a competitive edge in the industry.
This week Shanghai is hosting a group of Australian blockchain startups in order to further links between the two countries and their distributed ledger ambitions. According to Australian reports the trade mission has been organized by Austrade and the country’s Digital Commerce Association.
Part of the trip includes meets with one of China’s largest fintech companies, Ant Financial, which is valued at approximately $150 billion. The firm operates the world’s largest online mobile payments platform, with over 520 million users. It is also very keen on blockchain with huge investments being devoted to the technology recently.
The delegation is also set to visit the Wangxiang 4th Global Blockchain Summit, held at The Bund, Shanghai, later in the week. News out of China in recent months has been positive for blockchain but negative for crypto, which sector enthusiasts say is counter-intuitive because the two are so intrinsically linked.
As Asia Times reported last week, China’s central bank is in the final phase of testing a new financial based blockchain project which will streamline business and finance operations. Additionally, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is also planning its own digital currency but wants nothing to do with any of the decentralized ones currently in operation.
China is also paying close attention to the role of chairing the International Standards Organisation (ISO) group responsible for developing standards for blockchain. This has fallen to Australia, which has been seen as a far better and more trustworthy option than the US or Russia in Chinese eyes. Craig Dunn, chairman of the group, will be attending the blockchain summit and is likely to confirm that Australia is keen for China to be heavily involved in the standard development.
The irony is that China intends to use blockchain for greater transaction transparency and immutability, which will give the state more powers to effectively control and oversee operations. The ethos originally behind blockchain, and more specifically Bitcoin, was a system of decentralization that allows citizens to control and monetize their own data and finances without interference from a central authority, which is often mistrusted.
But the likelihood that Australia can tame the digital dragon into accepting the technology for what it was intended, as opposed to using it as a vehicle to further control its people, remains a slim one.