Once Shenzhen metro's blockchain ticketing system is fully launched, it could be used by 170,000 passengers a day. Photo: iStock

Beijing’s strict stance on cryptocurrency has not hindered new and innovative blockchain systems being rolled out across China.

The People’s Republic clearly wants nothing to do with digital money but remains very keen on its underlying distributed ledger technology. According to a report in local finance website Securities Daily, Shenzhen this week became the first city to launch a blockchain based rail transit invoicing system.

The new platform was officially rolled out at Shenzhen Metro’s Futian Station. According to the report, it will operate in conjunction with other public transport in the metropolis, including taxis and airport buses.

The initiative has been developed by the Shenzhen Municipal Taxation Bureau in partnership with multinational internet conglomerate Tencent, which operates China’s leading social network and mobile payment app, WeChat. Other partners include the Shenzhen Metro Group, MTR Shenzhen Group, Gaoguang Technology, and Guangdian Express.

The platform will allow Shenzhen Metro passengers to view and pay for their digital tickets and payment vouchers at the end of each trip via the WeChat payments app. All payments will be recorded on a blockchain ledger, which will act as a distributed accounting database.

The Shenzhen metropolitan area, which borders Hong Kong and is part of the Pearl River Delta megalopolis, became China’s first special economic zone back in 1980. Today, Shenzhen has a population of around 20 million and is a leading Chinese technology hub, and the city’s subway system, according to the  Securities Daily report, carries more than a million passengers a day. Once the blockchain ticketing system is fully launched, it is designed for 170,000 passengers to use it every day, “paying as they go” via the mobile app.

The future of cryptocurrencies in China is still high on the agenda at government meetings in the PRC, according to Technode magazine. At the annual Two Sessions meeting, effectively China’s equivalent of Davos, delegates and political leaders discussed cryptocurrency and the need for clearer regulations. The only clarity from the state and central bank at the moment seems to be that “blockchain is good and crypto is bad” and at the Two Sessions meet, business and fintech leaders reportedly agreed that this approach is counterproductive for future innovation.

However, at the moment, while China shows no inclination of loosening its tight grip over people’s financial freedom, it still clearly wants to employ digital ledger technology to help improve efficiency across a range of industries.

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