Xi Jinping, President of the world’s most populous country and the world’s second biggest economy, has become the world’s most senior global figure to mention blockchain technology in a speech at the opening of the joint annual conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Addressing China’s scientific and engineering elites, Xi opened with: “Academicians, comrades and friends!” Then added, and we quote a rough translation:
“Since entering the 21st century, global scientific and technological innovation has entered an unprecedented period of intensive activity.
A new round of scientific and technological revolutions and industrial changes are reconstructing the global innovation map and reshaping the global economic structure.
The new generation of information technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communication, internet of things, and blockchain accelerate the breakthrough in application and bred new life science fields represented by synthetic biology, gene editing, brain science, and regenerative medicine.”
In a way Xi was namedropping any scientific or tech field you have heard of, and some you haven’t, with blockchain tech not mentioned any further but that once in a fairly lengthy speech of 6,400 words.
Innovation and science with Chinese characteristics, the President said. That characteristic includes their banning of crypto exchanges, nationalistic tendencies in propping up domestic companies sometime at the expense of foreign digital companies, as well as protectionist behavior in banning all sorts of things, including French cheese.
Yet the model so far has worked, perhaps at times at the expense of the rest of the world. Chinese internet giants are now very rich indeed, with the country’s lack of banking infrastructure leading to a leapfrog towards digital payments through the use of WeChat Pay or Ali Pay.
Tencent and Alibaba are two of the world’s giants we hear little of, but their model could easily be exported although Apple Pay has failed to gain much in the app pay space.
That may be because contactless cards are a lot more convenient than scanning a QR code or even tapping your phone because the latter requires an extra step of going first to the app.
Inconvenience Chinese citizens put up with because they don’t have contactless cards. The vast populous country barley has bank branches, and in some areas it doesn’t even have roads.
It is still a developing economy, with skyscrapers rising yet plenty of poverty. It doesn’t have a rule of law by any sense of the word, yet still it has more rule of law than India.
For while in China the law may sometimes be arbitrary, it is actually enforced unlike in India where you can’t really say they have any courts save for in the very centre.
Innovation with Chinese characteristics, thus, or even Socialism with Chinese characteristics, is saying nothing more than better than India but no where near Britain.
For innovation to flourish freedom must too, and though that freedom needs not necessarily be democracy, the unaccountable, out of touch, greedy, corrupt and self interested civil service needs to be accountable to the public.
That means prior to decisions being taken there needs to be open consultation and the nature of laws needs to be certain.
A government that runs the world’s second biggest economy should not be deceiving its citizens by showing them 404 when they visit an actually censored internet page.
Nor should businesses that run in that country find themselves to suddenly be shut down like the gestapos in the century past, as crypto exchanges did.
Nor are the characteristics being spoken of here in any way Chinese. They are nationalistic, which is a European invention, and whatever socialism they retain they are communistic, which again is a European invention.
Thus the only characteristic here is that China is about 100 years behind, and indeed very rich, and quite innovative, for the Chinese citizens, like all other citizens, are entrepreneurial and creative.
Rich because these global monopolistic corporations care not about such silly concepts as the rule of law, or protectionistic and nationalist tendencies as long as it doesn’t affect them.
They have therefore sent all our hardware skills to China, and have turned Shenzhen into the IoT capital. Problem is China then shut out crypto companies, and by association plenty of blockchain start-ups, so now we can’t even have bright kids with natural talent who happen to stumble into the right place so experimenting with IoT hardware and blockchain tech.
Yet they warn Trump of being protectionist, when that lion should roar louder not less because China’s characteristics do not extend to only taking while giving nothing back.