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China’s major technology giants are among a group of organizations that have joined a national committee focused on creating standards for blockchain technology.
The move is part of major push by the world’s second-largest economy to become a leader in the nascent space after President Xi Jinping last year urged the country to “seize the opportunities” presented by the technology.
E-commerce giant JD.com, telecommunications equipment maker Huawei, search firm Baidu, and Tencent, the owner of popular messaging app WeChat, are all part of the committee. Ant Financial, the affiliate of Alibaba which runs the Alipay mobile payments app, is also part of the group which counts a number of academics among its members.
The group has been named the “National Blockchain and Distributed Accounting Technology Standardization Technical Committee.”
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which released the names of participating organizations, did not specify exactly what this committee would be doing. However, its name suggests it will be tasked with coming up with technical standards around blockchain and so-called distributed ledger technology (DLT).
Blockchain refers to a technology which began with the cryptocurrency bitcoin. In that case, its role was an immutable and tamper-proof public ledger of activity. It was also “decentralized,” which means it was not owned by any one party.
The definition of the technology has evolved as it started being applied to new areas like finance. These cases are often referred to by terms such as DLT and are quite different from the original bitcoin blockchain. Still, the promise of a system in which transactions can happen across a single record is an attractive proposition.
Development of blockchain or DLT has often happened within individual companies or a consortium of firms looking to solve a single problem. China’s blockchain push is among the first from a national government of a major economy.
Setting technical standards could help China come up with a unified national approach to development of blockchain technology, which in turn could help it scale faster.