On 3 January, 2020, Tang Sisi, the Vice-Chair of the Smart City Development Research Centre at China’s State Information Centre (CSIC) announced that a Blockchain Service Network (BSN) will launch for commercial purposes in April 2020.

What is the BSN?

The BSN is a state-backed national blockchain service infrastructure platform that spans public networks, regions and institutions. It was planned by CSIC and independently developed by China UnionPay, China Mobile and others. The BSN has been backed by prominent Chinese institutions and its members include China Merchants Bank International, China Telecom, WeBank and various others. It aims to create a trusted public infrastructure which will support thedevelopment of smart cities and the digital economy, which will be particularly important with the development and implementation of 5G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and other technologies. Key priorities of the BSN include:

  • further promoting data sharing;
  • optimising business processes;
  • reducing operating costs;
  • improving the efficiency of collaborations;
  • building a trusted system; and
  • improving the government’s governance capabilities.

Beta Testing

The BSN, currently in its beta phase, is being piloted in Zhe­jiang, the province capital of Hangzhou and has been provided to 400 companies and 600 developers for trial and testing. The beta phase is scheduled to conclude in March 2020 and the BSN is expected to officially launch for commercialisation in April 2020.

Other Initiatives in China

China has seen a significant uptick in blockchain initiatives over the past year, with over 500 blockchain projects being registered with the Chinese government since March 2019 and President Xi Jinping publicly endorsing blockchain based technologies in a speech given in October 2019. Many of these initiatives are from some of China’s largest companies, such as the ICBC, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

Local governments are also driving blockchain forward. For example, Hainan, an island province of China, has released a set of measures to accelerate the development of blockchain. In particular, Hainan has created a special fund of 1 billion yuan to help support blockchain companies with the aim to nurture talent and help develop the application of blockchain technology across several sectors such as housing, healthcare, tourism and trade. However, whilst China may be taking a pro-blockchain stance that is supportive of distributed ledger technology, it has been less favourable towards the use of cryptocurrencies. Reports have recently circulated around the fresh crackdown of cryptocurrency-related activities by Chinese authorities. In November 2019, Binance Holdings Ltd., a cryptocurrency exchange platform, and Tron, a cryptocurrency, were banned on China’s micro-blogging service, Weibo, whilst Chinese watchdogs have issued notices calling for a clean-up of companies involved in cryptocurrency trading.

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Sue McLean is a partner in the IT/Commercial Practice Group in Baker McKenzie's London office. Sue advises clients on technology, sourcing and digital media business models and deals, as well as the legal issues relating to the implementation of new technologies. Sue advises clients (both customers and suppliers) on a wide range of technology matters including outsourcing, digital transformation, technology procurement, development and licensing, m/e-commerce, cloud computing, AI, FinTech, blockchain/DLT, social media, data privacy and cybersecurity. Sue also advises on commercial agreements and the commercial, technology and intellectual property aspects of M&A transactions and joint ventures. Sue has experience across various business sectors, including the financial services, consumer, TMT, travel and life sciences industries. She regularly speaks and writes about the impact of disruptive technologies and has a regular blog for Computerworld.

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Dan Relton is an Associate in the London office of Baker McKenzie.

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