The environment for blockchain in China is ‘pro-innovation’: Ant Financial

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After Chinese authorities cracked down on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) two years ago, the hype surrounding the technology is noticeably muted.

During a panel on blockchain regulation at the Emerge by TechNode conference on May 23, Steven Wang, who heads the market research team at Ant Blockchain, said that the concept of blockchain was frequently linked with cryptocurrency in China before 2017. Now, there is a clearer distinction between the two buzzwords—a shift that Wang sees as positive. Companies are more interested in “landing blockchain applications that would actually solve real problems rather than just [creating] another new bubble,” Wang told TechNode in an interview following the panel.

Last year, Ant Financial said it identifies blockchain as one of the five key technologies that will dominate industries. It has been working with authorities on implementing the technology for use in public services including blockchain-based medical prescriptions and electronic invoices. The fintech giant officially launched its blockchain subsidiary Ant Blockchain in February.

Wang describes the regulatory environment for blockchain in China as pro-innovation. “There’s a lot of support from the relevant bodies and also from the industry organizations to push for blockchain development… I think it’s quite a strong push for blockchain to develop in a healthy way currently in China and it’s not something which we are afraid of,” said Wang.

Wang noted that government agencies are increasingly interested in blockchain and are inching toward an open attitude with more proven applications and actual use cases being implemented. “They are  more interested in coming to us to actually look for ways to collaborate and to use our technology to make their own public services more efficient.”

Outside of the public sector, Wang expects to see more corporations moving into the blockchain space this year and opening up their technology to other businesses.

Looking forward, Wang said the company plans to support more open source projects like Hyperledger Fabric, which it already works with. It is looking to make blockchain more accessible to other businesses, including those that are interested in the technology but lack the technical ability develop their own solutions.

Update: clarified Ant Blockchain’s existing relationship with Hyperledger Fabric.