How the opening up of China’s national blockchain to global developers could lead to ethical/sustainable innovations

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Most people know of blockchain as the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The tech, which at its most basic form can be described as a ‘decentralised, distributed ledger technology that records the provenance of a digital asset (ok an online secure Excel spreadsheet, if you must) has a myriad of uses.

For example in the UK Stratford-upon Avon and Warwick hospitals have expanded their use of a distributed ledger, a major element of blockchain, to track Covid-19 vaccines in storage fridges, making sure they all get used in date.

The tech is already widely used in the financial world too and supermarkets like Walmart are using it to make its food supply chains more transparent and traceable..

There are lots of potential uses for the technology in the development/sustainability world too. For example, ethical chocolate brand Tony’s uses it as a key party of its mission to create a slave-free chocolate industry. Its Beantracker platform uses blockchain to record a cocoa bean’s journey from the field into a chocolate bar, ensuring that all those involved in the process from cooperatives to local traders and from international traders to processors, are acting ethically.

One country that has recognised the potential of the technology in China. In some ways this is a little ironic as the country has banned both cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings. It goes without saying too that it has its critics from a human rights perspective

Now though in what is a major fillip for the technology China is opening up one of its chains to developers across the globe, and in theory this could superchange the development of blockchain apps as it could give them access to the huge Chinese market.

TechCrunch reports that the country is innovating via the vehicle of the  Blockchain-based Service Network, which launched last year.

Blockchain comes in two different strains; permissionless, which is public, decentralised and transparent; and permissioned, which is private and is invariably shared between stakeholders in specific industries.

BNS is working on the more private part of its infrastructure and announced it will roll out a permissioned version of Cosmos, which is a network of many independent blockchains and calls itself the “internet of blockchains.” 

TechCrunch reports that ‘The development work for the Cosmos-based chain is done by Bianjie, a Chinese blockchain startup, and the permissioned chain is named after the city Wenchang in China’s southernmost Hainan Province, home to China’s first blockchain pilot zone.’

According to Bianjie the intentions of the Wenchang Chain are to provide a “public infrastructure network that allows the low-cost development, deployment, operation, maintenance and regulation of consortium blockchain applications.”

This has created an opportunity for developers across the globe who can now deploy their dApps (digital apps which are built using blockchain) in a way that is fully compliant with the rigorous Chinese regulations.

A Bianjie spokesperson told TechCrunch

“In this way, it’s possible for their dApps to gain a large number of Chinese users and enter the Chinese market.”

The Wenchang Chain is intended not just for enterprise services but also business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer programmes. Among the companies who have experimented using the chain are Uptick, a consumer-facing e-ticketing dApp.

Blockchain has the potential to be a significant tool for businesses that want to create ethical, open and transparent practices and supply chains. If you subscribe to the JFK belief that A ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ the opening up of a part of the Chinese market to global developers can only help its scale and will lead to the development of more useful blockchain-based solutions.

Photo by Ágoston Fung from Pexels



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