China planning to create national standards for blockchain technology

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in China announced (link in Chinese) on 12 March that it is setting up a national technical standardisation committee for blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT).

In 2016, the Ministry released the country's first official guidance for blockchain in the form of a white paper, titled "The Blockchain Technology and Application Development Whitepaper". The importance of standardisation in the area was highlighted in the paper.

At present, international standard-setting bodies, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have launched initiatives for the standardisation of blockchain.

ITU has established a focus group on distributed ledger technology (FG-DLT) with the aim to develop a standardisation roadmap for interoperable DLT-based services, taking into consideration the activities underway in ITU, other standards developing organizations, forums and groups.

ISO has also launched a technical committee, TC 307, on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. It is looking into terminology and concepts, security risks and vulnerabilities, identity, reference architecture and legally binding smart contracts.  

W3C has also initiated its work on distributed ledger technology, the W3C`s Web Ledger Protocol,

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), a standards-setting body within IEEE, has been actively pursuing blockchain standardisation efforts through various activities in multiple industry sectors. Active projects include framemwork for blockchain use in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Interoperability of Transactive Energy Systems with Electric Power.

China is participating in relevant international standardisation activities through channels such as the TC 307 committee.

The China Electronics Standardization Institute, a non-profit institution for standardisation in the field of electronics and IT industry directly under MIIT proposed the national standardisation of blockchain technology. Now a committee will be formed to lead the effort.  

Meanwhile, the central bank, the People's Bank of China, is taking a cautious approach towards cryptocurrencies, the most well-known application of blockchain technology. Last year, Chinese authorities ordered a ban on initial coin offerings and stopped direct trading between bitcoin and the Chinese yuan, due to concerns over financial risks.

However, the central bank has also set up a research institute for digital currency, and is now working with industry insiders for conducting research into digital currency and electronic payments. Xinhua quoted the central bank governor as saying that the central bank is closely working with the market participants on regulation policies.

There are numerous other applications of blockchain, in areas such as digital governance, identity management, cross-border payments, supply chain and logistics and more.

According to a recent report in Technode, Chinese tech giant, Alibaba Group, had the largest number of patents published for blockchain technology during 2017 among all enterprises globally, while the aforementioned Digital Currency Research Institute of PBoC was in third place. Of the top 100 companies, 49 were Chinese and 23 were from the US. 

Chinese research firm, CCID Consulting Co, estimates that blockchain services in China will reach 81 million yuan ($12.63 million) in sales by this year-end, and 512 million yuan by 2020.

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