China to Release Nationwide Blockchain Standards by 2019

Li Ming, a director at the Blockchain Research Office within China’s IT Ministry, told the media this morning that China will aim to release nationwide blockchain standards before the end of 2019.

The group, to be known as the Blockchain and Distributed Accounting Technology Standardization Committee, will be something of a joint venture across various existing government agencies. The intent of the group is to “give the industry some guidance,” rather than seek rapid innovation in the space. In this regard, the report echoes the tone of cautious optimism building momentum across governments worldwide.

As we wrote last week, Hong Kong recently downplayed the role of cryptocurrency in organized crime, while the US maintains a general crypto stance of “wait and see.” The key thing to understand, of course, is that cryptocurrency and blockchain are being increasingly understood to be related yet separate concepts. This has not always been the case within government circles. Only recently are high-level officials beginning to rationalize the (often unfairly earned) negative stigma of cryptocurrencies with the smoldering potential of blockchain applications. China appears to be the latest to tell the world that while the disruptive technology remains in its infancy, the value of blockchain applications can be significant to governments, businesses, and everyday citizens alike.

What would “national blockchain standards” entail, exactly?

According to Economic Information Daily, the Chinese media outlet who spoke with Ming, the blockchain national standards include (translated from Chinese):

“Basic standards, business and application standards, process and method standards, credible and interoperable standards, and information security standards, and will further expand the applicability of the standards.”

A bit vague perhaps, but undeniably ambitious and wide-ranging. The committee recognizes that blockchain, similarly ambitious and wide-ranging, can bring a restructuring of entire product and management life cycles to myriad areas with a renewed emphasis on traceability, transparency, security, and ease of use. Devoted readers of this blog will remember that just two days ago, a US Congressional hearing endorsed a similar sentiment, with one Department of Homeland Security official calling blockchain’s uses “almost limitless,” and Don Bayer, a Virginia Congressman, saying crucially: “I believe America should take the lead in blockchain research.” The very next day, the Chinese media quoted another government official saying (again, translated): “The development of blockchain technology may become an important step for China to grasp global technological competition.”

Infer what you will from the timing, but in any case, it appears governments are waking up and realizing blockchain is too important a potential ally to ignore. The instantiation of a well-curated framework of blockchain standards can do more to bolster innovation than stifle it, while simultaneously insulating consumers from bad-faith actors. We expect this trend to continue going forward, particularly now that two noted technological juggernauts, the US and China, both seek to position themselves as leaders in the coming blockchain revolution.