A recent report called The Rise of FinTech in China – Redefining Financial Services from DBS and EY places a powerful light on China’s unique, dynamic and rapidly evolving FinTech ecosystem, while examining the key drivers behind the explosive growth of FinTech sector in the country – including Blockchain.
The report notes that in Mainland China, Blockchain initiatives have largely been associated with academia and research institutions. International banks, which are among the leaders in Blockchain exploration, have been reluctant to enter the Chinese market.
But interest has been escalating, partly fuelled by the second Global Blockchain Summit held in September 2016 in Shanghai and China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has also organised a special government-industry working group to present a plan for promoting the development and adoption of Blockchain technology.
A recent survey estimates that FinTech markets’ investments in Blockchain technology will reach US$1 billion by end 2016. This reflects an exponential growth curve, with VC-backed investments in Blockchain and bitcoin companies rising from an almost non-existent US$3 million in 2011 to US$474 million in 2015.
The Chinese market has likewise seen a flurry of developments by mid-2016, with the formation of consortia such as:
- China Ledger Alliance – comprising regional exchanges to create an open source Blockchain protocol to support an eventual ‘Internet of Everything’ for China
- Financial Blockchain Shenzhen Consortium – with members that include Ping An Insurance (part of R3, a global consortium of more than 50 financial companies involved in R&D for Blockchain usage) and a Tencent subsidiary). This Consortium intends to collaborate on research and group-wide Blockchain projects, with a focus on capital markets technology, securities exchange, trading platforms, banking and life insurance. It aims to create a securities trading platform prototype and develop credit, digital asset registry and invoice management services.
- Qianhai International Blockchain Ecosphere Alliance – which aims to establish an efficient ecosystem for developing Blockchain technology and its applications by combining Mainland China and international talent, technology and capital. The Alliance, which includes Microsoft, IBM and Hong Kong’s Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), hopes to accelerate the commercialisation of Blockchain R&D and promote its application to support China’s social and economic development
These Blockchain forays are still at the nascent stages in China, with some proof-of-concept efforts under way but wider adoption and implementation remaining a long-term play. As with Blockchain developments elsewhere, pain points in current platforms are impeding adoption. Challenges include: difficulties in integrating with current ecosystems; lack of security protection for application data, logic and operating environment; and issues around trust and protection of individuals’ and business’ privacy.