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How China is using blockchain and 5G adoption to win the ‘next stage of the internet’

China is trying to set the global standards around blockchain as part of a larger strategy to lead the next generation of internet technology. One year after its launch, China’s government-run Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) has amassed 20,000 users and thousands of blockchain projects, according to The Wall Street Journal. Blockchain networks are largely fragmented, according to a 2020 World Economic Forum white paper, and increasingly in need of “common ground.” Proponents of BSN believe its attempts to standardize interoperability and other technical aspects could help solve that problem while opening up the blockchain to more diverse applications beyond cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain applications are moving beyond cryptocurrencies and are expected to add trillions of dollars to the global economy in the next decade. Global net additional GDP created by blockchain applications is expected to swell from $65.8 billion in 2021 to $1.76 trillion by 2030, per a 2020 PwC report. To put that in context, that estimate is more than the combined GDPs of Belgium, Sweden, and Turkey. Those are very promising figures for China, which is actively trying to lure developers to its BSN network with cheap server space, programming tools to create blockchains, and templates to standardize basic functionality, per WSJ. BSN also presents an enticing opportunity for developers, with proponents claiming it could reduce the cost of doing blockchain-based business by 80%.

Along with blockchain, China’s early attempts to build a big lead in 5G technology are part of a broader national strategy to dominate the next generation of the internet. China i5s reaping the benefits of its early investment in 5G: The country already has the world’s largest 5G network, and estimates from ABI research predict China’s 5G mobile connections will increase nearly tenfold between 2020 and 2025. Rival counties have responded to China’s 5G success with strict trade restrictions and outright bans on Chinese vendors—a tit-for-tat trade melee some have called “the geopolitics of 5G.” Though China is hoping to replicate its early domestic 5G success with blockchain standardization, it may quickly find itself in a similar political battle with rivals (like the EU and India) eager to set their own blockchain standards.