Please click the link below to listen to the 65th episode of my weekly crypto podcast ‘Two Minute Crypto.’ These are intended to be short, single-topic ramblings on some aspect of the cryptosphere. Consider dropping a like and or a review on iTunes or Podbean if you enjoy the podcast. Comments and critiques welcome.
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China’s Blockchain Play – An Inflection Point?
Welcome to Two Minute Crypto. This week focuses on the
wider implications for blockchain arising from China’s declared ‘embrace’ of
To date, this series has repeatedly highlighted the
control-centric purpose of adopting blockchain in a Chinese context. Blockchain,
as it will be implemented by the Chinese Communist ruling Party, will serve to
extend the state’s reach ever further into the daily lives of its citizens.
To summarize – the Beijing blockchain model will be
centralized whether presented that way or not. Projects will be state-subservient
and their apparent efficiency benefits will simply be an added bonus regardless
of the propaganda which promotes their adoption.
In the short-term, there will be a temptation to jettison
this whole decentralized thing – bend the knee and make merry in the Chinese market.
Let’s not forget other authoritarian states will be following on behind Beijing
– so state-sanctioned centralized blockchains will be in a period of rapid
expansion. It’s also worth highlighting that most self-declared chains are
decentralized in name only. They are dominated by their founders, a core
development team, uneven coin distribution and so on. A shift from decentralized
to centralized would in most cases be very easily achieved – if the price was
right. To date, the cryptosphere has been replete with short-sighted cash grabs.
Any opportunity to cash-in has been taken this ‘opportunity’ will be no
Of course, there’s Yin to this Yang. Any blockchain system
rolled out by the ruling party will clearly operate under direct supervision
and control. Independent ‘decentralized’ chains will have a readymade ‘dark’
version of themselves to compare and contrast to.
Immutability, censorship resistance, and permissionless
access may shine in this environment. Blockchain implemented as a tool of state
repression will likely see a flood of interest into the ‘other’ version’ as over
time the realization will dawn that’s it’s one version or the other. Blockchain
as big brother or as a vehicle of greater autonomy.
At the moment, it’s all what if’s and potential but that
era is coming to an end. Soon, a billion people will live under a darker vision
of blockchain. This will clearly offer an opportunity to decentralized projects.
In the medium to long-term decentralized iterations of blockchain may organically
overtake their lesser brethren. Where choice is possible – individuals will
likely veer towards tech that empowers.
In the interim, a ghetto system seems very likely.
Nations like China locked behind centralized networks while other states opt
for or are over-taken by permissionless chains. Over the next few years, real
investment opportunities may lie with projects that bridge the gap between the
two. Allowing access to or communication between chains with vastly differing governance
The centralized/decentralized blockchain development arc
will take decades to play out of course. Progress will be uneven and individual
jurisdictions will take different roads at different times. Whether one
iteration of blockchain comes to dominate the other remains to be seen. What is
absolutely clear, however, is that a struggle for the ‘purpose’ of blockchain
is about to start in earnest.
Thanks for listening.
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