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China is not losing a second in the adoption of blockchain technology. Its latest collaboration with Huawei has given birth to a decentralized platform that will farm the Chinese people’s data and store it on a massive, immutable network available only to the government.
While it may seem like a normal, evolutionary step of mass surveillance technology in China, the recent initiative is another sign that the Chinese government is desperate to research and employ emerging technologies ahead of its international competitors.
China demands, Huawei delivers
Huawei has been looking into blockchain technology research for years. The tech giant has recently developed a blockchain-based platform for the Chinese Government that looks as if it stepped out of a Black Mirror episode.
According to a local report, the Beijing Government will use the platform as a record-tracking system. It will store all its citizens’ data ranging from medical records to assets and even their real-time vehicle parking status.
This ability to register and store trackable information is only what we know so far about the platform’s features. However, the government will likely delve deeper into its taxpayers’ lives, harvesting intimate details as well.
The official reason behind this Huawei-powered blockchain platform is the optimization of management data for the most populous country on the planet. It is part of China’s program to take digital governance to the next level through blockchain technology.
The platform will also use Huawei’s cloud services and an intricate network of distributed ledgers and smart contracts. The blockchain data will be available for more than 50 agencies within the municipality of Beijing and other government agencies throughout the country.
Not everything is as Big Brother-ish as it seems about China’s new data-farming platform. One of the benefits of this initiative is that the government will have another instrument to monitor and control the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
The blockchain-based network will hold the Chinese people’s medical records, and the system should help prevent or at least isolate other potential epidemics.
In exchange for giving the government access to their data, China’s residents will be connected to a system that could tell them about available real estate, potential Coronavirus outbreaks in their region, and free parking spots in nearby car parks.
Huawei and Beijing go a long way back
Based in Shenzhen, China, Huawei designs develops and sells telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics. Lately, it has emerged as one of the world’s top providers of 5G technologies and one of the leading tech companies in blockchain research.
The most recent collaboration between the Chinese Government and Huawei is not the first attempt to adopt blockchain technology.
Almost a year ago, Huawei had announced the development of a live blockchain-based directory for the government. Its purpose is to work as a data exchange platform that would instantly streamline immutable information between various administrative departments.
The vast data directory was the first step in decentralizing an outdated information-recording system based on centralized data silos.
With a population of over 1.4 billion, China has a massive collection of data to harvest and store. Without the security and immutability provided by blockchain technology, the process of gathering and managing all this information would most likely override its purpose.
According to this local report, the directory would handle over 44,000 files and 8000 permissions from Beijing alone, with plans to include 16 more districts and counties in China. This expansion is possible thanks to blockchain scalability and interoperable ledgers.
China’s love affair with blockchain and cryptocurrency
China has a love-hate relationship with new-age technologies. The Asian superpower dismisses all innovation until it discovers its utility according to the country’s over-controlling tendencies.
Until 2018, China was fighting hard to ban cryptocurrency and drive out Bitcoin miners from its territory. Fast forward two years later, and the country is waging a race against time and the United States to release the first Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), also known as the Digital Yuan.
Today, China has long-term plans for blockchain adoption and world economic domination once digital currencies become the standard. In this regard, the Beijing government has added cryptocurrency to its strictly curated curriculum and wants to emit a Pan-Asian digital currency ahead of its neighboring countries.
Therefore, the ongoing partnership between Huawei and the Chinese government does not come as a surprise. More of these initiatives should surface in the future, whether they will involve the exacerbation of mass surveillance in China or not. For now, both parties have to face the scrutiny of other governments and tech companies, which has not always been favorable.
Huawei is hit by international backlash due to its Beijing connection
Huawei may bask in the approval and protection of its domestic authorities, but it has to deal with a great deal of repulsion internationally.
The western world does not see the Huawei-Beijing connection with good eyes. In the United States, it has sparked accusations that the Chinese government could force it to spy, sabotage, or take other actions on its behalf.
This political resistance mostly regards Huawei’s 5G equipment, which the company has exported in many western nations. The United States went as far as to ban Huawei products, communication devices, and even semiconductor chips for national security reasons.
Also, in the name of national interest, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.
Blockchain-based platforms’ implementation keeps Huawei afloat domestically, the tech giant could lose precious credibility and reputation points in its international relationships. The upcoming 5G revolution and the fast adoption of blockchain technology will tell if Huawei will remain an important player on the global tech market or merely a Beijing government tool.