This weekly roundup of news from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong attempts to curate the industry’s most important news, including influential projects, changes in the regulatory landscape, and enterprise blockchain integrations.
In this 30th edition of the Shanghai Man column, we preview the Wanxiang Shanghai Blockchain Week, an offline event that normally is the biggest blockchain conference on the Chinese calendar. Next week, despite all the regulatory crackdowns, the event is still planning to go ahead, albeit with a one-month delay from its usual place in mid-September.
The flagship event
Historically, Wanxiang Blockchain Week has attracted huge crowds of industry participants including traders, investors, developers, financial institutions, and traditional companies. The three-day event is usually supplemented with a busy schedule of side events, focusing on areas like DeFi or network-specific meetups.
Last year, following the COVID-19 lockdowns, the event was much more subdued, notably with a lack of overseas speakers such as Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood physically attending. These two thought-leaders both have strong ties to Shanghai and always helped to raise the profile of the event from a technical perspective.
Wanxiang Blockchain is a large investment outfit that supports some of the strongest projects in the space. It has invested over 100 billion RMB in over 200 projects, operating somewhat like the Consensys of the East. Its ties to China Wanxiang Group give it an elevated position in the business world, including a closer relationship to enterprises and government resources.
This year’s event is set to take place on October 26 and 27, with keynote speeches planned from Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum, Sergey Nazarov of Chainlink, Yat Siu of Animoca Brands and Anatoly Yakovenko of Solana. It’s not clear whether any of these will physically attend the event, but given China’s strict quarantine restrictions and cryptocurrency policies, it is more likely that they will give the speech via video.
In the past, most of the speeches have focused on the infrastructure and applications, rather than cryptocurrencies and trading-related activities. This has allowed the event to keep attracting government representatives regardless of increasingly negative policies.
The Metaverse and NFT art are two topics that have managed to avoid the wrath of regulators. As such, a number of related events have been grouped into what is being called Shanghai Metaverse Week, which may be just a subtle way for “Blockchain Week” events to avoid scrutiny from the government. This Metaverse Week is being hosted by partners including Litentry, Polygon, Harmony, Flow, Tezos and Mask Network. The event is planning to have exclusive live streams in Decentraland.
Changes in the ranks
Searches containing the keyword ‘Bitcoin’ on WeChat spiked to nearly 26 million on October 15, fueled by the news of an ETF approval in the US. These levels of attention hadn’t been seen since mid-summer when the regulatory crackdown drew a lot of attention to the asset.
Exchange volumes tell an interesting story as OKEx has picked up steam recently, emerging as a clear second to Binance with about 11% of the total market share according to FTX’s global volume monitor. Huobi, which announced it would be restricting Chinese users from using the platform at the end of 2021, has struggled to keep pace with OKEx and has now slipped behind FTX, into the fourth position and only a few billion dollars per day ahead of ByBit.
Huobi dominated the CeFi scene between 2014 and 2016, where it enjoyed extended spells as the highest volume exchange. Now a new wave of CeFi exchanges led by FTX and ByBit are starting to eat away at the dominance of the traditional CeFi leaders Huobi, Binance, and OKEx, collectively known as HBO.
Catching the NFT trend
A number of major corporations have been dropping their own NFTs these days, including eCommerce giant JD.com. The retailer, which has its own blockchain, is releasing a set of seven NFT models through its WeChat mini-program later this year.
Last week, logistics company DHL also announced an NFT launching on the VeChain mainnet. These NFTs are emerging as a way to reward customers, but with the strict policies, it’s unlikely these NFTs will end up on open marketplaces and expose many users to the greater cryptocurrency ecosystem.
Losing out to the US
An announcement on the website for the National Development Reform Commission proclaimed that the US has now overtaken China as the top Bitcoin mining country in the world. The brief article boasts that this transformation has come just two months after Beijing ruled cryptocurrency mining to be illegal.
It’s unclear whether or not this article is intended to be taken literally,or as a very subtle but sarcastic reminder that recent political decisions may not be in the best interest of the country.