In an announcement made on Wednesday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency will issue its first series of nonfungible token (NFT) collectibles. The move is a thumbs up to blockchain technology previously shunned by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In an official notice, Xinhua plans to publish 10,000 copies of 11 photos taken by journalists in 2021.
The stride into NFTs is puzzling in light of recent events in the world’s second-largest economy. Following a nationwide crypto crackdown where Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) mining was banned, China has recently taken aim at NFTs and metaverses and proposed that they should be heavily monitored. Despite the anti-crypto sentiment, tech giants Tencent and Huawei were not discouraged from pursuing trademarks in the metaverse.
Elsewhere, in early December, as part of a broader anti-crypto crackdown, some websites in Beijing, including ChainNews, went offline. Chinese crypto media kept a low profile on their websites and instead focused on growing communities on Twitter and Telegram.
Curiously, however, it’s not the country’s first move into NFTs. During the “DeFi Summer 2.0,” The South China Morning Post created a series of NFTs using a new token standard called “ARTIFACT,” which is designed to preserve historical assets on the blockchain. However, it’s important to note that the SCMP is based in Hong Kong. As a result, the paper benefits from higher levels of autonomy as well as the executive, legislative and independent judicial power for which Hong Kong is known.
Hong Kong is no stranger to blockchain technology or minting NFTs. In June this year, pro-Hong Kong activists managed to archive articles from the Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper onto the blockchain. More than 4,000 Apple Daily articles were uploaded to ARWeave, a popular blockchain storage platform backed by Andreessen Horowitz.
Ultimately, the PRC’s NFT release begs the question: Does Xinhua’s issuance of NFTs signal a nod toward adopting blockchain technology? At the time of writing, Chinese NFT advocates remain restricted in their trading activities. NFTs cannot be resold once purchased, while the only currency available to NFT fans is the national currency, the renminbi. Given China’s largely anti-crypto stance in 202, more evidence of the PRC’s moves into the blockchain space is required.