China has prohibited trading of bitcoin, the earliest application of blockchain technology, but some of the country’s tech behemoths, realizing the potential of the underlying technology behind the cryptocurrency, have been scrambling to apply blockchain into a variety of their businesses.
Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and JD.com have all invested heavily in this technology. Owing to its characteristics such as decentralized nature, difficulty for data modification, as well as public and verifiable records when changes are made, blockchain could be used creatively in areas ranging from digital banking, supply chain management to healthcare.
For instance, Ant Financial, which is now 33% owned by Alibaba after a recent stake sell, said it signed a Letter of Intent earlier this week with global agricultural company Bayer Crop Science to bring greater transparency to improve food safety and the efficiency of agricultural supply chains through blockchain-based solutions, according to a press release of Ant Financial. Bayer Crop Science is one of the major business segments of multinational conglomerate Bayer, which also has operations in pharmaceuticals, consumer health and animal health.
The two companies have already been piloting a program in Anhui province’s Dangshan country, hailed as the pear capital of China, to help digitize the county’s pear farming business. Locally grown pears, tracked and recorded throughout their life cycle via the duo’s blockchain solution, have already been made available on Alibaba’s premium shopping site Tmall.
Ant Financial’s agriculture blockchain is just one of the over 40 applications of its blockchain technology.
While Alibaba and Ant Financial are using blockchain in traditional agricultural industry, Tencent is applying it to a much more lucrative business —— diamond trading, where authenticity matters a lot.
The Chinese internet giant has just invested in a UK-based blockchain startup called Everledger and they have planned to go live a diamond-themed WeChat mini program supported by their blockchain technology.
The mini program, which will bring together the key stakeholders in the diamond value chain, aims to provide WeChat users detailed information including production, processing and transportation on jewelry so that they can be confident in buying these items, said Everledger.
Before this investment, Tencent has built an electronic invoicing blockchain for Shenzhen’s metro, taxis, and airport trains, which is available within the WeChat app.
The e-invoicing blockchain connects passengers’ invoice records with their company and the Shenzhen Municipal Taxation Bureau in real-time.
This allows significant efficiency gained by reducing fraudulent and duplicate invoicing, as well as transactions costs among employees, enterprises and the tax bureau.