In a curious “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” scenario, formidable web services company Baidu, it was announced yesterday, has launched its own Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform.
The company’s financial department also confirmed, however, that the platform—at least in its pilot stages—has actually been in operation since July 21, 2017. The Chinese-American company envisions the open platform offering the most “user-friendly” blockchain service. On the new site, it is referred to as a “self-developed project” designed to be used in a multitude of ways: “Efficient and low cost traceability and trading, ideal for digital currency, payment and settlement, digital ticketing, bank credit management, equity proof and exchange-traded securities, insurance management, financial auditing and more.”
In another detailed, yet at the same time equally vague manner, Baidu also credits the technology with being the “first asset-backed securities exchange products using blockchain technology in China", in addition to mentioning that up until now the technology had in fact already been used in the areas of asset securitization and exchange.
In light of the evidence, one wonders why Baidu chose to make the announcement only recently. The case of Chinese Internet Conglomerate Tencent reveals a different but in some ways familiar story. A few months after announcing development plans in April 2017 for a developing a suite of blockchain services—part of a platform named TrustSQL in the white paper—in June details related to work with Bank of China on blockchain research emerged. Finally, the company made an announcement at a World Internet of Things Exposition in Wuxi, China in September about a signed letter of intent related to a partnership with Intel to utilize its hardware to further develop its blockchain technology.
China's Anti-Cryptocurrency, Pro-Blockchain Position
Unlike in the Korean and Japanese cryptocurrency markets, where government efforts to rein in speculative trading have been largely unsuccessful, China has managed to crack down on the excesses of trading (at least for now). Korean Exchange Korbit Founder and CEO Tony Lu said of the atmosphere in South Korea, “Word just spreads really fast in Korea,” adding, “Once people are invested, they want everyone else to join the party. There’s been this huge, almost a community movement around this.” Yuzo Kano, bitFlyer's founder and CEO, was equally unrestrained in his remarks about Japan: “Japanese people tend to be very conservative with their investments, but once they get triggered they go all in,” said Yuzo Kano, the founder and chief executive of bitFlyer.
In the case of China, therefore, it stands to reason that a conservative and inflexible government approach to cryptocurrency trading would prompt this type of behavior. Viewed from this angle, moreover, Baidu’s behavior could be seen as a kind of proactive preempting of any kind of government regulatory posturing. Just as in the case of companies like Apple, which plan months of strategic buildup leading up to the release of a new product, what we could see begin to emerge in more and more countries like China in the future is a strategy that follows the same logic: leaked (and unconfirmed) information surfacing, periods of little or no activity to generate buzz, and finally a ceremonious announcement (or leak, depending on how one looks at it) of a new blockchain platform.
Somewhere between the throngs of eager global investors and the mounting cryptocurrency trading opposition backed by various lawmakers, regulators, and financial insiders stands companies like Baidu. A conservative approach seems wise, at least for the foreseeable future.