In Brief

  • Chinese smartphone and electronics giant Xiaomi has been actively embracing a variety of blockchain projects to compete with fellow tech giants Alibaba and Tencent.
  • All three recently got licenses in Hong King to set up blockchain-based banks.

Chinese smartphone and electronics giant Xiaomi recently set up a $9.5 million joint venture, which will focus on new business areas involving blockchain, artificial intelligence and big data.

The Hong Kong-based company has been eyeing blockchain since 2017. Its latest move—a joint venture with three local companies, called Chongqing Port Industrial Finance Big Data Industry Development Co. Ltd.— illustrates Xiaomi’s ambition to compete in the intense blockchain race with two other Chinese tech giants:  Alibaba and Tencent.

China’s big tech blockchain experiments

The business scope of the new entity, headquartered in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, includes blockchain-related software and services, as well as an AI-powered data platform, data processing and storage services, according to Tianyancha, a China-based media company.

Early in 2018, the company introduced a Cryptokitties knock-off, Jiamitu (Cryptorabbit), and later a 2C blockchain product, Xiaomi WiFi Chain, which lets users earn virtual rewards in the form of “mili,” while connected to a wireless network.

A handful of other tech companies in the country have also been stepping up their efforts in unveiling blockchain services for expanding their businesses.

Baidu and blockchain

China’s Google equivalent Baidu has been bullish on blockchain for years. The latest blockchain initiative from the search giant is the launch of beta version of Xuperchain, which aims to let small and medium-sized businesses and developers cheaply launch decentralized applications (dapps). Prior to it, the company had developed a canine version of Cryptokitties in early 2018, which allows millions of Chinese to adopt and trade cute digital puppies that live on the blockchain; another influential initiative of its numerous blockchain projects includes Totem, a blockchain-based copyright protection platform.

Alibaba and blockchain

E-commerce behemoth Alibaba is also pioneering efforts in the blockchain space. The company is proud of being the most patented company in the world of blockchain technology for three consecutive years. While blockchain patents aren’t the only proof of Alibaba’s strong showing in blockchain endeavors. So far, the company has adopted blockchain to fight food fraud, secure medical data and track cross-border shipments, etc. Most recently, its fintech arm Ant Financial has launched the testing stage for its consortium blockchain network aimed to support small and medium-sized businesses in different industries.

Tencent and blockchain

Social media giant Tencent has started blockchain exploration early in 2015. The company, one of the largest payment processors in the world, has set up a digital currency research unit, aiming to further expand its payment business. Also, Tencent has introduced a blockchain-based invoicing system, which has issued 10 million blockchain invoices in China’s tech capital Shenzhen.

In late 2019, Tencent, along with Alibaba and Xiaomi, received a license from the Hong Kong authority to open a virtual bank to provide financial services using blockchain technology. Prior to that, the company’s virtual bank, WeBank, became the first technical infrastructure provider for China’s national blockchain network to serve a range of state-controlled public services across the country.

[This story was originally published in 8BTC.com, and is shared by arrangement with that site. It has been edited to conform with Decrypt's style.]