While China is trying harder than ever to stomp the cryptocurrency industry out of existence, national and provincial authorities are looking for new ways to grow blockchain, its underlying technology.

The Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and 17 other central agencies — including banking, education, prosecutorial, legal, health, energy and foreign exchange authorities — have jointly issued a notice to urge local government entities across various industries to submit proposals for blockchain pilot projects to explore more usage scenarios for the new technology.

The authorities specified in the notice that they aim to come up with scalable and reproducible cases and best practices for blockchain applications that could contribute to the real economy, social governance, civil services, finance and technology by the end of 2023.

In the meanwhile, Jinan — the capital city of East China’s Shandong Province — has launched a blockchain-based electronic labor contract system, local state-backed media iqilu.com reported on Friday.

The e-contract system could be directly linked to companies’ human resources systems and allow employers and employees to sign contracts remotely, according to the report. The platform will be provided as a public platform by the government for enterprises to use for free.

Such a system could bring down the costs of operation, management and storage of paper contracts by nearly 80%, the report said. The Jinan government also said in the report that companies and economic entities in Jinan should aim to adopt such electronic labor system by the end of 2022.

Shanghai is also no slouch when it comes to developing blockchain. The municipality is now exploring how blockchain technology can be applied to the field of trade.

Specifically, Shanghai authorities are working to build a digital platform for trade transactions, and use blockchain and big data to boost cross-border settlements.

China appears keen to develop blockchain technology, but it continues to hold a strong stance on banning crypto-related industries. On Sept. 24, Chinese authorities jointly issued two notices to outlaw crypto transactions and crypto mining, and many industry players have since been stopping services for mainland Chinese users.

Mclouds, a cloud mining company, is among the latest to do so. It announced today that it will shut down its domestic mining machine hosting and renting services by the end of this year. Back in May, it had already blocked access for mainland Chinese IP addresses to visit its website, the company said in the statement.

Blockchain infrastructure and digital yuan

China is actively pushing ahead with the development of its Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) — a public-private nationwide infrastructure project to spur mass adoption of blockchain technology — as well as what appears as a soft rollout of the country’s digital currency — the digital yuan, or e-CNY.

BSN, as a whole, aims to build a global blockchain-based cross-cloud, cross-portal and cross-framework public infrastructure network. It has recently announced it is setting up BSN portals in Hong Kong, South Korea, Turkey and Uzbekistan, for local developers to work in a more cost-efficient way.

In July 2020, the BSN separated into two ecosystems, BSN China and BSN International. BSN International, headquartered in Hong Kong, has integrated major public chains, which tend to focus on cryptocurrency and decentralized systems, while BSN China, which owns the majority of BSN’s city nodes across the mainland, is a separate permission-based system that cannot access public chains deployed on BSN International.

Meanwhile, China is pioneering the world’s first major central bank digital currency (CBDC). The e-CNY, alternately called the digital renminbi or e-RMB, is issued by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China. Many expect China’s CBDC to be formally launched in time for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

In the latest sign, Beijing Capital International Airport has become the first airport in the country to support payment by the e-CNY. The China Civil Aviation Newspaper reported the digital yuan can be used at more than 110 stores and for parking at the airport.

In September, Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of the central bank, said the Winter Olympics e-CNY rollout had entered the “sprint stage” as it approached the finish line. The central bank has also stated that 355,000 Winter Olympic payment scenarios have been successfully implemented, covering various situations such as transportation, accommodation, catering and shopping.