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    May
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    May
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    Cross-dressing and word salad: how to sell blockchain in China
    Cross-dressing and word salad: how to sell blockchain in China
    TECH

    Cross-dressing and word salad: how to sell blockchain in China

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    by
    Orange Wang
    Orange Wang
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    The room was only a third full, but the two cross-dressing cheerleaders touted their product as if they were playing to a capacity crowd.

    “Brand-Chain, hot, hot, hot!” they shouted, holding up banners at a Macau casino hosting a three-day conference on the tech phenomenon that is blockchain.

    Nearby, a group of older Chinese women snapped photos of the two men – one dressed in hot pants and gold high-heeled shoes, and the other in a plastic dress and pink boots – before the cheerleaders were sent packing by security.

    Cross-dressing performers drum up interest in Brand-Chain.
    Cross-dressing performers drum up interest in Brand-Chain. Photo: Orange Wang

    The performers were helping promote a food company looking for retail investors in its blockchain product.

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    The company was one of dozens trying to attract backers for their offerings at the World Blockchain Conference 3 AM Summit last week.

    The conference lured exhibitors not only from tech firms but also from vineyards, car-leasing companies and food distributors, all seeking to capitalize on a much-hyped technology.

    The only problem: it’s not clear how the blockchain applies to them.

    The audience at the World Blockchain Conference 3 AM Summit.
    The audience at the World Blockchain Conference 3 AM Summit. Photo: Orange Wang

    Chain gang

    Blockchain is a secure way of maintaining a public database: its best-known application is in cryptocurrencies.

    The central government in Beijing has clamped down on digital currencies on the mainland, banning initial coin offerings and Bitcoin exchanges and forcing formerly China-based exchanges to move offshore. 

    But the authorities have not banned the use of the digital decentralization technology behind them – and in some cases is embracing it.

    For example, the National Audit Office is considering using blockchain to improve its data infrastructure and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology plans to set up a national blockchain standardization committee.

    Group 5
    Our ecosystem is based on IBM, Ethereum, Ripple, Big Data, cloud computing, IoT… it’s a combination of blockchain infrastructure and artificial intelligence
    -
    Representative, Shile Group

    Various companies have also hitched their promotional campaigns to the blockchain bandwagon, using it in their marketing. But it can be hard for investors to work out just what role the technology plays in each company’s operations.

    “Our ecosystem is based on IBM, Ethereum, Ripple, Big Data, cloud computing, IoT … it’s a combination of blockchain infrastructure and artificial intelligence,” a representative of a company called the Shile Group said at the conference.

    He said the company’s main asset was a 3,333-hectare (8200-acre) vineyard in Fuan, Fujian province, and he was offering investors a piece of a product called “Fu-chain.” “Fu” means “good fortune,” making it an auspicious name – “the chain to get good fortune.”

    Elsewhere a car rental company called “Car-Chain-Coin” promoted its offering – but the elements of its blockchain business were equally hard to decipher.

    The World Blockchain Conference 3 AM Summit kicks off in Macau.
    The World Blockchain Conference 3 AM Summit kicks off in Macau. Photo: Orange Wang

    Warning notes

    The waters were further muddied by a warning from 3 AM, a Chinese blockchain community and one of the conference’s organizers.

    “This conference is only a platform. The roadshows are mixed with good and bad, true and false. Please be careful,” Yu Hong, co-initiator of 3 AM, said in his opening speech to the conference.

    Wang Zhiyong, an analyst, suggested that the presence of older Chinese women, known as dama in China, was a sign of a bubble in the blockchain market.

    “I still have not made clear what blockchain is yet, but damas have already attended a world-class meeting. It seems the time for me to stay far away from blockchain,” Wang wrote on his microblog.

    Group 5
    It seems the time for me to stay far away from blockchain
    -
    Wang Zhiyong, analyst

    A sales manager for a Shenzhen-based IT outsourcing company said most of the clients approaching her firm for help with blockchain products were from more traditional industries.

    “Most of our clients have no technical background, but merely want to leverage the name of blockchain for faster financing,” she said.

    But some of the industry’s first movers were keen to distance themselves from latecomers at the conference.

    Wu Xing, senior director of cryptocurrency exchange Huobi Global, defended the company’s interest in blockchain, drawing a line between tech-oriented companies and speculators.

    “We sincerely love this technology,” Wu said.

    But the question remains: should everyone be trying to sell it?

    ORANGE WANG
    ORANGE WANG
    Orange in a contributor to Inkstone. He covers the Chinese macroeconomy for the South China Morning Post.

    ORANGE WANG
    ORANGE WANG
    Orange in a contributor to Inkstone. He covers the Chinese macroeconomy for the South China Morning Post.

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