Blockchain — Taiwan’s next star industry

As cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ether continue to hit new highs, the price fluctuations have stunned the mainstream investment world. Coinbase Global, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US by trading volume, had a successful listing on April 14. On April 17, Gary Gensler, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert in blockchain, became the chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. All this favorable news has helped the cryptocurrency market to boom.

However, following news reports that the US Department of the Treasury could prosecute a number of financial institutions for digital money laundering via cryptocurrency, the value of bitcoin plunged by US$8,000 in just 15 minutes on April 18.

It is thus evident that each country’s monetary policy, as well as monitoring measures, is something of a double-edged sword to the development of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry.

In 2017, China banned the private sector from issuing cryptocurrencies. Two years later, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) finally gave the green light to blockchain applications.

In Taiwan, the blockchain industry is also calling on the government to promote competitiveness. At the fourth “Hit AI & Blockchain Summit” in January, Vice President William Lai (賴清德) said during a speech that, with the help of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) can generate even greater benefits.

Blockchain-themed AI would not only be much safer, but also more transparent, because every record is traceable online, he said.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said at the same summit that the N24 ARK.TPE in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) could serve as a world-class blockchain incubation center, pledging to turn the site into a demonstration base for blockchain technology services, and make Taipei a major base for blockchain development.

Seeing the vice president and the capital’s mayor promise on the same day to promote blockchain was a good sign.

In accordance with the Money Laundering Control Act (洗錢防制法), the government has also required cryptoasset trading platforms to complete user verification and financial regulations by July 1.

This shows that Taiwan is ready for blockchain.

Taiwanese blockchain start-ups are inferior to none. Many of them shone on the world stage during the decentralized finance fever last year. This year, the trend of cryptoart pushed by “non-fungible tokens” (NFT) has drawn the attention of modern Taiwanese artists and galleries. For example, NFT artworks are to be displayed at the Art Revolution Taipei from May 14 to 16.

In late February, an NFT for digital artwork Everydays: The First 5,000 Days sold for US$69.3 million at Christie’s, setting a new high for an NFT artwork. In December last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also sold an NFT for the platform’s very first tweet which he posted in 2006 for more than US$2.9 million in cryptocurrency.

Taiwan’s technology industry should aim for a share of this “new money.” Five years ago, most people had never heard of blockchain or bitcoin. At a time when the non-mainstream industry is about to become mainstream, the nation should not lag behind.

After 30 years of hard work, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co has been praised as a “sacred mountain protecting the nation” (護國神山). How about the next 30 years?

As a rising star industry today, the blockchain industry surely deserves more resources from businesses, the government and academia.

Jet Yang is editor-in-chief of Knowing Media Group.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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