- Shanghai has shown interest in the metaverse by including it in its five-year development plan.
- Thousands of China-based companies have shown interest in the new virtual technology, despite multiple warnings of its dangers.
Shanghai, the most populous city in China, has included plans for the metaverse in its five-year development plan released Thursday.
Notably, such plans are issued by Chinese government departments and local authorities to detail how they plan to implement the central government’s five-year plan. So far, China has had 14 such plans, with the latest one issued in March this year. The last plan is the only one that mentions the word “blockchain.”
Among the plans published, Shanghai’s latest is the only one that mentions the metaverse, according to Chinese media reports. The Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology lists it as one of the four frontiers for exploration in development plans for the electronic information industry.
Shanghai states Metaverse development plans
A translated part of the Commission’s release says it plans to encourage “the application of the metaverse in areas such as public services, business offices, social entertainment, industrial manufacturing, production safety, and electronic games.” Additionally, the Commission plans on encouraging further research and development of underlying technologies, including sensors, real-time interactions, and blockchain technology. Specific timelines for these achievements were, however, not provided.
The meta industry has become one of the latest buzzwords, due to its potential to become the next generation of the internet. Its technology has raised such immense attention to its possibilities, leading even social media giant Facebook to rebrand to Meta. Earlier this month, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted most virtual meetings being held on the metaverse in the next 2-3 years.
China has been quite engrossed in new technologies, even though it has opposed some like cryptocurrencies. For instance, its digital yuan development is so far the most advanced in the world. The country has also produced a digital biometric hardware wallet for the virtual yuan.
Interest in the metaverse is now heightening. This week, Beijing-based tech company Baidu claimed to have held the country’s first metaverse-based conference. The event called on developers’ attention to the company’s metaverse app – XiRang – which it expects to fully launch in the next six years. Other Chinese companies aggressively working on developing metaverse technologies are tech firm Tencent and e-commerce giant Alibaba. Additionally, over 1,000 businesses in China have filed for tens of thousands of metaverse trademark applications.
Central Bank and state media skepticism
All these events have happened despite the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) issuing warnings on the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in November. The country’s state media has also published several articles on the same, highlighting how the industry is scam-ridden.
Winston Ma, an adjunct professor of law at New York University, says new rules for the metaverse are likely. Ma says the reason for this is that certain aspects of the metaverse are related to cryptocurrencies and NFTs, both of which have come under high scrutiny in China.