Red Date Technology, the company developing China’s Blockchain Services Network (BSN), wants the project to go beyond its government roots while pushing for international expansion in a turbulent geopolitical climate.
Red Date filed for registration of a charitable foundation in Singapore in late July to manage the international version of the network, CEO Yifan He told CoinDesk.
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The company hopes to bring international executives from technology and financial services companies to the board of directors, he said.
The move is intended to make the BSN an “international standard open source community” which, like the Internet, is not controlled by any entity. It could even step down from the Singapore Foundation board of directors at some point in the future, he said.
What is it?
The BSN is a blockchain development platform made available via cloud-based nodes in cities in China and abroad. Developers can access more than a dozen protocols, including Tezos, Nervos, Solana, Polkadot, Hyperledger Fabric, IRISnet, Algogrand, Corda from R3, and Xuperchain from Baidu.
Red Date’s headquarters are on the outskirts of Beijing, a building amid countless rows of identical offices. Most of the 150 employees are engineers. Nothing in the setting suggests the company is building any of China’s flagship blockchain projects. For most of its seven-year history, it wasn’t. It was founded in 2014 and worked with local governments in China on smart city projects until it launched the BSN in 2018.
Budding blockchain developers can buy a bundle of blockchain-as-a-service and cloud hosting to build decentralized applications. The bundle is cheaper and easier to implement than most of the other alternatives, says Red Date.
The BSN is also supplied with interoperability protocols that enable interconnected decentralized applications (dapps). By producing this low-cost, connectivity-enabled blockchain platform worldwide, Red Date hopes that it will lead to global adoption of the technology and ultimately become the de facto infrastructure for an “Internet of Blockchains”.
However, the network is split into two versions to ensure compliance by the Chinese authorities who do not see fully decentralized and permissionless chains like Ethereum and Solana positively.
In the Chinese version, permissionless chains are “matched” into permissible chains so that they are centralized and easy to control.
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The international version currently operates eight nodes in eight locations with Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft cloud servers. South Korea is the newest country to get its own BSN portal in early September.
CEO He declined to disclose data on the platform’s international acceptance.
Since the BSN tries to win developers for the platform, its Chinese origins are being put to the test. One of the key questions, according to Paul Triolo, head of geotech risk advisory at the Washington, DC-based Eurasia Group, is who’s really in charge.
Triolo argues that if the project is perceived by the Chinese government as an attempt to control blockchain development, it is unlikely to get around to attracting developers from around the world.
“The idea of a global blockchain internet is really interesting,” said Triolo.
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The BSN Development Association, the committee that oversees the development of the network, is chaired by the State Information Center, a think tank of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s highest economic planning body. Other founding members are state-owned telecommunications companies such as China Mobile and China Unicom, as well as the payment provider China UnionPay.
In view of this genesis, questions about the independence of the BSN from state interference have arisen. Splitting the network into two parts and trying to involve other companies in order to run the international version could help position the network, at least in theory, as a more neutral platform.