China's Metaverse Ambitions Intensify
Major players in China's tech industry, along with scholars and Communist Party representatives – totaling around 60 experts – have united to standardize the functioning of the metaverse.
In the autumn of 2023, we already reported about China’s active stance within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — a UN agency. The ITU, known for setting global telecommunication standards, has increasingly become a battleground between China and the Western world. China has been assertively promoting its totalitarian vision of "rules of the game" within the ITU’s metaverse working group, facing little effective opposition from Western representatives.
China's proposals bear a striking resemblance to its domestic social credit system. Based on hundreds of characteristics, this system determines citizens' reliability and accordingly grants or restricts access to financial, travel, and internet services, among others.
The narrative continued into the winter of 2024. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology tasked tech giants such as Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, Ant Group, Lenovo, and others to create internal standards for the metaverse.
Firstly, the government believes there are ethical and safety issues within this sector. Secondly, China is persistent in its ambition to play a leading role in the standardization of virtual worlds at a global level. Therefore, the Communist Party has directed the private sector to actively participate in establishing international standards, likely retaining the logic of the social credit system.
It should be noted that Beijing’s interest is not in the fate of Chinese or international gamers. The country is working on five internal metaverses, intended for use in the industrial sector. Integrating blockchain technology, AI, and VR, these projects aim to enhance the efficiency of China’s automotive and aerospace industries and other innovative fields. Businesses are also encouraged to expand these metaverses globally, with completion targeted for 2024.
Additionally, local companies operating in metaverse spaces are encouraged to form virtual clusters. For example, authorities in Tongzhou, a sub-administrative center of China's capital, are assembling about a hundred such companies.
Beijing is vigorously financing this metaverse expansion, creating both state and private development funds. One fund has already amassed around 1 billion yuan ($140 million). As per CCID Consulting (Beijing), by 2026, China's metaverse industry turnover could reach 180 billion yuan or approximately $25.3 billion.