Both the Chinese government and leading Chinese technology giants have been active in developing the country’s home-grown metaverse. For the Chinese government, developing an inward-facing metaverse is essential to advance many of its strategic initiatives, such as boosting the development of domestic and self-sufficient cloud computing and blockchain technologies. For Chinese tech companies, shoring up their digital offerings allows them to tap the tremendous market potential presented by increasingly digitally savvy Chinese consumers.
Moreover, by developing the Chinese metaverse, domestic tech companies can showcase to the government that they are crucial to achieving the national objectives of digitizing the economy. This synergy is especially important for Chinese tech giants as they have been subjected to increasing levels of regulatory scrutiny and crackdowns in recent years.
The development of a domestically created metaverse in China benefits from the Chinese government’s emphasis on digitalizing the country’s economy. In 2021, the blockchain was included in China’s 14th Five-Year-Plan, the first time the sector was specifically named in this guiding development document. The plan calls for China to achieve technological breakthroughs in blockchain algorithms and advance blockchain-based service platforms and applications in finance, the supply chain, and public services. Notably, the 14th Five-Year Plan also considered other technologies essential to the metaverse — among them virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing — as key to building China’s digital economy.
Chinese localities were quick to implement the tenets of the 14th Five-Year Plan. Many local governments, led by that of Shanghai, quickly incorporated the term “metaverse” into their work plans. In January 2022, Shanghai mentioned the metaverse in its five-year plan for technology development, saying that it should be applied in areas including public services, entertainment, and manufacturing.
Soon, local governments in Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, and Sichuan Provinces also incorporated the metaverse in their planning documents. While the work reports do not release specific timelines or plans for metaverse-related projects, their growing numbers highlight the government’s growing level of interest in the sector. In November 2021, China established its first metaverse association, the Metaverse Industry Committee, under the state-supervised China Mobile Communications Association, to promote metaverse research, application, and industry cooperation.
The committee will be the leading institution in leveraging China’s mature 5G mobile internet infrastructure and nascent 6G projects to shape China’s metaverse development. In January 2022, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), one of China’s top regulators for the internet industry, plans to cultivate more small- and medium-sized enterprises in the fields of metaverse, blockchain, and AI to accelerate the embrace of digital industrialization.