When Mark Zuckerberg announced in October 2021 that Facebook was changing its name to Meta Platforms, and the news hit waves far beyond Silicon Valley. During the night, it also became the city of China, sparking fierce debates between founders, investors and their businesses.
It is no surprise that the idea of the meta-verse thrilled the Chinese technology community. Every few years, an overarching theme emerges that brings together talent and capital. The ability to ride on such waves, or better, dictate and shape them, is equal to the ability to conquer fortunes. Metaverset promised a whole world to explore and conquer beyond smartphones, a chance to jump over today’s giants that have come to dominate mobile computing.
Even on a personal level, over the years I have seen countless classmates and friends become fascinated by such cycles, chasing investment bubbles in real estate and private equity, and working as government officials before proceeding with building startups. Within technology, investment themes have evolved over the past few years from desktop-based social media and games to mobile messaging to online-to-offline services, and now the meta-verse. And Pony Ma Huateng, the retired chair and co-founder of the Chinese Technology Conglomerate Tencent Holdingshas always been one step ahead.
With command of an empire of entertainment and social media competing with Meta in scope, Pony Ma actually publicly unveiled a vision to build something similar to the meta-verse, just a few months before Zuckerberg announced his company’s name change. Pony Ma called it the Quan Zhen Internet, which means “completely genuine” Internet. Although the concept is vaguely defined, it includes using the Internet to reconcile production and work and overlaps with many aspects of the Facebook co – founder’s vision. But this iteration could prove very different, as it will be born under Beijing’s watchful eye from day one.
“MetaveRse” first appeared as a word in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow controlledwhich depicted a world gripped by hyperinflation.
Stephenson imagined a world based on anarcho-capitalism. And like all cyberpunk literature, the story is underlined by strong tones of anti-authoritarianism. Provided that the Chinese government sees benefits from the technology, the meta-verse in the future can be divided into two: China and the rest of the world. Much like the Internet, the world’s second largest economy is likely to protect its network users from the rest of the global metavers.
That China’s Internet industry has grown to its size today is due in part to the government keeping it loose while hiding it behind a firewall. The country was more concerned with controlling gas, oil, telecommunications, finance and traditional media. Virtually unhindered, Western capital and local entrepreneurs found opportunities in communist China to devise a formula that married global capital and technology to the world’s largest population.
The metaverse becomes another story. While local officials in cities like Shanghai seem to embrace the concept and announce that they intend to encourage its use in public services, social entertainment, games and manufacturing, others are far less sensuous. Chinese economist Ren Zeping pointed out the dangers of a metaverse and accused it of potentially causing lower marriage and birth rates – the logic is that if people are too busy entertaining themselves in the virtual world, they do not have to look for connections in it real world. one.