In a strategic move aimed at streamlining operations and promoting growth, Alibaba has announced the appointment of Joseph Tsai, one of its founders, as the Chairman starting in September. The company’s leadership shuffle also includes the appointment of Eddie Yongming Wu as the new CEO, with a clear focus on separating Alibaba’s technology services from its retail divisions.
This significant development has caught the attention of crypto stakeholders who closely follow the evolving China narrative, which suggests a gradual acceptance of cryptocurrencies by Beijing. Joseph Tsai, known for his vocal support of cryptocurrencies and active involvement in the Web3 space as an investor, assumes the role of Chairman.
While Joseph Tsai’s affinity for crypto and Web3 is apparent, the broader acceptance of cryptocurrencies in China remains uncertain. Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region with some autonomy, has introduced crypto regulations to facilitate licensed trading of digital assets. However, critics argue that these rules are overly restrictive and discourage serious institutional involvement, as the market is considered small, unproven, and lacking banking partnerships.
Joseph Tsai’s interest in the Web3 sector was evident when he tweeted “I like Crypto” in December 2021. Since then, he has actively invested in various blockchain technology and digital asset projects. Recent court documents have revealed that Tsai’s family office, Blue Pool Capital, held a minority stake in FTX, a prominent Chinese cryptocurrency exchange.
Furthermore, Tsai has participated in fundraising rounds for noteworthy ventures such as Polygon, Fast Break Labs (a Web3 fantasy sports platform), and Artifact Labs (an NFT platform spin-off of the South China Morning Post, where Tsai serves as chairman).
Another intriguing aspect is Tsai’s ownership of the Brooklyn Nets, a basketball team that has witnessed key players like Kevin Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie entering the cryptocurrency space. Durant has formed partnerships with Coinbase and Dapper Labs, while Dinwiddie has tokenized his employment contract and actively participated in cryptocurrency-related events.
In mainland China, the focus has primarily been on blockchain technology rather than cryptocurrencies themselves. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are permitted, albeit with restrictions on speculative attributes. For instance, in 2021, Alibaba’s Alipay imposed a 180-day holding requirement for NFT sales.
Beijing defines Web3 as an enhanced internet powered by artificial intelligence, blockchain, advanced computing chips, and resilient networks. Although it incorporates elements of crypto, it does not equate to cryptocurrencies in their entirety. In line with the newly released Web3 innovation strategy, the Beijing city administration unveiled a two-year metaverse innovation and development plan (2022-2024) on August 23, as reported by Todayq earlier this year.
The plan stipulated that all districts adhered to its recommendations. A visual metropolitan area digital platform was built as part of the development program, incorporating tools like 3D visualization and GIS (Geographic Information System) to enhance the deployment of digital native intelligent infrastructure.
The action plan placed a strong emphasis on the requirement that various municipalities created technology infrastructure at the local level and encouraged its use across a range of sectors, including tourism and education. This indicated Beijing’s dedication to building an improved internet ecosystem powered by blockchain, cutting-edge semiconductors, resilient networks, and artificial intelligence, as described by the concept of Web3.
Joseph Tsai’s appointment as Chairman of Alibaba can be seen as an indication that the company is strategically positioning itself to embrace the evolving Web3 landscape and potential integration of cryptocurrencies in China, provided that the regulatory environment becomes more favorable in the future.