While much of the discussion surrounding NFTs has to do with their commercial viability, they have been shown to be very useful tools for cultural and political engagement. Take the plethora of NFT projects that have sprung up in light of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Now, NFTs are being used politically once again but this time in China. In the last few days, a number of NFTs have been listed on OpenSea that depict anti-lockdown protests in different Chinese cities. These were especially sparked by a fire which took place last Thursday and led to an outpouring of frustration among the Chinese public.
NFTs and Protests
This recent development is a result of China’s current zero-Covid policy which has seen several cities locked down entirely to prevent any spread of the COVID-19 virus. But naturally, many citizens have been frustrated with these lockdowns and their effect on their daily lives. This was even documented in a previous NFT collection that showed the lockdown as it happened in Shanghai.
And now, history is repeating itself as, following a fire outbreak in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, Chinese citizens took to the streets to voice their frustrations. Apparently, this frustration was worsened after a dismissive attitude from the government towards the tragedy that claimed at least 10 lives.
Since the fire, dozens of protests have broken out in many cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan and Guangzhou. These protests have been documented and the accounts of them are now being listed on popular marketplaces like OpenSea.
Some of these include ‘Blank Paper Movement’ which shows protestors holding blank signs as a statement regarding free speech and ‘Silent Speech’ which shows images of protest signs from across China. These NFTs all vary in price with some costing a few dollars in ETH and others commanding up to $10,000.
This, of course, is reminiscent of previous NFT projects that documented the loneliness of some of the earlier lockdowns. And price aside, these NFTs help to create a permanent record of the protests. This is especially poignant given the fact that the Chinese government has been somewhat hostile towards NFTs and cryptocurrencies in the past, with the latter being outright banned within the country.
The Place of NFTs in Political Discourse
And even outside of NFTs, blockchains have been used by Chinese activists in the past to document political events in a permanent form. Unlike a traditional website, information stored on a blockchain cannot be removed and this essentially makes it censorship-proof. And now that this information is being created as NFTs and might be sold to others, its protection against censorship is even more defined.
Over the next few years, we will likely see even more applications of NFTs within the global political scene. Whether they are being sold to raise funds for political or charitable reasons or being used as a documentation tool, NFTs will play a part in political and cultural developments well into the future.