Chinese social media giant Tencent Holdings expects the communist country characterized by harsh internet censorship to support the operation of ‘metaverse’ virtual environment services as long as they comply with state rules, Reuters reported.

While welcoming the potential for gaming business opportunities in a post-earnings call on Wednesday, Tencent publicly acknowledged the essential difference between China’s version of the metaverse and that of the rest of the world.

“The Chinese government will be in support of the development of such technologies as long as the user experience is actually provided under the regulatory framework,” said Tencent president Martin Lau.

“There’s a lot of technologies that’s related to the development of games as well as for the metaverse,” he told analysts.

According to South China Morning Post, Metaverse, the concept of a shared virtual environment that users access via the internet is gaining popularity in China, as Baidu and NetEase join other Big Tech firms in applying for trademarks related to this field. 

Baidu’s applications were filed on October 29, a day after Facebook chairman and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s rebranding as Meta to better reflect the future direction of the global social media powerhouse. 

Amid the metaverse vogue, there remain doubts among tech investors about how it might evolve in China, the communist country characterized by harsh internet censorship and a wide-ranging crackdown against its once free-wheeling giants, including Tencent, since last year.

Regulators have prohibited all crypto transactions, tightened oversight of the gaming industry, and also warned against “blind” investment in metaverse-linked stocks, Reuters reported.

In a commentary last month, state-owned newspaper the Securities Times warned that if people “blindly invest in such grand and illusionary concepts as the metaverse, they will be burned in the end,” according to SCMP.

Although there would likely be different regulatory frameworks concerning the metaverse for China and the world, Tencent’s Lau said this was “not fundamentally averse to the development of metaverse.”

Lau said there were “multiple pathways” to the metaverse opportunity, such as through interactive games or a social network serving as a “gamefield,” Reuters added.

“We have a lot of tech and capability building blocks that will allow us to approach the metaverse opportunity,” he said.

Tencent owns a 40% stake in Epic Games and has a joint venture with Roblox Corp, both of which are working on their own metaverses. It has also registered over 20 metaverse–related trademarks for its apps in China and is working on more immersive, multiplayer games.

In contrast to such an optimistic view of Tencent’s president, Baidu vice-president Ma Jie has expressed his reaction to the growing hype behind recent metaverse-related developments, as reported by SCMP.

“I believe the bubble will burst in the second half of next year or the year after. When the tide goes out, it will be time for a showdown,” he said in a video clip, which has been circulating on Chinese social media.

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