This month, American fast-food chain McDonald’s marked its 31st anniversary in China by gifting 188 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to employees and customers. 


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The October 8th anniversary saw the release of the "Big Mac Rubik's Cube," a 3D design modeled after McDonald’s new official headquarters in Shanghai, which was unveiled alongside the 188 NFTs. The NFTs were created on the Conflux blockchain network in collaboration with the cryptocurrency development firm Cocafe. Conflux called it “the ultimate example of East meets West.”

China remains one of McDonald’s largest markets, home to approximately 3,300 restaurants, with 1,500 more in the works by 2022. The Chinese market constitutes almost a tenth of its global restaurant franchises, generating 5% of sales and 3% of the chain’s profits.

The move to distribute free NFTs, however, is a curious one in light of China’s recent banning of cryptocurrency and aggressive scrutiny of companies working in the crypto space. In late September, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, Huobi, said it was no longer registering any users in China after Beijing made it illegal to conduct cryptocurrency transactions. Similarly, FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto derivatives exchanges, also relocated to the Bahamas from Hong Kong, following news of China’s ban.

However, McDonald’s is one of the few Western companies participating in China’s pilot programming for a digital yuan. The chain joins Starbucks and Subway in the trial program in the special district of Xiong’an, China.