State-run Xinhua News Agency , the biggest media organisation in China, will soon issue the country’s first “news digital collectibles” backed by non-fungible tokens (NFTs), showing that domestic interest in virtual assets continues to grow in spite of earlier warnings about the risk of fraud and potential creation of a bubble that would harm consumers. On Christmas Eve, Xinhua will release a total of 110,001 copies of selected news photos for free, according to a statement on Wednesday from the influential Beijing-based news organisation. That package is made up of 11 collections of 10,000 copies each and one copy of a special edition, which will be available on Xinhua’s mobile app at 8pm local time on Friday. The collections “record many precious historical moments in 2021”, the Xinhua statement said. “It is also a digital memory written into the metaverse world.” Xinhua’s digital collectibles include the Chinese Communist Party’s celebration of its 100th anniversary in July at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and the country’s recent milestone of administering more than 2.7 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses nationwide. NFTs generally refer to units of data stored on a blockchain that guarantees each digital asset is unique, immutable and secure. Because these are authenticated via a decentralised blockchain, NFTs can be owned much like physical items – a property which makes these digital items valuable for trading as collectibles or memorabilia. For Xinhua’s foray into NFTs, internet giant Tencent Holdings is providing support for the blockchain technology behind the news digital collectibles. The Chinese news agency’s NFT initiative this month follows the South China Morning Post ’s launch in November of NFT trading cards commemorating the history of Hong Kong , drawn from its 118-year-old media archives. The Post ’s inaugural NFT trading cards issue will cover many historical moments in 1997, including the July 1 ceremony commemorating Hong Kong’s handover to the Chinese government, the passing of Deng Xiaoping on February 19 that year and the death of Princess Diana in August . While the Chinese government has cracked down on the domestic mining and trading of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin , it has allowed NFTs and the metaverse to operate in a grey area. Xinhua’s move into NFTs comes as more than 50 jurisdictions across mainland China plan or have already moved to establish a regulatory framework for these virtual assets , which includes setting up a licensing system that covers the owners and operators of these digital resources. Still, Xinhua has followed the example earlier set by Tencent and Ant Group , the fintech affiliate of Post owner Alibaba Group Holding , by branding its NFT-backed offerings as digital collectibles amid potential regulatory headwinds. Earlier this month, an official at China’s central bank cautioned against the country’s rapidly growing interest in NFTs and metaverse-related activities , warning that these could “easily become money-laundering tools”.