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Prepping for a Cryptocurrency World: China Edition
Over the past year, the cryptocurrency market took a number of hard blows from the Chinese government. The market took the hits like a warrior, but the combinations have taken their toll on many cryptocurrency investors. The market’s lackluster performance in 2018 pales in comparison to its stunning 1000 percent gain in 2017.
What has happened?
Since 2013, the Chinese government has taken measures to regulate cryptocurrency, but nothing compared to what was enforced in 2017. (See this article for a detailed analysis of the official announcement issued by the Chinese government)
2017 was a banner year for the cryptocurrency market with all the attention and growth it has achieved. The extreme price volatility forced the central bank to adopt more extreme measures, including bans on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and restrictions on domestic cryptocurrency exchanges. Soon after, mining factories in China were forced to shut down due to excessive electricity consumption. Many exchanges and factories have moved overseas to avoid regulations, but remained accessible to Chinese investors. Nevertheless, they still escape the clutches of the Chinese dragon.
In the latest series of government-led efforts to monitor and ban cryptocurrency trading among Chinese investors, China expanded its “Eagle Eye” to monitor foreign cryptocurrency exchanges. Companies and bank accounts suspected of conducting transactions with foreign crypto exchanges and related activities are subject to measures ranging from restricting withdrawal limits to freezing accounts. There have even been ongoing rumors among the Chinese community of more extreme measures to be enforced on foreign platforms that allow trading among Chinese investors.
“As to whether further regulatory measures will be forthcoming, we must await orders from the higher authorities.” Excerpts from an interview with the team leader of China’s Public Information Network Security Supervision Agency under the Ministry of Public Security, February 28
WHY WHY WHY!?
Imagine your child investing his savings to invest in a digital product (in this case, cryptocurrency) that he or she has no way to verify its authenticity and value. He or she can get lucky and get rich, or lose it all when the crypto bubble bursts. Now scale that to millions of Chinese citizens and we’re talking billions of Chinese yuan.
The market is full of scams and pointless ICOs. (I’m sure you’ve heard news about people sending coins to random addresses with the promise of doubling their investments and ICOs that just don’t make sense). Many unsophisticated investors are in it for the money and could care less about the technology and innovation behind it. The value of many cryptocurrencies is derived from market speculation. During the crypto boom of 2017, you can participate in any ICO with either a famous advisor on board, a promising team or a decent hype and you are guaranteed at least 3X your investments.
Lack of understanding of the business and the technology behind it, combined with the proliferation of ICOs, is a recipe for disaster. Members of the Central Bank report that nearly 90% of ICOs are fraudulent or involve illegal fundraising. In my opinion, the Chinese government wants to ensure that cryptocurrency remains ‘controllable’ and not too big to fail in Chinese society. China is taking the right steps towards a safer, more regulated cryptocurrency world, albeit an aggressive and controversial one. In fact, it may be the best step the country has taken in decades.
Will China issue an ultimatum and make cryptocurrency illegal? I highly doubt it as it’s pretty pointless to do so. Currently, financial institutions are prohibited from holding crypto-assets, while individuals are allowed but barred from conducting any trades.
A Government Run Cryptocurrency Exchange?
At the annual “Two Sessions” (named because two major parties – the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCC) both participate in the forum, held in the first week of March, leaders gather to discuss the latest issues and make necessary legislative changes.
Wang Pengjie, a member of the NPCC, delved into the prospects of a state-run digital asset trading platform as well as initiated blockchain and cryptocurrency education projects in China. However, the proposed platform will require an authenticated account to allow trading.
“With the establishment of related regulations and the cooperation between the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), a regulated and efficient cryptocurrency exchange platform will serve as a formal way for companies to raise funds (through ICOs) and investors to hold their digital assets and achieve capital appreciation” Excerpt of Wang Pengjie presentation at the two sessions.
The March towards a Blockchain Nation
Governments and central banks around the world have struggled to cope with the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies; but one thing is for sure, everyone has embraced blockchain.
Despite the cryptocurrency encroachment, blockchain has gained popularity and adoption at various levels. The Chinese government has supported blockchain initiatives and embraced the technology. In fact, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has been working on a digital currency and has conducted fake transactions with some of the country’s commercial banks. It is still unconfirmed whether the digital currency will be decentralized and offer cryptocurrency features such as anonymity and immutability. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if it turns out to be just a digital Chinese Yuan, as anonymity is the last thing China wants in their country. But created as a close substitute for the Chinese yuan, the digital currency will be subject to existing monetary policies and laws.
Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan. Source: CNBC
“Lots of cryptocurrencies have experienced explosive growth, which can have a significant negative impact on consumers and retail investors. We don’t like (cryptocurrency) products that take advantage of the huge opportunity for speculation, giving people the illusion of getting rich from from one day to the next” Excerpt from Zhou Xiaochuan’s interview on Friday, March 9.
In a media appearance on Friday, March 9, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, criticized cryptocurrency projects that took advantage of the crypto boom to cash in and fuel market speculation. He also noted that the development of the digital currency is ‘technologically inevitable’
At the regional level, many Chinese cities have run blockchain initiatives to promote growth in their region. Hangzhou, known for being the headquarters of Alibaba, has stated that blockchain technology is one of the city’s top priorities in 2018. The local government of Chengdu city has also been proposed to build an incubation center to promote the adoption of blockchain technology in the city’s financial services.
Local conglomerates such as Tencent and Alibaba have also partnered with blockchain firms or initiated projects on their own. Blockchain firms such as VeChain have also secured several partnerships with Chinese firms to improve supply chain transparency in China.
All clues point to China working towards a blockchain nation. China has always had an open mentality towards new technologies such as mobile payment and artificial intelligence. Going forward, China will undoubtedly become the first blockchain-enabled country. Will we see the Chinese government step back and allow its citizens to act again? Probably when the market matures and is less volatile, but definitely not in 2018.
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