Bitcoin in Brief Tuesday: Wary Giants, Eager Dwarfs




For some obvious reasons, but also irrational fears, big players like China, Russia, and the European Union are wary of cryptos like bitcoin. Centralized control doesn’t square with decentralization. However, often that’s not how their own regions and smaller neighbors feel about cryptocurrencies. In today’s Bitcoin in Brief we cover some recent developments mirroring this divergence of interests. The balance between center and periphery is likely to determine the future of cryptocurrencies in Eurasia and beyond.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Monday: Snatching Blockchain, Tracking Bitcoin

Only Cryptoyuan, Only Cryptoruble

China will not allow any cryptocurrency other than a digital yuan, a Chinese entrepreneur recently told Russian media. Huan Zhang’s company, DAEX Blockchain Group, is working on a clearing ecosystem for cryptocurrencies in collaboration with Russian counterparts. She believes the decentralized nature of blockchain technologies and a centralized clearing platform should be balanced well for the crypto market to function properly. “China treats the blockchain in a positive way, but fears cryptocurrencies,” Zhang told Sputink. “The central bank is working on its own digital coin, cryptoyuan, and authorities won’t allow any other cryptocurrency in the country,” she said on the sidelines of the economic forum in Yalta, Crimea.

The Central Bank of Russia is also wary of decentralized cryptocurrencies. On multiple occasions, its representatives have spoken against their uncontrolled circulation and free exchange. The idea of a cryptoruble has its supporters among Russian officials, including in the CBR. For many Russian regions, however, a centralized crypto as a state-issued alternative is simply not good enough. The western exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia’s far-eastern capital Vladivostok, for example, are willing to create offshore zones for businesses working with decentralized cryptocurrencies.

Crypto-Crimea Planned

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which hosted the Yalta Forum, has been dealing with sanctions since it joined the Russian Federation. Local officials are convinced that a vibrant crypto sector could help the region overcome international isolation and develop economically. They have recently asked for permission to set up a crypto offshore zone, crypto exchange, crypto cluster, and even issue a Crimean crypto. The Russian Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Association is actually working on a “Crypto-Crimea” plan encompassing all proposals.

Forget about China, Think of Hong Kong

Beijing’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies has turned China’s own Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and the Asian city-state of Singapore into wanted destinations for investors and businesses raising crypto funds. The number of startups launching initial coin offerings (ICOs) in these two territories has sky-rocketed in recent months, according to local fintech entrepreneurs, lawyers, and industry organizations. “Yes, there has been a lot of activity,” said Anson Zeall, chairman of Singapore’s Association of Cryptocurrency Enterprises and Startups. Like many others in the sector, he thinks the increase is related to China’s retreat from ICOs.

Thanks to its independent legal system, Hong Kong has also seen significant ICO growth. As reported by Chinese media, all ICO platforms and Bitcoin exchanges have already exited the Chinese market as a result of official warnings of the risks associated with investing in these projects. Well, others, including Hong Kong, which is part of China, are still willing to accept the risks, supporting innovation and economic growth.

Europe and the Europeans

While United Europe has recently confirmed serious intentions to end anonymity for crypto traders, with a vote in the European parliament last week, crypto exchanges are not turning back on Europeans, not yet. Many trading platforms have decided to move closer to the Old Continent, not too close, though – Switzerland, Gibraltar, Malta, even the exiting UK.

Maltese authorities are on a crusade to make their island the friendliest jurisdiction for the crypto sector. Proposed regulations are tailored to provide crypto exchanges, brokerages, asset managers, and crypto users with “legal certainty”. Two of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platforms have confirmed intentions to relocate operations to Malta. Binance, which announced it is moving to the “Blockchain Island”, recently said it will hire up to 200 people there. Following its decision, the Chinese rival Okex said it’s also coming to island. Other crypto companies have followed in their footsteps, including Berlin-based blockchain firm Neufund and the gaming platform operator Abyss.

Looking to expand beyond Asia, another Chinese exchange, Huobi, is planning to set up an office in London, despite Brexit. “Our statistics show that London is the most active trading scene across Europe,” Chern Chung, Huobi’s senior business development manager for Europe, has been quoted as saying. “Absolutely – London, Britain is the entry point for the European market for us,” Vice-President of Huobi Group Peng Hu confirmed.

Beyond Eurasia

Crypto businesses are often known for swimming against the stream. The crypto exchange Golix, which has recently felt the heat from competition in bitcoin-loving Zimbabwe, has announced plans to expand its operations to neighboring South Africa. In partnership with the local crypto hub Blockstarters, the trading platform wants to increase its network on the continent, tapping into the very active South African market.

Authorities in the regional powerhouse have recently taken steps to tax crypto incomes and transactions, which can curb crypto trade. On the other hand, self-regulation has been mentioned as a solution for the South African crypto sector. So, at the end of the day, Golix might have taken a sound business decision.

Do you agree that the diversity of interests in each country and region helps cryptocurrencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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