Will, Meet Way: Chinese Investors Start Trading Bitcoin

December 28, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

The Chinese government hasn’t exactly been fond of the notion of its people having access to an anonymous cryptocurrency that defies tracking and goes just about anywhere. But the Chinese people aren’t exactly fond of the notion that they can’t get in on one of the biggest upward-tracking investments since the dot-com boom of the late nineties. So in the grandest human tradition, will and way have met, and the intersection is found in peer-to-peer exchanges.

Word from the South China Morning Post says that traders are turning to peer-to-peer exchanges, buying bitcoin direct from current owners instead of turning to large-scale exchanges. This in turn is making the proposition of tracking—and preventing—such sales nigh-impossible for government regulators, at least for now.

The government has taken notice of the activity—though there’s no word on how long it was going on without their notice—and the National Committee of Experts on Internet Financial Security is now sounding an alarm. The group notes “…over-the-counter trade is booming. This warrants further attention.”

Earlier word suggested that demand for bitcoin would die off once the Chinese government banned cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, but it seems that demand hasn’t slowed much. Rather, the demand has simply gone underground, and the market is surging anew. Reports note that, just ahead of October, there were merely four over-the-counter platforms to trade cryptocurrency in China, but now, the number has risen to 21.

I understand that the Chinese economy is somewhat more authoritarian than many of us are used to, but it just seems like a terrible idea to try and control the citizenry this hard. China’s population is well over a billion strong, and trying to watch each and every one of them in a bid to keep from buying a certain product smacks of the ludicrous. I can’t help but see King Canute try to make his point about the limits of a king’s power, standing in the surf, ordering the tide to retreat because he is the king and he says what comes onto the island. The tide paid him no mind; why would the tide of bitcoin similarly obey state power?

In the end, the Chinese government might do well to endorse what it can’t reasonably forbid, or at least can’t reasonably enforce its forbidding therein.