Bitcoin blunders

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/17 17:38:39

As virtual currency trading curbs take effect in China, investors look for alternative channels


Photo: IC



China's virtual currency market has been experiencing an earthquake in recent days, with several trading platforms announcing closure and the government banning ICOs. The new government regulations have caused some investors to dump their virtual coins in panic, while others are still gripping onto their tokens. But industry insiders told the Global Times that alternative trading channels, such as private trading or trading on overseas platforms, will prevail, regardless of the crackdown.



China's virtual currency market has been shrouded by a mood of panic in recent days as the government continues to take gradual but firm steps to rein in the trade of tokens.

The wave of regulation started on September 4, when a number of government departments banned Initial Coin Offering (ICO). ICO refers to a process whereby companies would publicly raise virtual currencies - mostly Bitcoins - by issuing new crypto tokens.

The move has shaken the market, prompting many virtual currency trading platforms to clean up their trading catalogues in a fluster. It has also triggered speculations that the government will continue closing all virtual currency trading exchanges before the end of September.

Now it seems that market concerns were relatively rational, though a little extreme in some cases.

On Friday, three major domestic virtual currency trading platforms - huobi.com, chbtc.com and okcoin.cn - all announced they were ending their services for trade between virtual currencies and the yuan. Within the announcements, however, they all stressed that Bitcoins and digital assets are not yet illegal in China.

The Global Times observed that on huobi.com, the Bitcoin slumped in value by about 3.3 percent on Wednesday and 2.3 percent on Thursday. But by 2:22 pm Beijing time on Saturday, it had rebounded by 0.82 percent. The huobi.com website could not be accessed as of Sunday afternoon.  

'Rollercoaster ride'

Xing Hai, a veteran virtual currency investor, said that he had anticipated a government crackdown after he sensed that some token trading bourses started to "weaken" trading data, which in return would "stimulate people's consumption desire" around the end of August.

"I was psychologically prepared, so when things actually happened, and I saw my assets drop in value, I could still keep my head up," he noted.

According to Xing, the reason he was able to stay calm was because he had experienced the ups and downs of Bitcoin trading before. "I can understand that it's normal for a virtual currency's price to go on a rollercoaster," he told the Global Times Friday night.

Xing first bought about 40 Bitcoins in April 2013, when one Bitcoin only cost 900 yuan ($137).

What he didn't anticipate, however, was that each of his Bitcoins' values would surge to about 7,500 yuan at the end of October, but then suddenly plunge to about 4,000 yuan. This came shortly after government departments rolled out a notice to warn of the risks of Bitcoin trading at the beginning of December 2013.

"I remember one day I was driving on the highway and I suddenly found out that the Bitcoin's value had plunged by about 50 percent in just five minutes. I was so scared I almost dumped all my coins at once," he said, noting that later, he bought back some coins, changing his investment mindset to a long-term model. This meant he wouldn't be swayed by short-term fluctuations in the currency.

But holding on isn't easy, particularly this time around, when many people are hastily dumping their virtual currency assets. "Some of my friends persuaded me to sell my virtual coins. I sold some, but I still preserve about half of them for future trading, maybe for overseas platforms," he noted.

Xing now owns about 50 Bitcoins, along with some Neo coins.

But Xing acknowledged that investors like him are very rare in China; those who really believe in the long-term value of certain virtual coins. "Most people just want to earn quick money via trading of Bitcoins or other tokens, but they are the ones who will suffer the most losses from fluctuations in token prices," he said.

Sun Hongping, who works at a hotel in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, is one investor who experienced great losses recently.

He told the Global Times that his virtual currency assets had shrunk to about 3,000 yuan compared with his initial input of around 40,000 yuan.

According to Sun, many investors he knows "suffered a lot" during the clearing of tokens in recent days.

"The person I know who suffered the most experienced a loss of about 600,000 yuan," he noted. "I would never put my hands on those currencies again."

Seeking other options

Although virtual currency trading centers are now blocked by the government, investors are nevertheless looking for alternative trading methods nowadays, such as over-the-counter, private trading.

A reporter of the Global Times recently joined several crypto-token WeChat groups and saw that investors are currently hotly exchanging information about private token trading.

For instance, on Saturday afternoon, an investor offered to purchase several kinds of crypto-tokens and promised to give some rewards to the seller if the trade could be done face to face.

A blockchain project founder surnamed Wang, who wishes not to share his first name, told the Global Times that over-the-counter trading of tokens always existed, but that now, as major trading platforms are shut down, it is becoming more common.

According to Wang, over-the-counter trading can be done face to face, or it can be operated remotely through the Internet. "You could even buy Bitcoins on taobao.com before token exchanges were established in the country," he noted.

Apart from over-the-counter trading, investors are also turning their eyes to overseas platforms. Xing, for example, told the Global Times that as far as he knows, many investors have already transferred their token assets to overseas platforms. He himself is also trading tokens on overseas platform bittrex.com.

Li Chao, an industry analyst with Beijing-based market consultancy iResearch, said that the trend of going abroad for virtual currency investment would lead to a certain level of capital outflow, but as long as the government guards the fence of foreign currency exchange limits, it wouldn't have too much of an impact on China's monetary health.

Against the backdrop, many domestic crypto-tokens that have been removed from domestic exchange platforms due to ICO regulations will be diverted to trading on overseas platforms soon. Such tokens include the Moving Cloud Coin and Dark Net Coin.

A source close to domestic virtual currency platform okcoin.cn also told the Global Times on Thursday that the platform is currently exploring overseas markets and might move its business focus beyond national borders in the future.

But Wang noted that less than 10 percent of domestic tokens have potential in overseas markets.

"They must have good technological capabilities. Domestic investors might ignore tech, but overseas investors are like tech geeks who pay great attention to the technologies behind projects," he noted.

"Every blockchain project needs to go global at a certain stage, but now it seems that we have to make globalization preparations ahead of time," he said.



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