This week in crypto. Sept 20-26: History of Bitcoin in China, NFT fantasy football and more...

History of Bitcoin in China

China and Bitcoin have a passionate history together. Now that it is (officially) ending, let’s remember its highlights – and how little they ended up meaning over time.

Since as early as 2013 the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) warned against using a currency “without real meaning”. The blockchain technology, however, should have fascinated them, as from 2014 the PBoC started developing a Central Bank Digital Currency, or CBDC. CBDCs are conceived as a private blockchain-like system, which enjoys a seamless transfer and direct access to every wallet, but is fully controlled by the central bank. It makes sense that the authoritarian Chinese state would develop such system, as it would allow it to easily access every citizen’s transaction history and exercise total control over their money.

September 2017: ICO and exchanges ban

In 2017 the ICOs, or Initial Coin Offerings, were the hottest thing in crypto (many argue that they were greatly responsible for crypto prices rise), and China was a major place for crypto exchanges.

In September 2017 the industry took two hits: PBoC banned the ICOs and the government banned the exchanges from servicing users within the country, the latter leading to dismantling of 90% (!) of the world crypto exchange services. Bitcoin price stumbled, but recovered quickly, ending the year in a massive bull run.

May 2021: mining ban

In the meantime, digital yuan has taken a more concrete form, and from the end of 2020 numerous real-life trials were organized in major cities: Shenzhen, Suzhou and Beijing carried out lotteries giving away the total of 40M yuan ($6M), which residents could spend at designated stores.

By 2021 Chinese crypto miners were providing around 65% of the world’s Bitcoin hash rate thanks to cheap energy (coal and hydro) and manpower. Miners are forced bitcoin sellers, as they need to cover their operating costs, and even in the absence of official Chinese crypto exchanges there have always been workarounds allowing them to continue working.

In May 2021 PBoC banned financial institutions and payment service providers from providing all services related to crypto transactions, and then banned crypto mining altogether.  The hashrate, or computational power of Bitcoin network that keeps it safe, fell from its all-time high, losing over 50%. However, Bitcoin is incredibly resilient and only three months after the ban the hashrate came back to the summer levels, as the miners were relocating their equipment to crypto-friendlier regions, notably the neighbouring Kazakhstan and North America.

It’s quite obvious that China would not get rid of the profitable mining business for ecological considerations (otherwise it could have restrained it to the renewable hydropower, abundant in Sichuan and Xinjiang - learn more about Bitcoin and ecology here). It was a necessary step to try and curb crypto use, and it was followed by more warnings to banks, payment platforms and apps. The government declared that it would take proactive steps to detect traders and dealers using offshore crypto exchanges and block any available trading websites.

September 2021: criminalizing crypto

It all leads us to this week when the Chinese government straight-out criminalized crypto, announced that all buying, selling, and otherwise dealing in crypto is now illegal. It didn’t come as a surprise, especially knowing that the government’s goal is to encourage generalized digital yuan’s use during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Crypto could have become an impediment to the e-yuan’s success: having an alternative independent and censorship-resistant money could undermine the government’s efforts in becoming a Big Brother. However, it’s impossible to ban a truly decentralized system: even when all official service providers are out of business, one can still find ways to download the software and transact in crypto.

Will the future history of Bitcoin in China be the one of crypto-resistance ?

Art and NFT

This week French company Sorare announced an exceptional funding round of $680M to continue developing their NFT-based fantasy football game, where users can not only buy unique collectible NFTs representing players, but also form their teams and play against other users. Each NFT is tracking real-life performance of the associate footballer, making the experience so much more interesting (if you wonder about the most expensive Sorare player card, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s, sold for $280k).

With worldwide football fans estimated at 3.5 Bn people, Sorare’s fantasy football has a long way to go.

Markets

Bitcoin

Reacting to the newest Chinese ban, the markets slumped almost 16% in the beginning of the week to below $40k, half-way recovered since and landing at $43’700.

The good news of the week was certainly Twitter introducing a tipping option that includes crypto payments. Developed in collaboration with Strike, a non-custodial Lightning Network wallet will allow sending and receiving BTC tips in a matter of seconds and with the tiniest of fees. 350M monthly active Twitter users now have an additional incentive to dive into crypto.

Learn more about Bitcoin

Ethereum

Last week’s Time magazine featuring Vitalik Buterin in its “100 of most influential people of 2021” didn’t save Ethereum price from following the crypto markets’ dip. It lost 20% in the beginning of the week, but recovered better, and now is sitting at $3’100 level.

Could the better recovery be explained by this week’s revelation that Snoop Dogg is an Ethereum whale, holding an impressive NFT collection estimated at $17M?

Learn more about Ethereum

Quote of the week

“Why would anyone ever use Western Union again? When you take one of the world’s largest social internet networks and you combine it with the world’s best open monetary networks, Twitter accidentally becomes one of the best remitting experiences in the world,”

Jack Mallers, Strike’s founder and CEO