Regulations and Crypto Havens: China and the Rest of the World

China is no stranger to censorship and regulation.

Dubbed by most Western spectators as a ‘totalitarian regime’, the country’s government has been highly successful in their efforts to control the internet and digital economies – along with brick and mortar activities. This can be seen, for example, with government imposed obstructions preventing Chinese residents from accessing popular global social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook; replaced by Weibo (which, being based in China, has previously been subject to extreme government intervention).

It should come as no surprise then, that the government has decided to impose a blanket ban on the trading of cryptocurrencies by citizens and businesses within the country. This occurred last September, where government representatives additionally cited a need for the absolute centralization of all blockchain related activities.

When looking at some of the surrounding geographical areas, for example, countries within the South-East Asia region; we can see a great disparity in regulatory positions and implementations.

South Korea has been responsible for long-term FUD on the trading markets due to their inability to come to a consensus on how to regulate the crypto-economy, let alone how they would proceed in enforcing guidelines and legislation. Vietnam has, unsurprisingly, decided to go down the same road as China and has banned all cryptocurrencies as of the time of writing.

This has led many to question the hypothetical yet highly reasonable presumption that there could be a time in the future where heavy regulation and blanket crypto bans are commonplace across the globe. If this were to happen, could cryptocurrencies survive; and if so then what measures would have to be taken to ensure its survival as a legitimate, decentralized economy?

Crypto-flight and Crypto-havens

In China, the result has been a ‘crypto-flight’: where businesses and individuals who are heavily invested in the sector have relocated their businesses to Hong Kong avoid breaking the law. Examples of operational Hong Kong based crypto-companies include: OKEx, BTCC and Huobi-Pro.

Hong Kong is classed as a ‘Special Administrative Region’ which sits within the borders of the People’s Republic of China. This means that the area and its citizens enjoy special privileges such as political and economic autonomy.

One of the ways the region’s lawmakers have decided to use this power is to allow for decentralized cryptocurrency business, investment, and trading; whilst simultaneously seeking to regulate fraudulent blockchain activity / enterprise.

If there were to be a situation somehow (and it’s highly unlikely) where Hong Kong were to decide to implement similar rules to their mainland brothers, then the result would most likely be further flight away from the country by cryptos.

Singapore would be a likely candidate due to their liberal approach to cryptocurrencies, in addition to the geographical proximity to China / Hong Kong.

Furthermore, if this were to continue to spread across Asia or the West; then we would be likely to see a consolidation of the population of investors and crypto countries to a smaller number of countries which would subsequently be ‘Crypto Havens’. This could resemble the impact that extensive taxation on creating what are currently known as ‘tax havens’.

Will China Change its Tone?

No matter how frustrated the mainland Chinese Government might get from missing out on this huge economy, there is little they can do politically to pressure the Hong Kong government into implementing similar rules.

The area is simply one of the highest grossing financial areas in the entire country, and as such acts as a central trade hub for the nation. If its sovereignty were to be threatened, then many of the businesses and individuals who are contributing to this wealth are likely to leave themselves (crypto or otherwise).

Conversely, it is much more likely that China will eventually decide to repeal their overarching bans over time. Despite banning the tech, it is highly likely that the government is not ignorant to the added value it could bring to their country’s economy.

Once cryptocurrencies are better understood by governments and established general tech experts in general; don’t be surprised if you see them slowly retreat these laws in favor of regulations and taxes informed by a matured expertise.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.