The Chinese government may hate it, but bitcoin does have a viable future in China according to its supporters there.
Beijing has not banned it, but there are so many restrictions that Chinese bitcoin exchanges struggle to survive.
However the enthusiasm for the virtual currency was shown by 500 people turning out for Hong Kong’s first bitcoin conference.
One participant was Bobby Lee, who heads BTC China, one of the
biggest exchanges for buying, selling, and storing bitcoins.
Even he admits it is not easy to use them for commerce: “Payment in China is going to be very tricky in terms of bitcoin. The government has come out to say that they discourage or disallow payments. Now, whether that’s enforceable is a different question, but because of that policy, that perspective, a lot of merchants are hesitant to accept bitcoin, especially large companies, and in turn, the users have nowhere to pay for things in bitcoin. So that’s a chicken and egg problem.”
He says the second challenge to actually buying things with bitcoin is competition from low-cost online payments services in China, like AliPay.
Even so there are a few bitcoin vending machines in Chinese cities.
And one property investment company in London has recently said it will accept the cybercurrency for payment on purchases in the UK.
That would avoid the Chinese government’s foreign exchange restrictions, which is one reason why Beijing is not keen on bitcoin.