“China’s Crypto Ban Won’t Be Lifted Soon,” Says Head of The Floor HK

Desmond Marshall paints a portrait of blockchain's state of affairs in China.

The sweeping set of bans that China placed on cryptocurrency near the end of 2017 made waves around the world. While the crypto trading industry was effectively shut down in the country, the blockchain technology sphere has continued to grow.

Recently, Finance Magnates spoke with Desmond Marshall, Managing Director of the Floor, about the Chinese blockchain industry.

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Crypto in China: Trading and ICOs are Still a ‘No-no’

Desmond explained that “the situation with China is a little bit sensitive at this point around here.”

He said that when talking about blockchain in China, it’s important to make a distinction between cryptocurrency and blockchain itself: “In terms of blockchain technology, China is quite open and welcomes this kind of discussion as well. But, of course, if we’re talking about cryptocurrencies or ICOs, that’s a definite no-no.”

“So, any blockchain companies that are thinking of doing certain things like this in China,” he said, “I would strongly suggest that they do not because it is illegal.”

On the other hand, “the PBOC has already announced that they have an initiative called the DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payments.) This is an initiative that relates to blockchain, digital currencies themselves, and how it’s being used.”

“The key phrase here is ‘how it’s being used’,” he explained. “In terms of the application of it, they’re talking about electronic payments. We’re talking about consumer payments–buying a can of soda, paying rent, or just buying commodities (a handbag, etc.)”

Trading and ICOs are Out

Here, it’s important to note what was not said: “the DCEP specifically did not talk about trading, like crypto exchange trading, cryptocurrency exchanges. [They didn’t make mention of ] speculations as well. To think that the PBOC did not mention this–it’s quite clear that [the message is]: ‘okay, we’re developing a digital currency, but for a very specific purpose.’

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Despite the fact that certain parts of the Chinese government may be moving toward embracing blockchain technology, “in terms of ICO [tokens], they don’t fall under ‘electronic payments’; they fall under ‘trading.’ That’s a definite no-no, and I would not expect this ban to be lifted soon.”

Why? “Definitely it’s something that the state itself is concerned about in terms of how they’re seeing people transferring money in and out freely–there’s money laundering involved as well, which means that there are a lot of anti-corruption processes that need to be considered as well, “ he explained.

Desmond suggested that given the current political state of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in China, “in terms of funding mechanisms, I would strongly suggest that if a blockchain company requires funding, they should think in terms of VC or key investing.”

While Crypto is Suffering, Blockchain is Thriving in China

“China has had quite a big boom in the tech sector… where people are looking very strongly into blockchain technology,” Desmond said. “Of course, the popularity of Bitcoin helped in terms of people understanding what blockchain is. In terms of technology, China is actually very welcoming in terms of how these things are being applied.”

He added that the bullish attitude on blockchain has fostered an innovative environment. “From the government itself to local provinces, down to new startup companies–pretty much anything you can think of, they have already thought about or are already in the process of developing blockchain technology to be applied in those areas.”

Personally, Desmond has “seen quite a number in terms of supply chain, in terms of fintech and finance as well, in terms of people tracking parcels–quite commercial things, and also there are commercial companies that revolve around consumer retail who are thinking about blockchain technology. So I’ve seen quite large investments even from consumer retail [into finding ways] that blockchain technology can be applied [to their work.]”

“This is a Good Time” to Get Into Blockchain

Desmond said that no matter where you are in the world, “[this] is a good time in terms of looking at applying blockchain technology into your own companies or looking at doing business with this technology.”

This is because he doesn’t “think blockchain will go away soon because a lot of companies–banks and also bigger institutions–have already invested a lot in researching and doing proofs-of-concept in blockchain technology. “

In fact, “for any young entrepreneurs or young companies who are thinking ‘okay, should I do this or not?’ I would strongly suggest you look into this. Of course, if you’re doing [something like] normal retail, this might not be a priority, but again, this new technology will hit normal consumer retail and normal individuals very soon as well.

“Like I said, there’s been a lot of research and conceptual work being developed. For myself, I’ve been reviewing these types of projects for more than seven years. For the latest, I’m seeing that banks have been doing research for three to five years already,” he added.

He believes that blockchain is going to change the global technological landscape right before our eyes. “So right now, what we’ll be seeing for the next one or two years is that there will be an explosion of new companies suddenly popping up and saying, ‘okay, we are a blockchain company, and we have technology that is ready for people to actually use it.’ So you’ll suddenly be faced with a group of new companies, which may be your competitors, and you’ll have no idea that they exist right now.”

Desmond added that this will be true across all industries–automotive, telecom, retail–not just fintech. “I would strongly suggest, just for the sake of business itself, that you take a look at the ways that these companies are using blockchain technologies in their own environment,” he said.

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