Despite the uphill battle for Bitcoin in China, its much anticipated summit appears to be going reasonably well. Today marks the second day of the two-day summit. Hundreds have attended despite discouraging developments leading right up to the summit.
Last week, leaders at five of China’s major bitcoin exchanges pulled out of the summit “to stay more low-key”. This was simultaneous with their adoption of new measures geared toward the curbing speculative trading, namely the cessation of margin trading and short selling.
One day before the summit, the next weapon in the government’s arsenal was brandished: media censorship. The China Digital Times discovers and leaks items ordered by the government to be censored by media. The following surfaced on Bitcoin:
“The Global Bitcoin Summit 2014 will be held on May 10-11 in Beijing. All websites are asked not to participate in or report on the summit. Do not hype bitcoins. All reporting on bitcoins must henceforth accord with the specifications of financial regulatory agencies. Please carry out the above immediately. (May 7, 2014)”
Other leaked items include several directives to “find and delete harmful information” related to “Corrupt Chinese Officials Who Flee Abroad Run off with Trillions, Money Impossible to Recover”, the recent collision of Vietnamese and Chinese coast guard vessels, and other items of interest in Chinese politics.
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Bitcoiners are viewing this development as good news and bad news, although at the end of the day, it’s bad news. One can view the censorship as an encouraging sign that Bitcoin is really making inroads in China, and that authorities had to resort to the next level of tactics to deal with it. Censorships are generally reserved for serious threats, feared to become “over-hyped” and thereupon intensify. Historically though, censored issues have rarely borne the fruit hoped for by their backers.
Indeed, the amount of genuine media coverage seems less than it should be for the first such high-profile, provocative event of this kind in China.
Still, the setbacks have not spoiled the event, with hundreds attending. On the surface, it appears that the scheduled plans are progressing smoothly and unimpeded. Attendees are exchanging business cards. Several are even cautiously upbeat about the outlook for Bitcoin in China. One, 23 years old, previously quit his “good job” to get more involved with Bitcoin because he feels he can make money faster that way.
And even though leaders of the exchanges are not attending, several of their employees reportedly are, albeit in an unofficial capacity.
Some attendees were a little more on edge. Eric Gu, co-founder of Shanghai-based Bit Angels Club, was originally nervous about what may transpire: “I’m a little bit worried…This morning, when I woke up, I was concerned, ‘Will I be able to get into this summit at all?’” He reflected on how, in his view, “the government was pretty good to the Bitcoiners in China — at the beginning….it was kind of too good.”