FEB 1, 2024
China to update AML rules with a focus on crypto transactions
Chinese authorities are gearing up for a significant amendment to the country’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, with a specific emphasis on cryptocurrency-related transactions.
Growing concerns about crypto
The move, reported by Chinese business and financial news media outlet Jiemian on Wednesday, comes in response to growing concerns among policymakers in China about the need for heightened scrutiny within the burgeoning crypto industry. This marks the first substantial update to China’s AML rules since their introduction in 2007.
In 2021, China took a decisive step by imposing a comprehensive ban on cryptocurrency use, which included prohibiting offshore exchanges from offering services and putting a stop to all forms of mining. However, despite these restrictions, mainland users have managed to find avenues to access the crypto market. The upcoming amendment to AML regulations aims to introduce more stringent guidelines to address and mitigate these activities effectively.
Prime Minister Li Qiang chaired an executive meeting of the State Council on Jan. 22 to deliberate on the revised AML law. The initial draft of the AML regulations was proposed in 2021. The revised version is set to become law by 2025 after being included in the legislative agenda of the State Council for 2023.
Digital assets not clearly defined
Urgency was stressed in addressing cryptocurrency money laundering at the legal level, as the current laws lack a clear definition of digital assets.
Although the revised draft includes measures to prevent digital asset money laundering, concerns were raised about the absence of operational guidance on subsequent actions such as asset seizure, freezing, deduction and confiscation in money laundering cases involving digital assets. Experts noted that there is room for improvement in combating digital asset-related money laundering.
China’s existing AML law is designed not only to deter money laundering but also to protect fiscal order and combat related crimes. As a country with a deep understanding of money laundering and terrorist financing risks, China is not included in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) list of AML-deficient countries. However, a 2019 FATF report suggested that China should focus more on addressing the laundering of crime proceeds and expand its resources for national risk assessment.
Circumventing the ban
Despite the formal ban on cryptocurrency circulation and mining by Chinese authorities, there are still avenues for Chinese nationals to access the digital asset ecosystem. BitMEX founder Arthur Hayes recently indicated that wealthy Chinese individuals have access to banking in Hong Kong, serving as the gateway for mainland China to global capital markets, including the cryptocurrency markets.
While many crypto miners left the jurisdiction following the ban in 2021, Chinese companies account for a significant proportion of mining equipment manufacturing. Major exchanges like Binance and OKX have Chinese roots, underscoring the nation’s influence in the global crypto landscape. Before the cryptocurrency trading ban in China, trading volumes on yuan-denominated crypto exchanges surpassed those of dollar pairs.
As China prepares to fortify its AML regulations, the crypto industry awaits further clarity on how these changes will shape the landscape and influence the conduct of cryptocurrency-related activities within the country.