JAN 6, 2024
Chinese state publication calls for crackdown on crypto
China’s Legal Daily, a publication that falls under the supervision of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCPs) Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, has sounded an alarm regarding cryptocurrencies, raising concerns about their use as potential avenues for corruption.
In the newspaper’s New Year’s Day edition, it quoted legal scholars, who had convened at the annual China Integrity and Legal Research Association meeting, who underscored the urgency of addressing the emerging threat posed by digital assets.
‘Hidden channels’ for bribery
In particular, it focused on views expressed by Associate Professor Zhao Xuejun from Hebei University Law School. Zhao Xuejun warned against the use of virtual currency and electronic gift cards as “hidden channels” for bribery. Notably, these forms of payment, often stored in “cold storage” devices, offer a convenient means for transporting funds abroad, the academic claimed.
This development aligns with recent warnings from state agencies, including the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, cautioning against the use of stablecoin Tether in yuan-related foreign exchange transactions, deeming such actions illegal.
Anonymity and traceability concerns
Professor Mo Hongxian from Wuhan University Law School explicitly mentioned Bitcoin, highlighting the challenges associated with virtual currencies, such as their anonymity and difficulty in traceability, which can facilitate illegal activities. Despite lacking official recognition in China, Professor Hongxian stressed the need for judicial attention to transactions involving virtual currencies.
Although China maintains a cryptocurrency ban, it actively explores blockchain technology for identity verification. The country’s central bank digital currency, e-CNY, still in the pilot stage, has witnessed significant development. Despite its limited geographic distribution, the digital yuan recorded transactions totaling nearly $250 billion in China as of June 2023, with international use noted in commodities sales.
Varying degrees of enforcement
China has demonstrated that it can at times take a very hard line on restricting cryptocurrency trading and related activities, while at others, it seems to tolerate such activity or turn a blind eye. Last month China’s Supreme Procuratorate provided details on the nature of the prosecution of over-the-counter (OTC) crypto trader and RenrenBit founder, Zhao Dong. Zhao was handed down a seven year sentence for carrying out illicit crypto business operations.
By contrast, an investigation carried out by the Wall Street Journal last year found that business has been thriving for the World’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance in China, despite the ban.
Other crypto-related activity has been uncovered, flouting capital controls. BitMEX founder Arthur Hayes suggested recently that all wealthy Chinese individuals have access to banking in Hong Kong, allowing them to access, trade and use cryptocurrency.
As part of the CCP’s intensified anti-corruption efforts, the focus on cryptocurrency’s potential role in financial crimes underscores the evolving landscape as use of digital currency unfolds. The Legal Daily article emphasizes the need for vigilance and regulatory measures to counteract the perceived threat of corruption facilitated by cryptocurrencies and electronic payment methods.