The only thing making a killing in China these days is the coronavirus. Business is languishing. The streets are empty. Factories are closed. Stock trading is suspended. The sole winners during this would-be festival season seem to be medical-equipment companies, online-streaming platforms and food-delivery apps.
Along with the national emergency came concern about the negative impact of the outbreak on the price of crypto. However, during this period of national crisis, crypto prices—which have been up lately—seem to be not much of a topic—even for the very speculative crypto circle.
So what are crypto folks talking about these days? Da Bing gives you a bird's eye view, in this special edition.
#1: WeChat crypto group have turned into “how-to-smuggle-face-masks” groups
In China, WeChat groups are the central hubs where most breaking news breaks. From trading, to launching projects, even to answering customer service questions, it is the one-stop-shop for relevant information.
After the Coronavirus broke out and became a national crisis, most WeChat groups took a break from talking about crypto. Many addressed a topic that’s more practical: how to “smuggle” breathing masks and other medical equipment to China.
Why smuggle? It turns out that the lock-down not only forbids the inflow and outflow of people but also goods, including medical equipment. That leaves many people who have resources hanging, simply because there’s no way to donate them through official channels.
As a result, in order to get masks to Wuhan, the city where the outbreak started, WeChat friends became key. For example, one trader who resides in Thailand happens to have access to a local Thai mask provider. She managed to “smuggle” the masks from Bangkok, to Tokyo, to Hangzhou—and from there, to a hospital in Wuhan. All of that was done through friend’s friends on crypto WeChat.
The funny thing is that WeChat feels like what a decentralized, autonomous organization ought to feel like; members are incentivized to achieve the same goal. But it’s not, of course.
Note: The Government is easing restrictions somewhat, and allowing a few logistics companies to transport medical supplies into the city. Those WeChat transportation channels are called “green channels.”
#2. There’s a race to give, but what can crypto firms do other than donate in fiat?
Compared to 2003 when SARS broke out and most families didn’t even have broadband access, the 2020 crisis is seeing a record level of online donation, through WeChat pay, Alipay, wire transfer—and of course, crypto.
Over 30 blockchain companies have organized donation programs so far, including Binance, Huobi, Okex, and many crypto funds. Most companies choose to donate directly in fiat, but many others are collecting donations through tokens. The challenge arising from charity donations is an age-old one: how do we track spending?
Chinese are no strangers to charity corruption. The biggest scandal happened in 2011 when an Internet celebrity was revealed to fund her lavish lifestyle through China’s Red Cross. Now with blockchain technology, many startups have promised to ensure the transparency of donations through token.s
Yet these tracking capabilities are easier said than done. The main reason is that most NGOs are not onboarded with any blockchain platform, nor do they see the benefits of it. In addition, the Government plays an essential role in the disbursement of goods and services. Without their blessing, it’s hard to see how any charity project can go beyond simply collecting money.
As Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao tweeted, logistics is a “physical world limitation.” We have a long way to go.
#3: Mining: the only virus-proof industry
There’s no doubt that China’s economy is being hit hard from the outbreak. Many small- to medium-sized enterprises who are already cash-constraint are finding themselves in danger of filing for bankruptcy. Even international giants such as Apple are facing a difficult situation as their China-based factories are closed down.
But despite all the shut downs, the crypto miners prevail. Despite news of a delay in the delivery of mining chips, most mining facilities are operating just fine. There might be small issues with equipment repair, as one miner said in a WeChat group. Otherwise, neither the virus nor the national crisis it’s caused is stopping the miners from mining tokens.
That bodes well for the future of crypto. As long as the miners are fine, crypto will be fine.
Do you know?
When SARS broke out in 2003, the Internet was still a new toy for most Chinese. TV and telco communication were the only channels to obtain information because most people were confined to their home, including your correspondent, who was an elementary school student (happily) binging on martial art TV.
While SARS was showing China the power of an outbreak, Chinese Internet companies also seized on the opportunity and rose to prominence, especially Alibaba, the supertech conglomerate which owns Taobao and Alipay.
Back then, Alibaba was still a software company, mainly targeting enterprise. Yet SARS made Jack Ma realize the demand and huge potential of home-shopping, and created Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce site. Ironically, he couldn’t make it to the launch ceremony because of a quarantine.
Ma also dedicated a special day as “SARS Day” to honor the employees who worked day and night during the special period to create Taobao.
[ Da Bing is a weekly round-up of the most important crypto-related news that happened in China last week.]