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China’s crypto investors get creative to bypass domestic trading ban

Some are registering companies overseas, via — you guessed it — Taobao vendors.

China may be cracking down on cryptocurrency activities with all its might, throwing thunder and lightning down from above, but some crypto users on the ground are finding creative cover and new ways to continue their crypto investing as usual.

As more and more crypto exchanges have announced plans to stop registering mainland Chinese users and phase out existing users there, many investors on the mainland are making efforts to register companies overseas to bypass the know-your-customer (KYC) checks, which could allow them to trade crypto as corporations, as reported by local media Beijing Business Today.

This has seen business opportunities emerge for intermediaries. Many vendors on Taobao, China’s major e-commerce marketplace owned by Alibaba, are taking the chance to provide intermediary services for those mainland investors.

A customer representative at one vendor told Forkast.News that it has had clients successfully make crypto investments via an overseas company registration.

The vendor said it could help crypto investors to register companies in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Marshall Islands and the U.K. with fees ranging from 1,800 yuan (US$280) to 7,880 yuan (US$1,230). For registrations in BVI and the U.K., it would only take five to seven working days to complete the registration process, while it would take eight to 10 working days for registrations in the Marshall Islands, according to the vendor.

“We have put in place stringent KYC processes to ensure that we are compliant and will continue to refuse service to those who do not meet the conditions of our Terms of Services,” Lennix Lai, director of crypto exchange OKEx, said in an emailed response to Forkast.News.

These investors’ moves follow China’s stepped-up ban on crypto-related transactions announced in a notice jointly issued on Sept. 24 by 10 top financial, public security and legal authorities. That reflects the harsh stance the country has taken on crypto trading. It has repeatedly criticized the “speculative nature” of cryptocurrencies, “resulting in criminal activities including money laundering, illegal fundraising, fraud and pyramid schemes,” the central bank reiterated in another statement last month.

Notably, the Chinese authorities said it is illegal for overseas crypto exchanges to provide services to mainland Chinese users, which has been one of the approaches for mainland investors to trade crypto with the exchanges’ consumer-to-consumer (C2C) trading features.

In the wake of the latest ban, many platforms have been swift in adjusting their policies. Binance — the largest crypto exchange in the world by market value — announced last week that it will close down the yuan trading feature on its C2C platform on Dec. 31, in a move to “meet regulatory requirements of the local government.”

Huobi, another major crypto exchange, also announced that it will gradually retire existing mainland Chinese users, while another two platforms — Binance and OKEx — both told Forkast.News that they have been blocked in mainland China since 2017.

More than 30 crypto-related companies have withdrawn from the mainland since China dropped the news of an intensified crackdown last month, according to Forkast.News’ calculation based on publicly available information.

While China maintains its strong grip on cryptocurrencies, it is actively developing its own central bank digital currency — the electronic Chinese yuan, or e-CNY. Some industry observers have said the latest ban came at a significant time.

“I would be surprised if it was purely a coincidence,” Paul Haswell, a partner at the law firm Pinsent Masons in Hong Kong, previously told Forkast.News. “It’s gearing up to move people across to the digital renminbi, which is very much in China’s interest … They want a smooth roll-out. They want a currency that they control.”

China’s crypto ban was “a much-anticipated move to eliminate any potential competition to the government’s new incoming sovereign digital currency, the digital yuan,” said David Lesperance, a Canadian immigration and tax advisor who works with many Chinese clients.

In the latest sign, Beijing Capital International Airport has become the first airport in the country to support payment by the e-CNY. The China Civil Aviation Newspaper reported the digital yuan can be used at more than 110 stores and for parking at the airport.

In September, Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of the central bank, said the expected February Winter Olympics e-CNY rollout had entered the “sprint stage” as it approached the finish line. The central bank has also stated that 355,000 Winter Olympic payment scenarios have been successfully implemented, covering various situations such as transportation, accommodation, catering and shopping.