Last week bitcoin plunged over 40% from all time highs hit as recently as three weeks ago on news that China had ordered local exchanges to halt trading in the cryptocurrency. Since then, defying naysayers yet again, bitcoin staged a remarkable comeback, rising from under $3000 to $4000 in the last few days of trading, but China appears to be nowhere near done, and as the WSJ reports this morning, Beijing is moving toward a "broad clampdown on bitcoin trading, testing the resilience of the virtual currency as well as the idea its decentralized nature protects it from government interference" in what the paper dubs the "most draconian measures any government has taken to control bitcoin."
According to the WSJ, regulators have decided on a "comprehensive ban on channels for the buying or selling of the virtual currency in China" that goes beyond plans to shut commercial bitcoin exchanges. The still unofficial policy was communicated to several industry executives at a closed-door meeting in Beijing on Friday, "according to people who were at the meeting."
The move is notable because until last week, many China bitcoin entrepreneurs thought authorities might shut down only commercial trading activity while tolerating peer-to-peer, or over-the-counter, bitcoin platforms, which enable buyers and sellers to find each other and trade directly. However, it now appears that this was only the beginning as two years after we first warned that bitcoin will be used largely to circumvent Chinese capital controls (and said it would soar as a result when its price was just $230), the government has decided to put a complete end to the use cryptocurrencies as a means of offshoring "hot money." Word of a more serious tightening spread after the meeting and at least one Chinese platform last week announced it would halt one-on-one trading services per official instructions.
Incidentally, this is what we predicted back in September 2015 when bitcoin was trading about 20x lower:
... if a few hundred million Chinese decide that the time has come to use bitcoin as the capital controls bypassing currency of choice, and decide to invest even a tiny fraction of the $22 trillion in Chinese deposits, bitcoin (whose total market cap at last check was just over $3 billion), sit back and watch as we witness the second coming of the bitcoin bubble, one which could make the previous all time highs in the digital currency, seems like a low print.
In retrospect, we were right and it took China years to figure this out, and now - in a long belated reaction - the WSJ describes the Chinese plan as "some of the most draconian measures any government has taken to control bitcoin."