The Chinese government is considering a nationwide ban on mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Every few years, China’s National Development and Reform Commission publishes a list of industries the agency wants to encourage, restrict, or eliminate because they are unsafe, illegal, or bad for the environment. The latest list, published this week, includes cryptocurrency mining on the list of industries to phase out.
A Chinese ban on cryptocurrency mining would be a huge deal for the global bitcoin community. In recent years, China has come to dominate both the manufacturing of bitcoin mining hardware and the operation of bitcoin mining pools.
A Chinese ban on bitcoin mining would transform the bitcoin mining industry, creating openings for bitcoin mining operations elsewhere in the world to gain market share. And that would be significant because bitcoin miners wield significant influence over the evolution of the Bitcoin platform.
But it’s not clear how serious the government is about the proposed ban. The new list of banned industries is only a proposal—the Chinese government is soliciting public comment on the draft before it becomes official.
Even if the list is ultimately adopted as government policy, it’s not clear how aggressively it would be enforced
Techcrunch points to a skeptical tweet by venture capitalist Dovey Wan: “NDRC updates a new version of such proposal every other 3-5 years since early 2000,” she wrote. “Items that should be eliminated by end of 2006 are still in the 2011 and 2019 versions.”
Still, there have been other recent signs that the Chinese government is souring on the cryptocurrency sector. In late 2017, in the midst of that year’s cryptocurrency boom, China banned retail cryptocurrency trading. In January 2018, a Chinese regulator said it wanted to see an “orderly exit” from the cryptocurrency mining business.
Another possible explanation for China’s recent moves: the government hopes to shift the Chinese public toward blockchain-based platforms more amenable to state control.
“The NDRC’s move is in line overall with China’s desire to control different layers of the rapidly growing crypto industry,” investor Jehan Chu told Reuters. “I believe China simply wants to ‘reboot’ the crypto industry into one that they have oversight on, the same approach they took with the Internet.”