The global popularity of blockchain and cryptocurrency has been on a slow but steady rise over the last decade. After the Bitcoin boom in 2017, where prices reached a high of around USD$ 20,000, the value of Bitcoin has stabilized to around four figures. Continued interest in the cryptocurrency market has also led to the rise of alternative coins like Ether and XRP, as well as stablecoins like USDCoin and Gemini Dollar.
Blockchain is the foundation of cryptocurrency, but its use isn’t limited to finance alone. The technology has further uses in politics, communication, health, economics, and other fields. The range of possible uses for blockchain technology is such that governments across the globe are beginning to adapt the technology beyond the scope of finance. For example, the Australian government worked with Civic Ledger, an organization that focuses on civic applications of blockchain technology, to use blockchain to verify water trade and update state registries in real time.
The adoption and application of blockchain technology is on the rise around the world, but nowhere is it more so than in Asia. First seen as a backwater in blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption, recent years have found Asian countries adopting blockchain tech at rates far quicker than their Western counterparts. South Korea’s adoption of blockchain technology initially started out slow, but experienced a boom in 2017. By the end of 2017, over a third of the Korean public had invested in cryptocurrencies. However, according to the Diplomat, the South Korean government has taken a more cautious approach to cryptocurrency, maintaining an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) ban that prohibits the receipt of investments in return for the sale of cryptocurrency by domestic companies.
Dubai, also known as the City of the Future, has plans to become the first blockchain-powered government. It plans to have visa applications, bill payments, and license renewals all transacted digitally via the blockchain. Blockchain adoption isn’t only limited to financial centers in Asia, either. One of Turkey’s major cultural centers, the city of Konya, has recently begun looking into developing a “City Coin”, with the local government working hand-in-hand with the science and technology center to create a blockchain-focused financial system around it.
Japan has a particular history with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, not least because Satoshi Nakamoto, who authored the Bitcoin white paper, is said to be a resident of the country. While traditionally risk-averse when it comes to finances, Japan has also been the site of two of the largest scandals in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency history: the Mt. Gox exchange heist in 2014, and the Coincheck heist in 2018. Despite those dark periods, the Japanese government has taken a few cautious steps forward with regards to blockchain and cryptocurrency. The Japan Times reported in September 2019 that the Japanese government was stepping up its study on stable coins regulation, in response to Facebook’s digital currency project Libra.
China, viewed by many as a deliberate tech imitator, has also set its sights on becoming a worldwide leader in various areas of technology— including blockchain. President Xi Jinping’s recent remarks on the importance of blockchain technology have caused an increase in purchasing of related stocks, pushing up values and expectations. According to Xi, blockchain is one of China’s core technologies, and although Beijing has banned cryptocurrencies it is keen to support blockchain’s use in commerce, banking, and finance. BBC reports that China also recently rolled out one of the world’s largest 5G networks, with the service now available in 50 Chinese cities and more than 130,000 5G base stations to be activated by the end of the year.
While China’s relationship with blockchain may have its ups and downs, it’s undeniable that the country is more than influential in the cryptocurrency market. Development Asia writes that China has become a global leader when it comes to bitcoin mining, thanks to the affordability and availability of hardware and cheap energy. There are a host of other factors that contribute to Chinese opinion on blockchain and cryptocurrency, including but not limited to the volatility of the yuan, growing private wealth, and reactions to the government’s strict control of the yuan.
China’s plans to seize the opportunity for blockchain growth aren’t surprising, given that its smaller Asian neighbors have already embraced the concept. The Philippines, for one, began pioneering the use of blockchain in their local financial industry years ago. An article on ‘Blockchain in the Philippines’ even claims that the business sector isn’t far behind, as the country welcomes more and more start-up firms that aim to make cash transfer costs lower and more convenient. Blockchain could be especially advantageous, given that many of the businesses in the Philippines are SMEs that could benefit from safer and faster transaction times.
AXEL, a company that focuses on utilizing blockchain technology to give customers control over their files and personal data, predicts that the future of blockchain can be found in Asia. Asia’s high focus on mobile technology and mobile payment solutions puts it in a unique position to adopt the tech quickly and comprehensively. With cryptocurrencies and blockchain coming to use in esports, commerce, business, and government services across the region, there’s no better playing field for investors to set their sights on.
About the Author
Aside from trying to be a “cool mom” to her 13-year-old son Johnny, Riley James is a frustrated eSports gamer, a freelance tech writer, and a budding financial adviser. She’s currently deep in researching more about cryptocurrency with hopes of striking digital gold in the near future.