This interview is cross-posted from from Bitcoin Exchange Berlin.
“The Chinese government is pretty open and gentle with the idea of Bitcoin, so far”**Interview with Qijun Wang from [Blockchain.info](http://blockchain.info/) (Shanghai)**
What is Blockchain.info?
Blockchain.info is Bitcoin’s most popular bitcoin wallet and block explorer. As of January 2014 the site has over 1.1 million registered users and 200 million page views per month. The figure is much higher today. Our security policy is to hold as little data as possible that in the event of a security breach could affect our users. Using our My Wallet service we do not hold or intercept any passwords or personally identifying information wallet data is only stored in encrypted form. Blockchain.info runs on privately owned dedicated hardware which can only be accessed by the site administrator. We perform regular security reviews of both our code and servers including scanning our site using nmap to detect possible vulnerabilities early.
**What is your role there? **
My job mostly is the liaison in the Chinese market for Blockchain.info. I am like an embassador of both our company and Bitcoin itself. So to let people know more about Bitcoin and to make it easier to use is our team’s goal and I’ll be the facilitator and go-between, not only between our users and the Blockchain.info team, but also Bitcoiners and people who not yet know about the critical value of Bitcoin.
My background used to have nothing to do with algorithm and programming, or the other IT stuff. Mostly it’s just so-called girl majors: English Literature and Communication. I have spent the last 3.5 years teaching students English and I have abundant experience in English Debating in the format of British Parliamentary Debate. And as I proceeded education in graduate school by studying communication, I also worked as a strategist in a local digital advertisement company owned by OMD and it subsequently contributed to a deeper in-field understanding of media operation, consumer behaviour study and brand promotion. I basically grew up with Harry Potter. When he got the letter from Hogwarts, I was 11. Every year, a new book of J.K Rowling came out and told me the truth of life and the dark side of the world that my parents and teachers in China intended to protect us from.
However, it was not until very lately, that I realized there is already something in the world that yields tremendous potential that can fight back what’s disappointing in reality. Last February, the information of Bitcoin scraped my life when I was watching an episode of an American TV show called The Good Wife saying that the US government is finding ways to locate and arrest the inventor (or inventors?) of Bitcoin and coincidentally my adorable IT freak boyfriend, who is now also an active promoter in the Bitcoin community, detected the smell of something burning under the water in the IT community.
I got fascinated by how amazing technology can respond to the real-world problems and we began our study on how Bitcoin can outrun the government’s currency press. The price bump of Bitcoin then in April prompted us to exchange all our savings from the salary of our first several months into Bitcoins and we stayed in the world ever since. The price of Bitcoin when it had its lows and ups was once a baffler, but the longer I stayed, the less I cared about how much it’s priced. I just couldn’t believe that the chance to fight for the cause is there; it would be too good to be true.
**Blockchain.info has an interesting company model with people working in different cities in five continents – how do you manage this? **
Part of our DNA as a company is to embrace distribution. We feel that diverse and highly dedicated teams are stronger – just like the Bitcoin network itself. We won’t have ‘working hours’ and we like the fact that there is almost always someone online. Of course, this makes some things more difficult – like having face-to-face meetings; but we rely heavily on Google Hangout, Skype and other tools to help manage communications. Companies of the future will not look like ones from the past 50 years. We don’t look backwards for a road-map to the financial future.
**What are Blockchain.info’s long term goals in China? **
Blockchain wants to help make bitcoin easier to use and accessible to everyone in the world. Our long term goals in China would be to create software that people like to use because it’s intuitive. Blockchain does not have custodial accounts; we put our users firmly in control of their funds, and we feel this approach will resonate very strongly with people around the world, but especially so in China. We’re very open to feedback so if there is something anyone feels we can improve please follow us on twitter, send us an email, we want to know how we can make our services stronger. We need everyone’s help to improve.
From what we read about the situation of Bitcoin in China in the news, one may get a bit confused. How do you perceive the situation of Bitcoin in China?
For the actions that have been taken by the Chinese government, it’s mainly three parts. The only document that might have any legal effect is called a “Notice on the precaution of the risks of Bitcoin”, suggesting that the only legal currency should be state-issued RMB and Bitcoin is not “Money”, so goods are not supposed to be priced in Bitcoin. But it stresses on the fact that people have the right to trade freely any goods, as Bitcoin is considered more of a commodity.
The second thing is that they have bypassed the legal area, and pressured banks to stop providing services for Bitcoin or Bitcoin related companies. The involved banks admitted directly that it’s due to policy, so at least in China people would know the dir ect cause of the closing of an account is because of Bitcoin.
Thirdly, media are under strict scrutiny as to what kind of Bitcoin news can be released to the public. For example, the Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing was never covered in any major media.
So all in all, China is not banning Bitcoin, but making it difficult to develop through control of banks and other institutions. Blockchain.info and a few other popular Bitcoin-related service providers are experiencing random, regional blocking by the Great FireWall, according to our users, but it’s not confirmed by any officals.
What do you think is the Chinese governments position on Bitcoin? Why do they behave the way they do?
In my opinion, and I am not even remotely close to any source inside the government, based on the only official document, I’d say the Chinese government is pretty open and gentle with the idea of Bitcoin, so far. For any government that requires strict control over a vast land and great population, it’s understandable that the government would want to slow down possible radical instabilities, as Bitcoin can be used as the name of the cause to overthrow the authoraties because, one, it’s dividing monetary power from the government; two, there are many people involved in the Bitcoin business who would want less control from the government in basically any field, so they are bound to be worried.
However, for now, the policies are only piling up barriers to enter and operate, but still leave room for people who understand Bitcoin as it is. So as long as Bitcoin is acknowledged as a commodity, it’s not impossible to trade Bitcoin here, even if there might be no exchange websites due to unknown reasons. (We would love to have Bitcoin Exchange Shanghai/Beijing/Guangzhou!) And let alone to develop Bitcoin, or Blockchain, or cryptocurrency the technology is very welcomed by the Bitcon community and investors in China. Well, hard to not rub it in the face of people who want to stop Bitcoin’s development, but the truth is, it’s too late to interfere.
**How does the Chinese Bitcoin community react to the government’s policy? How do “normal” people in China react? **
Basically, I think there are two groups of people inside the Bitcoin community in China. One group would still have faith in Bitcoin, no matter what, because naturally they would see a super power’s resistance in the very beginning. It would come anyway. Seriously, Bitcoin is trying to cut back on, even if not deprive them of, the power of people at the top! What else do you expect? And to many, a great part of Bitcoin’s value is exactly that intrinsically.
The other group that would sell Bitcoin and leave when a whiff of a bad news comes out are those who are still trying things out, but as I see it, they would come back after a tour around somewhere else, especially when prices go up again.
For normal people, they sense what people outside the country hear, a very big “No” from the regulators and a huge “Bad” on Bitcoin. The news stresses on Silk Road and Mt.Gox are repeatedly played and for all the other “good” news, most stations and newspapers decide to omit. We are a nation under constant caution of what the government supports or doesn’t support, because since like forever, it has been deciding the fate of a lot of things. Of course that means, I have a lot obstacles in my job to reveal an objective account of Bitcoin. It’s challenging, but rewarding as progress comes.
**Qijun was our special guest at the BXB in May. **