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投资理财

为什么比特币在中国这么红

Nin-Hai Tseng 2013年11月21日

这个问世刚四年的虚拟货币一度被视为浅薄的时髦小玩意儿,只有不法分子和贩毒人员才用。但最近几周,它却获得了来自各方的全新信任,而它在中国的表现尤其抢眼。不过,它本质上还是一个全球范围内的货币试验,它的未来依然存在不确定性。

    比特币终于迎来了走向成熟的盛大仪式。这个年方四岁的虚拟货币一度被视为浅薄的时髦小玩意儿,只有不法分子和贩毒人员才用。但最近几周,它却获得了来自各方的全新信任。美国和中国的投资者越来越有把握,这种替代性货币将来给普通消费者带来好处。

    美国国会首次就这种货币工具召开听证会,高层执法机构和官员阐明了虚拟货币的好处之后,本周一,比特币的价值蹿上新高,达到700美元(随后又在一夜之间涨到了900美元)。

    首席检察官助理麦齐利•拉曼表示,虚拟货币是合法的,而且“有潜力推动更多有效的全球贸易”。尽管没有获得央行的支持,但美联储主席本•伯南克也表达了类似看法。他在一封写给参议员的信中表示,虚拟货币“长远来看可能颇有前景,尤其是如果这种创新有助于建立更迅捷、更安全和更有效的支付系统”。

    就在同一天,还爆出一条新闻,全球比特币交易量最大的企业——BTC中国公司(BTC China)获得了来自机构投资者光速安振中国创业投资(Lightspeed China Partners)和光速创业投资(Lightspeed Venture Partners)500万美元的首轮融资。

    这些动态表明,事情正在发生变化。就在上个月,联邦当局端掉了一个名叫“丝绸之路”的网上贩毒团伙,他们所有的交易都用比特币来完成。这个行动引发了比特币大规模抛售。这个网站被取缔之后,比特币的价格暴跌了20%。当时这种情况可能还令人难以置信,但这次打击对这种货币来说可能是大好事,因为它有助于消除比特币的阴暗面,使之更接近主流金融体系。

    自从丝绸之路被端掉之后,比特币就开始迎来大幅上涨,而它是否在美国兴起其实还无关紧要。近几周来,是中国大幅推高了比特币的价格。据专门提供比特币数据的Bitcoin Charts称,现在约三分之一的比特币交易都是通过BTC China交易平台进行的,而这个平台只对中国用户开放。这家公司最近取代了位于东京的Mt. Gox公司,成为全球交易量最大的比特币交易所,公司高管表示正计划利用最新一轮融资“实现快速增长、拓展业务。”

    为什么比特币对中国情有独钟?尽管中国政府一向以强势干预经济而著称,但让人有点吃惊的是,这次它并没有介入比特币市场。比特币市场一直波动剧烈,但它今年的价格已经大涨了30多倍。

    Bitcoin has reached a rite of passage. The four-year-old virtual currency was once dismissed as something of a fad that only gangsters and drug dealers used, but in recent weeks, it has found new sources of credibility. Increasingly, investors from the U.S. to China are betting that the alternative currency could some day benefit regular consumers.

    On Monday, bitcoin soared to a new high of $700 (it rose to $900 overnight), after senior law enforcement and regulatory officials highlighted the benefits of virtual currencies at the first ever congressional hearing on such monetary instruments.

    Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general, said virtual currencies are legit and "have the potential to promote more efficient global commerce." And even though they aren't backed by a central bank, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke echoed similar sentiments, writing in a letter to senators that virtual currencies "may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system."

    The same day, news broke that BTC China, the world's largest bitcoin exchange by trading volume, secured $5 million in investments from institutional investors Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

    The developments signal a shift. Just last month, federal authorities busted an online drug ring called Silk Road, which used bitcoin for all transactions. The bust prompted a major sell off; bitcoin declined by 20% after the website was taken down. It might have been hard to believe then, but the crackdown was probably the best thing that happened for the currency. It helped clean up bitcoin's shady side, bringing it closer to the mainstream financial system.

    Since the Silk Road crackdown, bitcoin has made huge gains, and whether it flourishes in the U.S. isn't really the issue. In recent weeks, China has overwhelmingly driven up the price of bitcoin. About a third of the currency's transactions now flow through the BTC China exchange, which is open only to Chinese users, according to Bitcoin Charts, which provides bitcoin data. BTC recently unseated Tokyo-based Mt. Gox as the world's largest exchange by trading volume, and executives say it plans to use its latest round of funding to "aggressively grow and expand the business."

    Why the bitcoin love in China? It's surprising Beijing hasn't intervened, as the Chinese government generally keeps a heavy hand over its economy. Bitcoin is volatile, but its price has gone up more than 30-fold this year.

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