Reporting on blockchain from China is difficult; there’s a lot of noise and little substance. But the Chinese press sometimes offers some of the best leads on crypto stories. There’s one crypto blogger who’s my all time favorite—let me give you an introduction.
Beijing-based Colin Wu, who writes at Wechat public account Wu Blockchain, has the nose to sniff out exclusive stories and the knuckles to investigate them. More importantly, in my opinion, he is able to see through a lot of the smoke screens that plague China’s crypto world.
I respect—well, sometimes I envy—his work, and I often refer to it in my reporting. On Sept. 6, he was the first to report that Chinese investors were staging a protest against centralized crypto exchanges. I reported on his work and took it a little further.
Just last night, he broke the news of a crackdown against over-the-counter traders in Shaanxi province.
I’ll stop fangirling and get to the point: If you want to understand China tech, people like Wu are exactly who you should be following. Chinese media often get a bad rap for (allegedly) being little more than propaganda machines, but there are many amazing, often independent, Chinese journalists that do investigative work. Wu is one of them.
Granted, if you’re like me and have to use translation apps to read Chinese-language articles, it can result in some awkward phrasing at best. Luckily for us, Wu tweets the gist of his pieces in English.
Wu started out as a journalist in Chinese media and later went corporate doing government and public relations at Bitmain, the world’s leading manufacturer of crypto mining rigs. The logic of this move, I am not privy to.
He left Bitmain after almost two years to “pursue some journalism ideals,” he told me, with a touch of self-mockery. Wu is a jaded kind of guy.
He started writing on Wechat in his channel Wu Blockchain in November 2019, and initially built up an audience covering the months-long saga of two rival founders trying to oust each other from Bitmain. At the time, what we at TechNode call the Battle for Bitmain was only getting started; he had inside information and was the first to break the news.
“One day at 3 o’clock in the morning, I suddenly got inspiration and wrote this article. Many people were attacking Micree [Zhan Ketuan] at the time, but no one really understood it, so I wanted to write something from a neutral perspective,” he told me.
“He is small, short-tempered, he likes to drink, but is not materialistic, and wears a pair of New Balance sneakers and a gray polo shirt 80% of the time,” he wrote in reference to Zhan in his first article.
His coverage of the dueling co-founders’ drama at Bitmain can seem partial to Wu Jihan (no relation), Zhan’s nemesis, at times. In his most recent article on Wu Jihan’s reinstatement he reported that employees were shedding tears of joy when he resumed leadership of the company. Despite this, Wu has been the first to report on new developments regardless of what they favor.
Wu has turned into a crypto investigator and a blogger with influence as his following across channels has grown: 50,000-80,000 by his counting. He has expanded his coverage to other topics, and he now employs three part-time people. His articles get reprinted in other Chinese crypto outlets.
I asked him how he gets his scoops. His network of contacts, as well as tipsters who come to him because, in his words, they appreciate his journalistic standards, have been a rich source of information.
Exclusive: Inner Mongolia suddenly slashes 21 mines—suspended from electrical grid, could pay up to 30% more for power
Wu Blockchain | Aug. 25
Last month, Wu broke the news of a crackdown by the government of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on crypto mining.
At the end of 2019, on-site inspections of 30 big data and cloud computing companies in seven leagues [administrative units of Inner Mongolia] and cities were carried out, and 21 mining companies were found, and the qualifications for participating in the listing of characteristic industries were suspended. Companies that are no longer mining can have penalties revoked after verification.
According to the notice, in accordance with the requirements of the state and autonomous region on guiding enterprises to withdraw from the “mining” business, in order to effectively support the sustainable and healthy development of cloud computing and big data industries in the region, and to further regulate power market transactions, the lists of the companies’ names will be published.
The 21 companies include most of the large mines well-known in the industry, and the rest are mainly normal IDC [internet data center] companies. But there are also some mining companies not on the list. The requirements of this notice are more detailed, and industry professionals worry that they are stricter than in the past and enforcement will last a long time.
Exclusive: Droves of OTC crypto traders put on PBOC discipline list, bank controls getting tighter
Wu Blockchain | Sept. 23
Last week, Wu wrote that over-the-counter crypto (OTC) traders are facing heightened scrutiny from the People’s Bank of China, which has frozen the bank cards of a number of traders for three years.
This year is the year when the People’s Bank of China cracks down on money laundering…
Wu said [he often quotes himself in this style] that Wu Blockchain has exclusively learned that recently many OTC merchants have been placed on the central bank’s “disciplinary list” and all bank cards linked to their IDs have stopped even ATM and banking app transactions.
This means that in addition to the traditional freezes on bank cards, banks and central banks have also begun active supervision of OTC merchants, and the crackdown is widening.
The logic behind what happened is:
The People’s Bank of China cracked down on money laundering this year, but delegated responsibilities and obligations to major banks and financial institutions. Subsequently, bank monitoring of suspected money laundering has become very strict, and any account opened needs to be reviewed by the anti-money laundering system.
Much-hyped buddies BSN and Huobi are doing plenty of PR—but don’t take it as fact (opinion)
Wu Blockchain | Sept. 28
The Blockchain Services Network (BSN) is widely regarded as one of the most important blockchain projects to come out of China: we’ve called it a state-backed, blockchain-powered internet.
Wu disagrees. He thinks that the BSN is just one of many similar projects made by private companies and consortiums. The only reason for all the hype on this project is that observers perceive it to have backing from the Chinese government. But Wu argues that the BSN is only supported by minor government agencies, which he sees as an indicator of the project’s importance. Frankly, I do not agree with him, but I hear his argument and I sure respect his fortitude in swimming upstream (and the BSN wasn’t even the only much-praised blockchain project Wu had dismissive words for last week).
Firstly, the white paper says that the initiators of BSN are the State Information Center [SIC] Smart City Development Research Center, China Mobile Design Institute, government and enterprise customer branches, China UnionPay, China Mobile Financial Technology Company, and the [BSN] operator Beijing Red Date Technology.
In China, cryptocurrency is managed by the central bank, and blockchain technology is managed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. To some extent, the [SIC parent agency] National Development and Reform Commission is not the government department closest to this industry.
If you take a closer look, the initiator is not the State Information Center, but the Smart City Development Research Center under the State Information Center. The so-called government department that is endorsing BSN is a research center under a think tank of a department that has nothing to do with blockchain. Therefore, it is totally inaccurate to call the BSN an organization led by the Chinese government.
Secondly, in fact, there are many organizations similar to the BSN, and their models are similar, that is, to create a so-called blockchain platform, and allow enterprises and developers to design blockchain applications on this platform. Those with a little strength, such as Ant Financial, Ping An, and Weizhong, write their own code and build their own alliance chain platforms; those without strength, directly use overseas open source public chains, and copy them. A so-called alliance chain. We can see similarly the Trusted Blockchain Alliance under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Translations by Jiayi Shi.