China's recent adoption of blockchain technology on several fronts has divided the global cryptocurrency community. While some see it as a useful validation, others fear that cryptography will move further away from its anti-authoritarian roots.
Chinese authorities have long discouraged investments in basic crypto-currencies such as bitcoin. But the world's most populous country is making significant progress in its national cryptocurrency projects that could increase the government's oversight powers over the economy.
CoinDesk has maintained an anonymous bitcoiner that grew up in China and has since moved elsewhere in East Asia. Far from seeing the adoption of blockchain as a march towards liberation, he expects the government to use these technologies to strengthen its control over the population. After all, the propaganda bureau of the Chinese Communist Party announced over the weekend a request based on the blockchain, which would allow members to pledge allegiance to the party.
Since China's mass detention centers are currently being used to "rehabilitate" more than one million Chinese Muslims, this bitcoiner feared that local minorities would face even more difficult conditions as part of a financial system fully integrated and controlled by the government.
The following is a condensed transcript of the interview with this gray bitcoiner, a programmer who started following the project in 2014.
The text has been edited for clarity. We agreed to keep this person's identity secret because she feared repercussions on her family.
Q: What do you think of the recent pro-blockchain ads from China?
That terrifies me.
Crypto, that 's technology, just like nuclear fusion, that' s the technology: you can use it to create nuclear generators that could benefit a lot of humanity, or for create atomic bombs. We must think of ethics when it comes to these things.
If value is something that a totalitarian state can seize and use to track each person and his work, by applying the strictest currency controls, then that is what it is. They will do.
Q: Why do you think there are so many people celebrating such news as a positive indicator for "adoption" in the cryptographic community?
East Asians are very comfortable with the idea that the government is like our parents, that they will take care of us.
Even though they read novels like Brave New World or 1984, the world to them is OK for most. But the few people who want to act in a way that the government does not agree with will be persecuted.
My parents have been missionaries (Christians) for about 18 years now, and being a missionary is banned in China. Our phones were tapped, our computer was hacked. The names of my parents were on the blacklist of the Chinese police. People like my parents are called terrorists or Tibetan freedom fighters.
In China, capital controls are very strict. So, when I read about bitcoin, it was like: "It's a great way to store money with real resistance to censorship".
Q: How did you live under this constant surveillance?
We had very specific protocols for operational security. For example, when we speak by phone or email, we eliminate all sensitive words and make sure our servers are not located in China.
My parents have already seen their accounts WePay and AliPay cut. But luckily they had money, money and money to live on. If China had been 100% digital, there would have been no way to survive.
Q: How does your family use the (relatively) decentralized blockchain technology?
I do not send money to my crypto parents. But my biggest fear of growing up was that my parents were expelled. In China, after telling you that you must leave the country, you must liquidate all your assets in 48 hours. We used to practice this thing where we packed everything we had in less than 48 hours. It was a bit like our exercise.
At the moment, all of my parents' assets are now encrypted. As long as one of us, somewhere in the world, has access to our private key, our wealth is not a problem. It's always very difficult for my parents to access their crypto. They can not do it alone. They really need my help. That's why I hold most of their belongings. In this way, accessibility (with crypto) is still lacking, even if it provides a store of value. And my parents do not really understand cryptography as they understand banking.
In the end, resistance to censorship is not enough. We need a private transaction mode and a way to make it accessible and understandable to all. We are not there yet.
Mask and Laptop Image via Shutterstock