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PBoC PromisesTighter Regulation on Disguised ICOs, Airdrops In Danger

For the first time, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) touches upon crypto assets and initial coin offerings(ICOs) in the annual China Financial Stability Report and reiterates Chinese government’s longstanding position that it will continue to crack down on cryptocurrencies and all kinds of disguised ICOs.


In the “China Financial Stability Report 2018” which was published last Friday, the central bank defined digital assets as “ non-regulated financial assets”, but recognized the value of their underlying technologies such as cryptography and distributed ledger.

“Crypto assets which are not issued by the government do not have legal status equivalent to fiat currencies. … ICO, with the term’s similarity to IPO, refers to a way of raising funds from the public through issuing self-created cryptos by blockchain project,” the report said.

The PBoC highlighted the problems brought by the crypto sector, including the highly speculative nature of the cryptocurrency market facilitates criminal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing. And ICO scams and the price manipulation by “big whales” expose retail investors to considerable risks.

The PBoC claimed that “disguised” ICOs are cropping up again and again. Take airdrops, where tokens are given out for free to participants, rather than raising funds directly in public via ICO while reserving a portion of the total supply. These cryptocurrency startups then try to push tokens’ prices higher in the secondary market in a bid to reap profits. Besides, some crypto firms have moved overseas, but are still marketing to investors in China, the bank added.

According to official statistics, there were 65 completed ICOs in China up until July 18, 2017, only five of which were completed prior to 2017. Further over 105,000 people participated in the token sales with a total funding of about 2.6 billion yuan (or $377.3 million), accounting for more than 20 percent of the global ICO fundraising in the same period.

What to be done? China’s financial regulators will take three measures to remedy the situation, beginning with the ongoing efforts to crack down crypto-related illegal activities and to encourage a greater flow of funds into the real economy. The other proposed steps include offering educations for investors and coordinating with their overseas counterparts to monitor the crypto industry.

In addition to cryptocurrency, the central bank also warned in the report that some “grey rhino”  financial risks —highly obvious yet ignored threats— may resurface next year as the country faces the increased uncertainties in the global market and threats to its domestic markets. But for now, China’s economic and financial risks remain generally under control.

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