In the past, East Asia has had a somewhat muddled reputation with regard to cryptocurrency. Many around the world remember things like China’s early reluctance to the spread of bitcoin and assume that the broader region is averse to cryptocurrency development. In some cases and at certain times, that assumption has been more or less accurate. However, things have changed over the years, and may be poised to change more going forward. Based on growing interest over time, and the likely economic struggles to come, we may see the East Asian region embracing cryptocurrency more — and travelers should take note.
Past Indications Of Interest
Despite much of Asia’s aforementioned reputation for taking a tentative approach to crypto adoption, there have been indications of interest that have set the stage for rapid expansion when the time is right. Last year, for instance, Asia Global Online looked into potential crypto hubs in the Asia-Pacific hub and made note of enthusiasm in certain countries. While the article acknowledged that China and South Korea had taken steps toward “strangling the proposed asset class at birth,” it went on to note that Japan, Singapore, and Thailand had introduced “clear regulatory framework” in a move toward becoming global crypto hubs.
Expanding on that point, our article on ‘Blockchain-Crypto: faster adoption than mobiles, or 1931 all over again!’ was posted in 2018, and even then identified Japan as a budding hot spot. At that time we pointed out that roughly 60% of the global crypto trade was in fact happening in Japan.
Ultimately these are stories that have been hiding in plain sight. While China’s policies have led many to see Asia as an exclusionary environment for cryptos, the stage has been set in recent years for the region to adopt digital assets in a major way.
Expanding Access to Cryptos
Following this stage setting, we have also seen indications that even some other parts of the East Asian region are beginning to allow for (or even directly facilitate) greater access to cryptocurrencies. Specifically, this is occurring through both the emergence of exchange tools and — quite possibly — the creation of new cryptocurrencies.
Regarding exchanges, it’s worth noting that we have seen options emerging in areas like Hong Kong, where we don’t tend to hear much about advancing cryptos. Plus500 explains crypto trading tools and their benefits to crypto investors in the region, including functions like stop-loss orders and notifications that can make some newcomers feel more stable about investing in cryptos. In some cases, the same trading tools even offer simulated trading, which can also help first-time crypto investors to enjoy comfortable, gradual entry to this emerging market. None of this necessarily drives direct usage of cryptocurrency in everyday life. But it does expose more people in the region to the crypto market.
We also mentioned the possible creation of new cryptocurrencies, and this is something we’ve started to hear about specifically with regard to China. Despite the country’s past discomfort with bitcoin and its counterparts, China has acknowledged that it is working on producing its own digital currency option, through the People’s Bank of China. In fact, Fintech News reported that China was “close” to making this move just last autumn. Right now we still don’t know exactly what this will look like, but it appears to be another significant step toward broader crypto acceptance and adoption in the region.
The Looming Economic Uncertainty
All of the above could be credited to gradual, perhaps inevitable development of attitudes and policies toward cryptocurrency. What makes it all more interesting, however, is the fact that East Asian economies — and quite possibly traditional currencies along with them — are now facing a prolonged period of economic uncertainty.
Just recently, Nikkei Asian Review forecasted “significant economic pain” for Asian nations as a result of the devastating coronavirus pandemic. Asia is certainly not alone in facing this kind of prediction. But unfortunately, the fact remains that economic growth is likely to slow for the foreseeable future (potentially down to 2.1% according to the article just cited), and currency values could drop accordingly.
It is not a proven theory by any means, but some believe that these conditions could hasten crypto investment, and lead some to consider decentralized digital currencies as safer options. This concept, on top of all the aforementioned progress toward crypto acceptance in the region, could conceivably lead to a significant uptick in usage in the near future.
What it Means for Travelers
For travelers or expats from Scandinavia or elsewhere, this does not mean that regular currency exchange is off the table. However, it is quite possible that by the time global travel really ticks up again, potentially in 2021, cryptocurrencies will have established more of a presence within Asian economies. It’s something to be aware of for those who visit the region regularly.