Interactive Brokers, one of the biggest stock trading platform, is launching bitcoin and eth trading in Hong Kong.
“Investor demand for digital assets continues to grow in Hong Kong and around the world, and we are pleased to introduce cryptocurrency to address the trading objectives of clients in this important market,” said David Friedland, Head of APAC at Interactive Brokers.
It is limited to individuals with HKD 8 million ($1 million) in investable assets, but this move comes amid weeks long speculations that Hong Kong is opening up once again.
“We are confident that Hong Kong will soon develop a thriving virtual asset ecosystem,” Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, said last month at a conference on Web3.
The semi-autonomous region has passed a new crypto law that some crypto insiders say is aimed at opening up retail trading starting June 1st.
“America risks losing it’s status as a financial hub long term, with no clear regs on crypto, and a hostile environment from regulators,” Coinbase’s co-founder Brian Armstrong said while referring to these speculations, adding:
“Congress should act soon to pass clear legislation. Crypto is open to everyone in the world and others are leading. The EU, the UK, and now HK.”
The chief driver of these rumors is Justin Sun, who first became known to this space as the founder of Tron, but now has a far bigger role as the owner of Huobi, one of China’s and the world’s biggest crypto exchange.
Hong Kong is seen as “as one of the experiment zones for crypto development in China,” Sun told Bloomberg TV in an interview on Friday. That’s “one of our biggest reasons to expand in Hong Kong.”
On social media he has been less restrained, stating: “China is moving towards a more crypto-friendly policy and it’s amazing to see Hong Kong and Beijing jump on board.”
Coindesk disagrees. “No, Hong Kong Won’t Be Allowing Retail Traders Access to Crypto on June 1,” they claim.
As always with China, there’s the Schrödinger, and since 2018, but there is genuine room to speculate both in regards to crypto and more widely that China might have no choice but to change its tune.
“China’s reign as the manufacturing hotspot for foreign companies appears to be coming to an end. Greenfield and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) foreign direct investment (FDI) into China is plunging, and investors are growing more concerned about China’s future as other Asian countries become more appealing,” says a new report.
FDI is half that of 2019 and in some sectors, like tourism, food or financial services, is down by some 70%.
The communist turn, that saw Jack Ma house arrested for just a speech, now has the rhetoric back to opening up.
Indeed the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is touring Europe, meeting Macron recently and will soon head off to Germany and Italy. As well as two other curious destinations, Hungary and Russia.
He presumably will have the same message: out with communism and back with opening up and reforms and clearly he thinks he has a softer ear in Europe.
His visit to Russia however comes just ahead of an offensive, or surge as we call it, so it would be very curious to know what Germany will say in private, especially considering their Foreign Minister is Annalena Baerbock.
That matter aside, where economic relations are concerned, the unpredictability of China means in our view that business is fine, as long as there is no reliance.
They’re clearly in a very difficult situation economically having gone through some of the toughest times in 30 years.
The brief protest last month in addition may have reminded Beijing that ultimately, regardless of what system, there are no rulers but the public.
So the recent talk of detente can be entertained, even though it would have been far better and far more credible if it had not come with a third term.
And although on the crypto matter Coindesk disagrees, in our view it is maybe even probable that Hong Kong does open as it makes no sense at this point to remain isolated.
Since crypto is at the frontiers, business more widely takes note of its treatment. Making it a good place to start.
Said otherwise, they basically have to open the exchanges if Hong Kong wants to be taken seriously by global commerce.
And eventually China does too if it is to maintain its economic position, but as the planned visit to Russia shows, it is not too clear whether they are really off the ‘axis mentality.’
An opening up in Hong Kong therefore would be the middle way, a continued Schrödinger, but perhaps not quite for the crypto entrepreneurs who have their clever ways of dealing with these cats.
All that can be said therefore is that we’re back to the loosening stage in China after the 2021 crypto tightening that saw industrial mining get banned.
That’s continuation in some ways as after exchanges were banned in 2017, China’s president Xi Jinping went on to talk up the blockchain in 2018.
The real test therefore is whether a tightening will follow. Until then opening up remains speculation.
Except opening up crypto trading in Hong Kong to retail is a significant move that allows that question to continue: is China real about turning the page?
They have to, arguably. Not least because nationalism is now firmly in decline and is being beaten in the battlefield.
The real story here however may well be the rise of Justin Sun who stealthily has become a fairly big actor and may become one of the biggest if Hong Kong and China open up.
Huobi and China always have had a warm relation, even during tough times for crypto. The exchange, of which Sun owns 60%, is of course far bigger than the man, and their natural habitat is Asia.
So if the tune is changing, they stand to gain the most as clearly for them Hong Kong is China.
We’ll know of that change as it will be clearly visible on the chart. Shanghai trading hours disappeared last year, so what happens there is one way to look at the cat.