By Alexander Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
The current instability of the stock market and economy may again boost the prominence of bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin was developed at the time of the last American recession. Donald Chan, a cryptocurrency trader based out of Vancouver, told the Northwest Asian Weekly that he expects more people to turn to bitcoin as an alternative.
“It would not be a shock if a global recession caused investors and regular people to consider bitcoin as a way to protect themselves against a financial crash.”
Cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that can be exchanged for value. Bitcoin is the most popular brand of cryptocurrency. Like stocks, bitcoin can be purchased digitally for its market worth at any given time. Unlike stocks, bitcoin is decentralized, which means that no financial institution or business controls transactions involving the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency make it possible to buy groceries, pay rent, and send money without cash or using a credit or debit card connected to a bank account. More people are starting to use bitcoin as their currency of choice for personal transactions.
Chan said that the appeal of bitcoin is removing the middleman from transactions.
“The reason I use bitcoin is that it’s entirely peer-to-peer. No third-party takes a cut from my bitcoin trades and transactions.”
Asians have led the cryptocurrency revolution that started over a decade ago. Satoshi Nakamoto is credited with creating bitcoin in 2007. China, Japan, and South Korea are the world’s largest bitcoin markets. Asian investors pushed the value of bitcoin to new heights in 2017. In the United States, many of the leading voices in the expansion of the cryptocurrency industry are Asian Americans.
While cryptocurrency is primarily considered an investment vehicle, more Asians are using bitcoin for regular transactions.
Alan Pham, a paralegal and a qualified Vietnamese interpreter with the King County District Court, said, “I deal with a lot of Asians as part of my work and I’ve heard more cases about people using bitcoin to buy jewelry for example. In the past, they would just trade gold or other jewelry, but now it’s bitcoin.”
Asians have also used bitcoin to send money overseas. Banks and money transmittal services often charge exorbitant fees for international remittances, especially to less developed countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
Kim Chi Nguyen, owner of Galleria Nails and Spa in Bothell, shared her experience with sending bitcoin to her family in Vietnam.
“It was less expensive than sending the money through an agent because the fees are a lot less. My family got the bitcoin right away, too.”
Nguyen indicated that she would accept payments in bitcoin for her nail salon once the technology develops. She will not have to wait long as VISA reached an agreement in February with Coinbase, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, to issue debit cards funded by bitcoin.
Owners of bitcoin can also convert it to cash by using a bitcoin ATM machine. One such machine is located right outside the Din Tai Fung restaurant in the Southcenter mall.
Government agencies in Washington state have tried to make the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency safer for consumers. This state’s Department of Financial Institutions regulates virtual currency and defines it as money. The Washington State Legislature passed a law last year that granted legal authority to blockchains, which are the electronic ledgers that record all cryptocurrency transactions. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington has aggressively pursued prosecutions against individuals engaged in fraud involving bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
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