China’s recent ICO and Bitcoin exchange ban had the markets in disarray. But the East Asian country has also given its neighbours much food for thought. South Korea seems – for the moment – to share some of China’s sentiments regarding the governance of cryptocurrencies. Japan, meanwhile, is leading the way in active administration of Bitcoin and the new era of fintech. Now, Taiwan has weighed in on the cryptocurrency talks. And it’s Japan they’re looking to as a role model.

Bitcoin in Taiwan

Taiwan, much like the country’s close continental counterparts, is no stranger to cryptocurrency. Although the government hasn’t had much of an opinion thus far, Bitcoin users have flourished. Using Bitcoin as a payment method in Taiwan has been as easy as visiting your friendly local supermarket, the likes of FamilyMart, 7-11, OK Mart, or Hi-Life. Thanks to bitcoin-purchasing service BitoEx, buying with Bitcoin has made the currency a growing trend in the country. At Bitcoin House Taiwan, your Bitcoins score you a bed, while Hualien Outdoors is happy to take – in crypto – your payment for an outdoor adventure.

The island has even had its share of ICO scandals, with American founder Nathan Senn disappearing down the same dark alley as his alt-coin, The Superior Coin (SC). But Taiwan seems to take such things in its stride, with a local entrepreneur club owner and blockchain enthusiast commenting at the time, “It’s sad to see this happening in Taiwan. It should be treated as an isolated event. This was not a real company and it does not reflect the [blockchain] technology. There are so many people working hard to do positive things here. Having a stronger and closer community is important to make sure that things like this don’t happen.”

Taiwan’s fintech focus

The country’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) announced in September 2015 that it had established a Fintech office tasked with the development of fintech projects in the country. A whitepaper that accompanied this press release listed blockchain technology as one of the office’s key focus areas.

In June 2016, the government launched FinTechBase, an initiative designed to support the undertakings by the Fintech Development Foundation.

This has given rise to a number of Taiwanese fintech startups, including FugleTixguru, and CherryPay.

Wo/man vs government

Taiwanese fintech companies have long complained that the country’s regulations make running a business there a difficult task. Chia Chi Ku, the CEO of artificial intelligence advisory firm Kuchi who moved his startup to Singapore, explained:

“I talked to Taiwanese banks. The first thing they asked was, ‘Is this permitted (by law)?’ The FSC stressed in January that they will not permit AI financial advising services, so as a result the mindset of the whole finance industry is even more restricted. (The companies) in Singapore aren’t afraid to do R&D on AI financial analysis. We aren’t burdened or restricted.”

Cryptocurrency’s future is a go

Now, Financial Supervisory Commission chairman Wellington Koo has informed a joint cabinet-parliament sitting that Taiwan will not come down on cryptocurrency heavy-handed. This inadvertently attests that the Party acknowledges the opportunities afforded by cryptocurrencies.

Congressman Jason Hsu from the Kuomintang Party (KMT) declared,

“Just because China and South Korea are banning, doesn’t mean that Taiwan should follow suit – there is a huge opportunity for growth in the future. We should emulate Japan, where they treat cryptocurrency as a highly regulated, highly monitored industry like securities.”

This also appears to be paving the way for the implementation of Taiwan’s Financial Technology Innovative Experimentation Act, which was released in draft mode in June 2017.

In the world of cryptocurrency, Asia appears to be getting more interesting – and interested – by the day.