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FOREIGN EXCHANGE

The control conundrum: DeFi with Chinese characteristics

China’s approach to central bank digital currency offers clues to how it may build a unique version of decentralized finance.

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Photo: iStock

China’s adoption of decentralized finance (DeFi) is likely to take a different path from many other economies as authorities seeks to exert control over platforms and technologies that are typically designed to resist such efforts.

Industry experts say that China’s approach to central bank digital currency (CBDC) offers clues to how DeFi will develop in the country.

DeFi, which describes a class of cryptocurrency platforms built on top of smart contract-enriched blockchains (primarily the Ethereum network) that fulfil specific financial functions determined by the smart contracts’ underlying code, is one of the biggest stories in cryptocurrency of the last two years.

DeFi protocols include decentralized exchanges and lending platforms, which can operate autonomously.

Important player

China has emerged as an important player. In its 2021 ‘Geography of cryptocurrency’ report, blockchain data platform Chainalysis ranked China fourth for overall DeFi adoption. Almost half of the $256 billion of cryptocurrency received in China between July 2020 and June 2021 went to DeFi protocols.

The digital yuan … jeopardizes the core tenets of crypto – decentralization and privacy
Steve Ehrlich, Voyager
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Wallets such as Tokenpocket, Onto wallet, and Math Wallet allow Chinese users to have a gated experience to DeFi by having sections for decentralized apps.


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