Bitcoin is a speculative asset to many, but it’s also a new money that offers certain unique guarantees, not least among them censorship-resistance.
That reality may explain why LocalBitcoins trading volume just reached all-time highs in Hong Kong, where pro-Democracy protesters have marched by the millions since June to resist Chinese jurisdiction.
The latest spike is confirmed by new Coin Dance weekly volume data, which indicates more than $12 million Hong Kong dollars (HK) worth of bitcoin were exchanged on LocalBitcoin between September 21st and September 28th.
That sum surpasses the previous all-time HK volume record set on the peer-to-peer exchange in December 2017, when the cryptoeconomy’s last bull run was peaking.
Moreover, according to new LocalBitcoins tracker site UsefulTulips, HK saw the third most volume on the exchange in the Asia Pacific region over the last seven days, trailing only behind the Indian rupee and the Russian ruble in that span.
Why the Spike?
For context, Hong Kong is an autonomous city but part of a “one country, two systems” accord established 22 years ago when the United Kingdom ceded the territory to China.
The current protests that have caught the world’s attention began in the spring of this year when the Hong Kong government introduced a bill that many locals feared would give China considerably wider jurisdiction over the city.
Those protests grew over the summer and are still ongoing, with the Hong Kong police’s efforts to restrain the demonstrations having intensified in kind. The growing violence has caused international concern that the Chinese government — which just celebrated its 70th anniversary — may eventually lead a resolute, multi-pronged crackdown.
That remains to be seen. But it appears some Hongkongers are acutely “dropping out” to bitcoin, likely to ensure their money can be easily transferable and not easily seized in the present crisis, at least compared to HK notes that Beijing can more readily reach toward.
In Areas of Crisis, Bitcoin Utility Factor Coming Into Focus
On October 1st, data scientist and analyst Matt Ahlborg launched UsefulTulips, a new website full of tools that can help researchers better understand trade volume on platforms like LocalBitcoins and Paxful.
It’s not the first splash Ahlborg has made in 2019, as near the start of the year he published research showing how various international data compared with LocalBitcoins data suggested bitcoin trading did spike in “certain geopolitical and socioeconomic environments, and that utility, not speculation, was likely the driving force.”
Inspired by and building off that work, Ahlborg created UsefulTulips so that analysts can better track these trends and beyond.
.@MattAhlborg is doing great stuff to visualize localbitcoins volume around the world. Really excited to see where he takes this – already the most useful tool for visualizing LB usagehttps://t.co/8XwCelRr18
— nic carter (@nic__carter) October 2, 2019
For instance, in introducing the website the data scientist offered a series of trends he had identified since his earlier research, one of which was that the Venezuelan bolivar had risen to become the second most traded currency on LocalBitcoins year to date.
The country has recently been in the grips of its own worsening domestic crisis, and Ahlborg said he would later publish work showing how surging bitcoin trade volume in Latin America in general can largely be attributed to the Venezuela crisis.
Indeed, Ahlborg said he intends to increasingly make the case that geopolitical and socioeconomic circumstances are becoming more significant with regard to LocalBitcoins trading volume:
“As I will show in later articles and with added data layers, while LocalBitcoins volumes are still heavily impacted by Bitcoin price and volume changes globally (suggesting that a significant proportion of activity on LB is still associated with speculation), I will also show that over time, LocalBitcoins volumes are increasingly impacted by geopolitical and socioeconomic developments as well.”
Accordingly, the fresh trading boon out of Hong Kong may be no mystery at all, considering the intensifying domestic conditions there.