We’ve explored some reasons why the Chinese might be inclined to embrace Bitcoin. But there may be a new one: Song Hongbin, an influential Chinese pseudo-economist with 1.6 million Sina Weibo followers is now singing the virtual currency’s praises.
Song made his name writing the best-selling Currency Wars books, a series that blends shopworn anti-Semitic conspiracy theories with Chinese monetary exceptionalism, explaining how a cabal of private banks have for centuries controlled the major Western financial institutions, and how China should respond. Despite aiming for Niall Ferguson, Currency Wars lands more in Dan Brown territory. Still, the books—especially the first one—proved wildly popular in China in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, as its criticism of derivatives trading seemed prescient. In 2009, reports of government officials and business leaders reading the books (paywall) abounded.
And now Song’s touting Bitcoin’s merits on his Weibo channel (link in Chinese):
In the wake of the financial crisis, the flaws in the American dollar system was made plain for all to see. For the first time since the currency dictatorship had usurped gold’s authority in 1971, the US dollar system faced severe difficulty. The democratizing power of currency raises two difficult questions. One is the historical emergence of people calling for a super-sovereign currency, including the gold standard. The other comes from future direction of Bitcoin’s new power. The intersection of both forms checks and balances against the limitless expansion of sovereign debt.
Song goes on to say:
In line with the spirit of the internet, Bitcoin firmly calls for putting an end to all monetary centralization. In being autonomous and not being issued by a central bank, the total amount of the currency has a fixed upper bound that uses strict mathematical logic to eliminate human greed.
These comments represent an about-face in Song’s views. According to one forum contributor, earlier this year, Song had written on Weibo: “It doesn’t matter if a currency is paper, or electronic—that’s not important. What’s key is what the central bank uses as the currency’s underlying asset. Government debt? Gold? Or the length of time it’s been on the internet? Bitcoiners, think a bit more clearly about that and then we’ll talk.”
Song’s new zeal for Bitcoin could influence the virtual currency’s popularity—or not. But Song’s high profile—in addition to his Weibo following and elite readership, he was named one of China’s most powerful people in 2009 by Businessweek—makes him one of the most influential Bitcoin fans in China—and, possibly, in the world. With 1.35 billion people, even a slight a bump in the country’s Bitcoin investment could drive up prices again. But contrary to Song’s beliefs, that would probably stoke a good deal of human greed.