Four years ago, China got its first bitcoin ATM at a time when the yuan dominated global bitcoin trades. Now, the physical machine is out of operation, after crypto trading has been shut down in China.
Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily (link in Chinese) recently paid a visit to the headquarters of BTCC, one of the world’s oldest crypto exchanges, and found that very bitcoin ATM at the front desk of the office, just for commemorative purposes. According to the newspaper, the machine’s screen shows there’s no bitcoin available for trading, as BTCC had suspended the service following a government crackdown.
There are currently 2,870 bitcoin ATMs in 67 countries, and the BTCC machine is the only one in China, according to the site CoinATMradar.
In April 2014, BTCC, then known as BTC China, installed the machine at a cafe in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang high-tech park, sometimes dubbed China’s Silicon Valley. The ATM allowed users to buy bitcoin directly from the exchange. Reuters wrote at the time:
The machine was lightly used during a visit by Reuters, with just one client appearing to use it, but cafe manager Cheng Mengyao said she had seen a steady stream of customers use the machine for small transactions since it was installed.
Amid fears of financial instability, authorities in China began to crack down on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto trading in September, and subsequently on crypto mining. All of China’s major crypto-exchange operators, BTCC included, have migrated their operations overseas, with local investors forced to use chat apps like Telegram to keep their trades going. (In 2013, China’s central bank banned financial institutions and payment services from bitcoin-related business, but the rules covered neither bitcoin exchanges nor individuals trading the cryptocurrency.)
Indeed, the ATM was relocated to the BTCC headquarters after staying at the cafe for just three months, the company told local press (link in Chinese) at the time. BTCC didn’t respond to a request for comment for this piece.
Despite its ill fate, the ATM was a reflection of China’s once more open regulatory stance toward cryptocurrencies. That era has ended with the shutdown of the country’s lone bitcoin ATM.