There were signs of bitcoin life from Chinese internet giant Baidu this week: Hao123, one of its subsidiaries and China's largest web directory, launched a dedicated bitcoin channel and news aggregator for bitcoin-related stories.
Jiasule caused an initial stir with its decision to accept bitcoin, leading to headlines suggesting the so-called 'Google of China' was now accepting bitcoin. It was also cited as a reason for bitcoin's recent drop in value, after it announced the suspension.
It should be noted that Hao123 is not actually selling anything, nor accepting bitcoin for payment.
As well as headlines for all the latest bitcoin news, the new site also features a chart with all the latest bitcoin (and even litecoin) exchange rates in Chinese yuan from the leading exchanges.
There is a timeline of major events in the history of the world's first cryptocurrency, starting from "January 3rd 2009: Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first 50 Bitcoins on a server located in Helsinki, Finland," and ending with "Future: ?"
Hao123's traffic 17th globally and 5th in China.
Central bank statements
Baidu's Jiasule Internet security service cited volatility in bitcoin exchange rates and the People's Bank of China's December 5th announcement as reasons for suspending bitcoin payments.
The central bank's statement denied bitcoin's official status as a currency, due to its decentralized and multi-national nature – barring Chinese financial institutions from trading in bitcoins.
Speculators wondered if the decision had been prompted by orders from government officials, leading to fears the Chinese authorities were about to crack down on bitcoin use. Bitcoin fell from an all-time high of over $1,200 to under $700 just minutes after the news broke.
Of course, simply posting news about bitcoin is not the same as accepting it for payment. So far, no major mainland Chinese site has re-introduced bitcoin as a payment option. However, Hao123's actions do indicate a high-level of interest among Chinese internet users.
The central bank's statement also made it clear that ordinary people were free to trade and use bitcoin; the directive applied only to 'financial institutions.'
This means bitcoin in China is now regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Reddit user 'JChief' added that this meant there was now a regulator for bitcoin where previously there had been none, and as such it was prudent for any Baidu or China Telecom subsidiaries to stop accepting bitcoin until they received further advice.
"It would be idiotic and very much unlike how China works, if they continued to accept bitcoin without guidance from the MIIT," he wrote.
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