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You'll need a Bitcoin wallet before you buy since some exchanges require one.
Don't have a wallet? Read our guide on the best Bitcoin & cryptocurrency wallets.
Coinmama allows customers in almost every country to buy bitcoin. They charge a 4.9%-5.9% (depends on volume) fee on each purchase.
Customers in Europe can also purchase bitcoins with SEPA transfer for a lower fee.
Want to buy using Coinmama? This step-by-step guide will show you how to use Coinmama.
CEX.io lets you buy bitcoin with a credit card, ACH bank transfer, SEPA transfer, cash, or AstroPay. Purchases made with a credit card give you access to your bitcoin immediately. CEX.io works in the United States, Europe, and certain countries in South America.
Founded mid-2011, Kraken is the one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, and the largest in Europe based on daily average trading volume. It is available in almost all countries. Deposits can be made via bank wire, SEPA, ACH and SWIFT.
LocalBitcoins is an escrow service which also helps to match bitcoin buyers and sellers. Users may advertise trades for whichever payment method they prefer.
Buying bitcoins via an in-person meeting, secured and facilitated by LocalBitcoins, may be one of the fastest and most private ways to buy bitcoins in any country, including the United States, Europe (besides Germany), UK, Singapore, Canada, Australia and many more.
BTCC is China's second largest Bitcoin exchange and the longest-running Bitcoin exchange in the world. You can fund your exchange account online via bank transfer.
OKCoin is the largest Bitcoin exchange in China. Customers can make deposits to their exchange accounts via bank transfer.
Huobi is the third largest Bitcoin exchange in China. You can fund your exchange account online via CNY bank transfer or with USD via OKPay (1.5% fee) or international wire transfer (1% fee).
You can use our Bitcoin ATM map to buy bitcoins with cash. Bitcoin ATMs can be a quick and easy way to buy bitcoins and they're also private. That convenience and privacy, however, comes with a price; most ATMs have fees of 5-10%.
Hong Kong-based Bitfinex has long been one of the largest USD Bitcoin exchanges in the world. Bitfinex accounts may be funded by bank wire only, their fee on accepting such transfers is low at only 0.1%.
In August 2016, however, it was hacked and lost around 30% of its users funds. While Bitfinex can be helpful for buying large amounts of bitcoins, it is probably best to not use the exchange until it fully compensates affected users.
The history of Bitcoin in China is a turbulent one.
China was one of the earliest countries to enthusiastically adopt Bitcoin and crypto. In 2013, a Chinese charity began accepting donations in Bitcoin. Soon enough, a flood of businesses began accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as payment. Baidu - the Chinese search engine giant - was for a period accepting Bitcoin for its website security service offerings. In fact, in 2014 Bitcoin traded more against the Chinese yuan than any other currency.
This buzz of activity attracted miners, who set up shop in areas with cheap energy. Xinjiang province - home of the Uyghurs - alone provides roughly 35% of Bitcoin's total hash rate.
Take a look at the Mining in China section below to understand the factors that have allowed Chinese miners to claim over 65% of the hash rate.
One major driver of Bitcoin's popularity in China is the widespread desire to remove their capital from the control of the CCP and integrate it into the worldwide economy. Wealthy Chinese people are highly motivated to seek out overseas investment opportunities and means of exchanging their Yuan (CNY) for U.S. dollars and other "safe" currencies. The yuan is subject to strict capital controls which make moving money in and out of the country difficult.
China has not taken a favorable view of Bitcoin. In 2017, the Chinese government instated an official ban on all cryptocurrency trading and investing, which was followed the next year by a proclamation that all crypto-related WeChat and social media profiles would be shut down. Bitcoin mining was strongly discouraged if not quite outlawed entirely. This was done with the stated goal of protecting investors from dangerously speculative trading products and scams like PlusToken (more on that below).
This is part of the broader "blockchain, not Bitcoin" appraoch that the Chinese state has taken. It seems that the government sees value in blockchain technology, and indeed may be the first to issue their own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), but views Bitcoin as an anti-estbalishment threat. China's recent trials of a CBDC are at a more advanced stage than any other country's. China clearly sees value in blockchain technology and is aiming to be at the vanguard of its development.
Delivering an immediate boost to the Chinese Bitcoin community (and BTC's price as well), in October 2019 President XI Jinping issued a statement in support of blockchain technology research. One blockchain developer whose family had urged him to quit after the rumblings and ICO ban in 2017 said that he was relieved to "no longer feel on tenterhooks when coding."
So does this mean that crypto has entered a new phase in China?
Not quite yet. According to Changelly's roundup of Bitcoin in China, "Bitcoin and other international decentralized cryptocurrencies are illegal to store and trade for individuals and any corporate entities." This is the letter of the law, though it is not always strictly enforced. Many people decide to take the risk and use VPNs to bypass restrictions and utilize foreign exchanges.
Yet sometimes government intervention can have an opposite effect to the one desired. Mainland China's tightening of its grip on Hong Kong has caused many residents to turn to crypto in order to safeguard their money. Hong Kong residents are increasingly turning to Bitcoin and stablecoins in an effort to preserve their wealth in light of the newly imposed capital controls by Beijing.
Roughly 20% of capital flows into Bitcoin, with the rest going into stablecoins, mostly Tether (USDT).
While the lives of miners may be difficult, local exchanges are forced to comply with last-minute regulations, and individuals have to take into account the legal gray area in which they operate, there is undeniable interest and engagement with Bitcoin in China.
Since 2009, Bitcoin has provided an increasingly viable alternative to the fiat currency system, and as long as there that system continues to be suveilled and controlled by third-parties, there will be demand for decentralized alternatives.
China is home to many large Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges.
There are three main types of Bitcoin wallet and all of them are supported in China:
The Ledger Nano X is the newest crypto hardware wallet, and is very easy to use. It connects to iOS, Android & desktop computers.
Atomic wallet is a multicurrency mobile wallet with a beautiful interface and easy to use features.
In addition to the big players such as Binance, Huobi, and OKex, there are some smaller but still significant Chinese exchanges.
LBank, ZB, and BKEX are some of the other large Chinese exchanges that process hundreds of millions of dollars a day in volume.
As you can see, the United States comes in at a distant second, with a little over 7% of the hash rate.
Miners in China benefit from very low energy prices - partly due to an abundance of cheap but dirty coal - and the presence of many of the major mining pools, which help ensure steady income. A relatively consistent cash flow helps miners budget for operating expenses, market fluctuations, and the inevitable hardware upgrades required every year or two to stay competitive.
This shows the importance of Bitcoin mining as a serious industry in China. This industry could not operate at such a scale without the blessing - tacit or official - of the CCP.
There are concerns about one country controlling a majority portion of the Bitcoin hash rate. As only 51% of network power is required to carry out a 51% attack, if an individual or entity were able to compel China's miners to accept fraudulent blocks, double spending would be possible and the Bitcoin network would be compromised for the first time ever.
This centralization of mining power is antithetical to the ideology of Bitcoin. If you're interested learning more about Bitcoin, mining including how to set up your own node, check out our guide here.
For more on Bitcoin mining in China, we have a page outlining the history and future of the mining industry in China.
Plus Token was a Ponzi scheme that was marketed as a high-yield investing platform. Check out the inforgraphic below for a brief overview of the plustoken scam.
The Plus Token ponzi was so successful that by the end its operators controlled more than 1% of the total circulating Bitcoin supply. Most of its users/victims came from South Korea and China, though investors from Japan and South East Asia were duped, and even as far away as Russia and Canada.
But how did it fool so many people?
First off, those who put money into Plus Token were generally people unfamiliar with the world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Moreover, rapid growth for investors has not been at all out of the ordinary in recent years in China.
China has enjoyed an explosion of wealth creation in recent decades, so Chinese citizens used to quick capital growth and wealth accumulation are less sensitive to this type of Ponzi when they front as high-yield investments.
Plus Token advised users on how to purchase crypto that they could then deposit into the app. Chinese users could instantly convert Yen into Bitcoin, Ether, EOS, Doge, Litecoin and other altcoins.
Users were paid for the "interest" on their deposits, and received their dividends in the form of the app's native Plus Token. At the peak of the scam, the token hit a high of $340, which would have made it the third largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization if it were listed on CoinMarketCap.
While early users did receive payouts, unless they immediately converted their Plus tokens to a more reputable currency, they ended up being scammed just as much as those who lost their deposits and never received any dividends at all. Plus token is now not listed on any exchanges, and is essentially worthless.
As with many scams, a lot of effort was put into making it seem legitimate. There were advertisements in Chinese supermarkets, rave-like events in auditoriums set to K-Pop soundtracks, even billboards in Chinese cities.
The promise of high returns combined with incentives for bringing in new users is always a recipe for trouble. Yet it can be hard to look past the lure of money and see a scam for what it truly is.
ACChain was a freshly-minted ICO that aimed to create a platform to streamline the process of digitizing monetary assets onto a blockchain.
Some investors were unhappy with the level of engagement from the team on their official Telegram channel, and requested to see pictures of them at work. When these were not provided, one investor and Reddit user slinterface went to the company's offices in Shenzen, China.
Slinterface asked around and neighboring offices confirmed that ACChain executive Jia Wan and two companies were present in those offices until February 2018. These two companies were Guiyang Blockchain Finance and Shenzhen Puyin Blockchain Group. Both are majority-owned by a third company, for which Jia Wan serves as legal representative. Shenzhen Puyin Blockchain Group was under investigation by the Police Department of Nanshan District for false and illegal advertising. Neighbors also reported that about three weeks after ACChain left the offices, a group of "mafia-like" men came and took everything that remained. There are reports that they were arrested
After the disappearance of the team, it emerged that a company named ACChain Technology International Services was registered in the tax haven of Jersey. The director of this company is Genevieve Leveille, who joined ACChain in January 2018. There is a joint Chinese/UK police investigation underway to determine if the Jersey company was incorporated with the goal of laundering the funds stolen from investors.
There has been little word of developments in the case, though one thing is for sure: ACChain investors will be lucky to see a cent of their equity ever returned.
It's hard to know exactly how much Bitcoin is owned by Chinese individuals or entities. The nature of the blockchain does not give any real clues as to the country of origin of any wallet's holder. Bitcoin's pseudonymity also makes it hard - or impossible, without special tools - to tie together a user's multiple wallets, or to determine what percentage of coins are irrevocably lost.
While many of the largest exchanges are Chinese - Binance, Huobi, and OKex are the largest exchanges either founded or currently operating out of China - they all serve clients from around the world.
The Chinese government has given no indication that it holds any Bitcoin, nor would its recent attitude towards crypto suggest that it would be likely to divulge that sort of information.
This all makes it very difficult to get an accurate idea of how much Bitcoin China or Chinese residents own.
It's simple to find out what would happen if China bans Bitcoin mining: it's happened a couple of times in the past. China's back-and-forth attitude to Bitcoin has put miners under stress. While mining has and hasn't been banned in China at different points over the last decade, miners have continued to operate.
The effects of the ban are more of a removal of official privileges rather than an outright cessation of activity. For example, in August 2020 21 Bitcoin miners in Inner Mongolia had their ability to buy and sell excess energy on the local energy market revoked. This effectively stripped them of the discount that helped make their operations profitable.
It was the regional government that ordered this crackdown, rather than the CCP itself, though the local authorities were clearly acting with the state government's recent proclamations in mind. Interestingly, one of the firms that was blacklisted was the Inner Mongolia department of China Telecom, which suggests that some state-affiliated enterprises are getting in on mining.
The suspension came after government inspections revealed that of the 30 "cloud computing service providers" in the area, 21 of them were actually crypto mining farms.
This reaction shows that China is less interested in eliminating Bitcoin mining than it is in controlling it.
If China truly did ban Bitcoin mining once and for all, there would be a large effect on the hashrate, which would drop significantly in the short-term. This would create a price incentive for miners to move or start up businesses elsewhere with cheap energy and favorable regulations, bringing the hash rate back up in the medium to long-term.
For the moment, Bitcoin mining is alive and (mostly) well in China, with new operations opening frequently.
You can check the price of Bitcoin in China by visiting any Chinese exchange and seeing what the last price the asset sold for was. Alternatively, there are a range of market reporting tools out there such as CoinGecko which aggregate information from a list of the largest exchanges.
These list the "official" price, non-inclusive of fees and premiums that Chinese customers may have to pay.
For an idea of the actual spot rate of Bitcoin in China, OTC exchanges give a better picture.
This price is the actual price paid by buyers, which works out at roughly a 4% premium. This premium was as high as 8% in the months following the ban, according to Investopedia, which highlights the strong demand that persisted even in face of offical sanctions.
As @cnLedger explains, the easiest way to buy Bitcoin after the ban is to buy a stablecoin OTC, which is legal in China and can then be sent to any exchange in the world to buy Bitcoin or any other crypto.
This is probably the most accurate way to determine the actual spot rate of Bitcoin in China.
Coinbase is not available in China.
Coinbase has announced no plans to open up an offering for Chinese residents. The exchange is however available for Hong Kong residents, for the time being. Hong Kong users can only convert between cryptocurrencies on their account, there is no support for fiat on- or off-ramps.
Bitcoin ATMs are not very widespread in China. CoinATMRadar, who supplies the data for our continuously-updated map, lists a total of 53 Bitcoin ATMs in Hong Kong.
Yet there are zero listed for mainland China, meaning you'll have to do some more digging if you want to find one. BTC China installed an ATM in a coffeeshop in Shanghai in 2014, though this was reported in 2018 to no longer be functional. In fact, it currently sits in the lobby of BTC China's headquarters, as a memory of times gone by.
China, then, is not a haven of Bitcoin ATMs. If you're in mainland China and really need to access one, your best bet is going to Hong Kong or further abroad.
With Bitcoin ATMs almost non-existent and crypto-to-fiat withdrawals difficult, when not illegal, the options are limited.
As outlined above, there is a decent amount of Chinese yuan liquidity on LocalBitcoins, meaning that this could be an effective method for cashing out.
Alternatively, both Huobi and OKex have OTC trading desks, which will allow you to sell crypto for CNY. This will require verification and completion of KYC and AML regulations, which could take up to a month to pass. It's for this reason that Hong Kong residents who are eager to get their savings out of the legacy banking system are trading BTC and USDT on physical wallets, paper and hardware.
Huobi also offers a peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace, similar to LocalBitcoins. The majority of offers request Alipay as the payment method.
As it is still not officially approved in China, be sure to take care when buying or selling any cryptocurrencies.