Bitcoin ATM makes debut in China
Despite the Chinese government's increasingly hostile attitudes towards the encrypted currency, the ATM is open and ready to exchange China's yuan currency for bitcoins.
Bitcoin, the embattled digital currency, is available in a new way to people in China.
BTC China, one of the country's top Bitcoin exchanges, launched China's first Bitcoin ATM earlier this week in a shopping mall in Shanghai. Customers who head to the ATM can exchange China's yuan currency for bitcoins, though no cash can actually be withdrawn.
Bitcoin has become a lightning rod of controversy around the world, as countries determine how the cryptocurrency should be regulated. Because it's designed to be anonymous, Bitcoin is a dangerous proposition for governments, like China, that want to be able to track and monitor financial activity.
In December, China, through its government-controlled People's Bank of China, banned financial institutions from trading in Bitcoins within its borders. A loophole in that rule, which allows for individuals to trade in Bitcoin, makes the this new ATM technically legal.
In addition to offering up China's first physical Bitcion ATM, BTC China also launched a Web-based app called "Picasso ATM" on Tuesday that lets individuals buy and sell the cryptocurrency from their mobile devices. Again, because it's being offered to individuals, the service is legal in China.
The digital currency's value has been volatile, to say the least, since prominent Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox revealed in February that it lost almost 750,000 customer bitcoins as a result of a security lapse. Yet, even as its value continues to surge and plummet and regulators continue to applaud and dismiss it, Bitcoin continues to gradually transform from obscure idea to possible payment option. Bitcoin ATMs have already popped up in Canada and the US.