As the crypto industry continues to grapple with an increasingly tough regulatory landscape in the US, Asia is stepping in as the desired destination. The trend is one that could see the region play an integral role in crypto’s innovation and ultimate adoption, experts say.
Helping this outlook is the region’s crypto-friendly regulations, growing venture investments and massive population that’s increasingly getting interested in crypto.
Asia’s growing crypto-friendly environment
One of the factors in Asia’s favour is its approach to crypto regulation. A growing number of governments in the region are choosing to implement crypto-friendly regulatory frameworks, outpacing many of their North America counterparts. As I highlighted here, a recent White House report was heavily criticised for its crypto recommendations.
Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse recently said regulatory “confusion” looks to be the SEC and other agencies’ modus operandi – a factor that could leave many crypto companies with no option but to exit the US market. Crypto exchange Bittrex and UK-based crypto lender Nexo (covered here) are examples of companies that cite the US regulatory environment as reason for their decision to move out.
While MiCA rules make the EU attractive (in this report we highlight how France has welcomed companies fleeing the US), Garlinghouse also sees the UAE and Singapore as key beneficiaries.
The sentiment is also shared by Yves La Rose, executive director and founder of the EOS Network Foundation. According to comments highlighted in a Cryptonews publication, the EOS Network exec believes Asia is becoming more crypto-friendly even as regulation tightens elsewhere.
In October 2022, Invezz reported on EOS Network’s MoU with South Korea’s Busan in a project that aimed to boost blockchain startups via a $700 million venture vehicle. In a recent comment about Asia’s growth, La Rose noted:
“A clearly defined regulatory framework is the Holy Grail of the crypto industry.”
Jessie Chan from ParallelChain Lab says that Western nations are stifling innovation with their regulatory stances, a trend that’s opposite to what’s happening in Asian countries.
Akio Tanaka, from Infinity Ventures Crypto, believes the negative approach to crypto regulation in the US and other Western markets has given Asian countries an opportunity to swoop in.
As US dawdles, Singapore, Hong Kong and UAE lead Asia’s crypto charge
Regulatory clarity is the main reason why some of the world’s leading crypto companies are looking to establish their businesses in the region. Top crypto hotspots in these parts of the world include Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore.
While Singapore has grown as a crypto hub, Hong Kong’s bidding to take over amid its recent announcement of a framework that supports retail trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Japan, on the other hand, is advancing its CBDC pilot and continues to support Bitcoin as a payment method since first doing so in 2017.
The UAE is also increasingly seen as the Middle East’s most preferred digital asset destination amid its virtual asset service provider licensing framework.
As experts point out, the trend in blockchain and crypto adoption is also observable across South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines and many other Asian countries.
Itai Elizur, COO and Managing Partner at MarketAcross, recently noted:
“Asia is the obvious destination for anyone serious about blockchain.”
Stats show Asia’s growing crypto footprint
Asia’s population of over 4.7 billion people, more than half of the global populace, certainly is playing a role in the region’s traction in crypto adoption. With crypto developers and leading companies in Web3, crypto gaming and blockchain setting shop there, it is looking like the race to leave the US behind in crypto innovation finds the most support in Asia.
Statistics on blockchain startups and interest in top industry events such as WebX Asia and TOKEN2049, among others, point to a region that’s growing fast.
According to Edward Hong, chief platform officer at Hashed, Asia has grown into the top crypto market globally. He points to a Chainalysis report that showed seven of the top 10 countries leading the Web3 applications adoption curve are in Asia.
Statistics on crypto ownership also show that Asia is home to approximately 260 million of the 420 million global crypto users as of 2023, with Thailand, the Phillipines, India and South Korea among those with the highest percentage of crypto owners. It’s this dominance that’s driving further investment from global VC firms in the region’s crypto-focused projects.
Elsewhere, a 2022 report by venture capital firm White Star Capital showed that Southeast Asia alone hosted more than 600 blockchain start-ups.
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