Living on cryptocurrency – Bitcoin Girl

If you search on YouTube, Dailymotion, or in fact any other video sharing site then you can find a plethora of videos regarding people trying to buy things with cryptocurrency, and discussing whereabouts cryptocurrency can be used in the real world.

One production company has gone a step further and made a show about a woman who has to survive only using bitcoin for a period of 21 days. Whilst this has been done a few times before, what makes this show so remarkable is the fact that it takes place in China, which of course has the toughest laws regarding bitcoin and cryptocurrency perhaps anywhere in the world.

The series, which is available on a platform called Iqiyi (think Chinese Netflix), follows the story of He Youbing who spends three weeks in the Chinese capital of Beijing trying to live exclusively on bitcoin. The rules are quite simple – she has only 0.21 BTC to live on over the 21 days, and she is not allowed to accept any charity.

The laws around cryptocurrency have been well documented of course, with the country also recently banning any events related to cryptocurrency. On top of that they have cracked down on phone apps such as WeChat (think Chinese WhatsApp), which used to have a number of discussion groups related to crypto which have now been banned. Also all crypto exchange websites are blocked by the great firewall.

If you have a search on any video sharing platform at the moment then there are a number of similar ideas, mostly with the narrative that living on cryptocurrency is very hard, few places accept it. You get the picture. Anyway, after a shaky start where it looked like this one was heading the same way, things took a turn and it turns out to be quite different from the pattern we are used to with this sort of video.

The first day sees He Youbing struggling to get by, and she even resorts to eating leftover burgers in a fast food restaurant and eating condiment packets as she cannot find anywhere which will accept bitcoin as payment (something not really surprising when you consider how strict the laws are in China).

The beginning is somewhat over dramatised, as our hero sees herself falling ill after a mere 48 hours of living like this, and at this point you can’t help but think the show is going in one direction.

There is a sudden shift however, as the media soon pick up on the story and her tale starts to spread throughout the city and further afield.

This of course brings attention to her cause and the community begin to reach out and help the young woman. Good samaritans track her down on WeChat and begin to trade services for her bitcoin, and in some cases even fiat, which forces the producers to change the rules and ban any kind of online transaction.

As time passes she manages to find places which will accept bitcoin, including a restaurant, hotel and a clothes shop. It seems that the message given by the show is that cryptocurrency is indeed still alive and well in China despite the government’s best efforts to stop it. It comes as a surprise that the show has yet to be censored as well, although time will tell as to whether or not it stays this way.

All in all it is a very interesting watch, and one which gives a great insight into how cryptocurrency is thought of in China. The message is somewhat different from what you expect at the beginning, and the tale unravels into a nice narrative at the end. Well worth seeking out!