A series of cutesy panda NFTs promoting the Winter Olympics in Beijing are currently selling at multiples of their initial list prices — all while Chinese residents are forbidden from buying them.
NFTs tied to images of the likeable mascot, named Bing Dwen Dwen, were approved by Games organizers and sold in 500 digital boxes for $99 via nWayPlay, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands.
All 500 boxes, each containing three pandas, soon sold out, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP). Some mascot NFTs have since been traded for up to $750, according to nWayPlay’s marketplace history.
However, due to the Chinese government’s complicated and often hostile approach to digital collectibles, only state-sanctioned NFTs may be purchased by Chinese residents.
Bing Dwen Dwen quickly gained popularity as merchants placed collectibles onto store shelves across Beijing. Toys of the mascot both sold out online and in-store.
And as the rotund figurehead’s popularity skyrocketed, collectors snapped up the panda NFTs. They could also play a web game, Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022, to earn more tokens.
The Chinese government last year labeled NFTs a “huge bubble” and pushed Alibaba and Tencent to remove all NFTs from their platforms. They quickly returned under the lesser term “digital collectibles.”
Panda NFTs subject to paternal censorship
Unlike Bing Dwen Dwen, China’s history with blockchain applications — including NFTs — is not black and white.
Swerving between welcoming and banning Bitcoin several times over the years, the country regularly cracks down on activities related to crypto, including trading and mining.
China eventually compromised through censorship-friendly blockchains. China’s cloud host for distributed ledgers, the Blockchain Service Network (BSN), and other technologies filter crypto projects to ensure domestic control.
Ethereum clones and other restricted versions of foreign crypto projects exist on Beijing’s BSN. State-sponsored SCMP released a whitepaper describing China’s digitization of historical documents and articles onto a state-approved blockchain.
In fact, China is the world’s largest economy to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which it debuted during this Winter Olympics.
The launch flopped, with Wall Street Journal reporting that most attendees “hadn’t heard of the e-CNY” and that the “debut inside the Beijing Olympic bubble has failed to resonate with visitors.”
Bloomberg estimates e-CNY transaction volume for 2021 totaled just $14 billion. For scale, stablecoin Tether was involved in $50 billion worth of trade over the past day alone, according to CoinGecko.
In any case, China’s paternal blockchain policies could explain why Chinese attendees at this Winter Olympics were locked out of profiting from Bing Dwen Dwen’s popularity.
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