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Concerns Raised Over China’s Influence on US Bitcoin Mining Infrastructure

In the midst of escalating worries over national security and vulnerabilities in infrastructure, the spotlight is now on China’s involvement in the cryptocurrency realm.

Traditionally, the United States has been proactive in addressing perceived risks posed by Chinese tech giants like Huawei and TikTok.

The significance intensifies in the realm of cryptocurrencies, where Bitcoin mining operations could potentially form a fundamental hardware layer deeply embedded within crucial U.S. systems, including energy and telecommunications infrastructures.

Chinese Firms Control ASIC Markets

Bitcoin mining, which involves the issuance of new coins and safeguarding the network, heavily relies on sophisticated computing setups.

These setups are powered by high-performance semiconductors known as ASICs, primarily sourced from China.

Significantly, Chinese firms dominate around 98% of the ASIC market, with major players like Bitmain leading the charge.

While these chips are conceived in China, they are manufactured by Taiwan’s TSMC using cutting-edge technologies.

This dominance in semiconductor manufacturing poses several challenges concerning U.S. trade policies, competitiveness, and national security, as noted by Sriram Viswanathan, the founding managing partner of Celesta Capital.

Despite existing tariffs and trade measures, Chinese companies have managed to sidestep these restrictions, often by relocating operations or employing aggressive market tactics to undercut U.S.-based ASIC producers.

Such maneuvers undercut significant legislative efforts like the CHIPS Act, which seeks to bolster domestic semiconductor production.

Expansion of Chinese Mining Facilities Raise Concerns

Viswanathan argued that the proliferation of Bitcoin mining facilities in the U.S., many of which are owned by Chinese entities and employ Chinese-made equipment, poses serious security concerns.

These facilities could potentially serve as channels for Chinese intelligence operations, facilitating covert data collection or cyber-espionage aimed at critical U.S. infrastructure.

Moreover, the inherent technical intricacies of cryptocurrency mining equipment may harbor backdoor vulnerabilities. Security experts caution that these Chinese-manufactured devices could contain concealed firmware or software capable of unauthorized data transmission or even sabotage.

The increasing dependence on Bitcoin and related technologies underscores their growing significance to the U.S. financial system. With an estimated 40% of U.S. adults holding cryptocurrencies and an anticipated annual growth rate of 9% in the mining sector, the repercussions of any disruption are substantial.

Relying on Chinese suppliers for Bitcoin transaction validation poses a significant risk, particularly during periods of geopolitical tension.

Viswanathan emphasized that addressing these concerns demands decisive action from U.S. policymakers.

Proposed measures include implementing stringent cybersecurity protocols at mining facilities, enhancing supply chain transparency, conducting thorough background checks on investors, and establishing international standards to address cross-border security issues.

Critical to mitigating these risks is the development of a robust U.S. sector for Bitcoin mining technology. Utilizing initiatives like the CHIPS Act to promote domestic production of mining semiconductors is essential.

Moreover, it’s imperative to restrict Chinese-manufactured mining hardware and operations on U.S. soil, similar to measures taken against Huawei in the telecommunications sector.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, crypto miner Core Scientific reported a net revenue of $141.9 million, marking a $20.7 million increase compared to Q4 2022.

Besides Core Scientific, other major crypto miners have also reported impressive earnings. For instance, mining firm Riot Platforms saw its total revenues reach an all-time high of $281 million in 2023.

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I want to save money. Will cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

Every cryptocurrency has two main components: the units of digital exchange called “coins” and the network within which the exchange takes place. These units can be transferred between wallets and exchanged on exchanges. The networks in which these coins exist are called blockchains, which translates to “chains of blocks.”

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