Crypto Industry in Taiwan : Interview with Jason Hsu Crypto Congressman ①

Jason Hsu is a technologist who turned into a legislator, ambassador, advocate for ethnic groups and minorities, and so much more. During his time in parliament, among the crucial legislations, he introduced and passed the Fintech Sandbox Act, Angel Investment Law, etc. Jason is a proponent of cryptocurrency and blockchain and has been given the nickname  “Crypto Congressman” by Vitalik Buterin. Jason is also credited for setting up Asia Blockchain Alliance (ABA) as a policy and industry platform.

Jason has introduced 16 critical areas for blockchain implementations from logistics, medical records, IP transfer to the manufacturing supply chain. Jason was a regular keynote speaker on blockchain and cryptocurrency regulations, and he has spoken at Global Blockchain Forum, BlockCity, Seamless, Asian Leadership Conference, Google, Berkeley Blockchain Club, and Taiwan RegTech Conference. Jason Hsu co-founded TEDxTaipei and served as TEDx senior ambassador to Asia.

Interview Date : 17th March 2021

Can you tell us about your background?

I am the former legislator and member of the parliament of Taiwan. From 2016 to 2020, I served as the legislator at-large and a Kuomintang (KMT) party member of parliament while in Taiwan’s 9th legislative congress focusing chiefly on technology policy and legislation. Among some of the foreign legislations, I initiated the autonomous Self-Driving Vehicle Act, Cybersecurity Management Act, Virtual  Currency guidelines, and the Artificial Intelligence Development Act.

What is your nickname?

I’m known as the Crypto Congressman, and this nickname was given to me by Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum. I met Vitalik Buterin in September 2017, when China banned ICOs. At that time, many projects were leaving China, and Vitalik got in touch with me saying that this was a perfect time for Taiwan to take the opportunity to become involved with crypto. Since then, I have been working with him and he has been to Taiwan several times.

Where do STOs symbolize in Taiwan?

I initiated the first Security Token Offering law in Taiwan challenge, and this was very symbolic because it became a very important law to allow cryptocurrencies to be regulated and dealt with in this country. I’m also the first politician to ever write cryptocurrency or virtual assets into a form of law in the Anti-Money Laundering law in Taiwan.

What did you do after stepping down as a Legislator?

After I stepped down as a legislator, I served as the secretary-general for Taiwan’s Technology and Science Association, where we have members such as Foxconn, TSMC, Acer, and other several notable Taiwanese Hi-Tech companies.

I’m still very passionate about cryptocurrency and blockchain. Now, I am serving on the board of the International Digital Assets Exchange Association, where we work with FATF, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, for cryptocurrency exchange travel rules and several other things. I also served as a council member for International Standardization Organization, ISO, for FinTech adoption, and that is where I am at today.

How are Taiwan and China different?

China and Taiwan are two different countries. Although Taiwan does not have an internationally recognized status by the UN yet, we do operate on our own political, economic and military system. We have our own monetary system and currency.

China is a communist society whereas we are democratic. The way we look at Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is also startlingly different. China treats it as a more centralized way of controlling people’s money transactions. This is also one of the reasons why they issued the so-called DCEP, electronic Chinese yuan. We, on the other end, look at Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a form of a commodity. We don’t regulate it heavily but have a light-touch approach of regulation so people buy and sell cryptocurrencies as a way of trading commodities.

Why is it important to understand the long-term implications of cryptocurrencies?

I think it’s important to understand the long-term implications of cryptocurrency, whether it’s a way to change or get countries to think about how the central bank has to figure out an alternative way for current monetary systems; a way to develop a less politically affected monetary system. Thus, I think the way that cryptocurrency is being perceived around the world is also a reflection of how societies are being perceived. Meaning, every country has its own narrative, and due to their differences in their narratives, they are treating cryptocurrencies and blockchains differently.

What stance did you have for the crypto industry in Parliament?

When I was in parliament, I was probably the most ferocious and passionate advocate of currency and blockchain. I always tried to push Taiwan to become a Blockchain Island and urged governments to strongly adopt this new technology. I knew that the first countries to adopt it will have an advantage in this industry, so I advocated for Taiwan to become a hot hub for exchanges. Imagine this not being just for trading cryptocurrencies, but receiving the merit of new business opportunities, such as cyber securities, wallet providers, mining, semiconductor chips, etc., it would transform the country immensely.

Does Taiwan have an advantage because of its size as a country?

Taiwan is a small island, and there’s a lot of things we can experiment with using blockchains, whether it is transportation, healthcare, property, or energy management. I was pushing it very hard, but after I left the government, many of the projects were sort of left unattended. I got a little worried that the adoption and development wouldn’t continue, but realized now that I’m back in the private sector, and can mobilize other resources to push for its further progress. I am also serving on the boards of several world organizations and industry associations so I am hoping to still be able to have an impact.

What country do you think is ahead of all?

When it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I don’t think any country is ahead of anyone at the moment. We all started from the same starting line, but countries that are nimble and fast can get the first-mover advantage. Taiwan does already have an advantage as it is smaller, unlike China and the US. Right now, DeFi, NFTs, and similar things are really hot. So, Taiwan can make a claim or statement promoting and advocating for this type of new asset class attracting world companies and entrepreneurs. That’s why I believe Taiwan should be quicker in adopting new trends and be a prototype for crypto and blockchain.

Who would be Taiwan’s competition?

I think Singapore is our biggest competitor as it is very quick in moving towards becoming a cryptocurrency hub. We definitely should act more aggressively, and our government officials and regulators should embrace this trend. They should work with the community to develop laws and guidelines. Instead of a top-down imposing measure, we should resort to a bottom-up way of reaching out to communities.

How has Taiwan been tackling the COVID-19 situation?

During the COVID-19 crisis, Taiwan has done a fantastic job in controlling the infection spread. We have a very low number of infected cases, so If we can use this opportunity to promote Taiwan as a blockchain hub and attract more talent coming set up companies, and also make a quicker and more flexible adoption infrastructure, and see what will great economic growth.

Lack of people and talent is always an urgent issue. There are a lot of new trains of opportunity in crypto and blockchain right now, so if we can attract more talents to come here through government and enterprise encouragement, I think we will see prosperous results.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the government issued more than 5000 gold card visas, a type of visa allowing professionals to come work and start businesses here in Taiwan. I helped Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube and a good friend of mine, to get the gold card, and now he lives in Taiwan. So, this measure has shown positive results so far, but if our government can set up a fund to invest in blockchain-related projects, that would make another huge statement for Taiwan.

Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada


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