It’s a sweltering summer night when I’m invited to join a Bitcoin miner from Shenzhen at a “Bitcoin club” somewhere in downtown Beijing. I’ve just returned from visiting one of the world’s largest Bitcoin mines and find myself at a gathering of cryptocurrency enthusiasts at a craft beer brewery in the Sanlitun nightlife district.
I excuse myself from the Bitcoin meetup and resort to jumping in a pirate taxi because I don’t have a mobile wallet from Alibaba or Tencent—the primary way to hail and pay for taxis in the city. After paying in cash—now a rarity in China’s mobile payment saturated cities—I disembark, then get lost amid Beijing’s ancient hutongs, the narrow alleyways that link China’s traditional courtyard residences.
My host puts me out of my misery by sharing his location on a real-time map over our WeChat direct messages. Now drenched in sweat, I meet Jack Liao, who runs a Bitcoin mining firm called Lightning Asic. He leads…