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Why Bitcoin Matters in Vietnam - Part 3

This is the final part of our 3 part series on Bitcoin in Vietnam. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


Vietnam itself, devastated by decades of war until 1975, found economic success when opening up the country following the 1986 Doi Moi reforms. The economy started growing at an exorbitant rate, lifting the country out of poverty and setting the stage for today’s expanding middle class which enjoys the comforts of modernity afforded to their counterparts in developed nations.

The young population (45% of the Vietnamese population is under 25 years old) will build the base for future growth - while a spirit of optimism (oh, how different it feels in the declining economies and societies of the West - the economic center of the world in the 20th century) and the belief in a more prosperous future is ubiquitous in modern Vietnamese society, especially in the vibrant metropolises of Saigon and Hanoi. 

Still, the Vietnamese economy is - apart from taking advantage of comparatively low wages in various labor-intensive sectors - not able to compete with high-tech industries on the global market while innovative ideas and start-ups are rarer than they should be in a nation of 90 million inhabitants. It is clear that centralized economic planning is a weak incubator for the entrepreneurial spirit and the kind of "creative chaos", which leads the way for so many world-class startups and companies in the tech sector.

Even if one could say, "Well, Bitcoin doesn't care - it will succeed because it is the Honey Badger of money!" - which is consistently true - it is, on the other hand, also true that authorities have the ability to hamper its adoption.

Yes, it is true that people have used Bitcoin for illicit and illegal activities. But it is a very biased view and a logical fallacy, if one draws the conclusion: "Bitcoin has been used for criminal activities - therefore all Bitcoin users are criminals."

The Vietnamese Dong, the US Dollar, the Chinese Yuan, the Euro or whatever conventional currency you can think of has also been used for an endless numbers of crimes - and is used for crime, tax evasion, drug purchases, prostitution, funding of terrorism, etc. - every single day. Are all Fiat currency users therefore criminals/drug addicts/whoremongers/terrorists, because some people use these currencies as means for their illicit activities? This would be the same logical fallacy, which is behind the harmful judging of Bitcoin users as criminals or at least suspicious persons on a general level.

At this point, it seems necessary to do away with another often mentioned prejudice of those, who clearly do not understand Bitcoin fully: Bitcoin is an "anonymous form of payment", which is "untraceable" and therefore perfect for criminal activities.

It is not.

Bitcoin is pseudonymous - and more traceable than any currency in history. In fact: I can see in real-time on a public ledger, where the money is flowing. It is the exact opposite of "untraceable".

Therefore, if I want to commit or at least finance crimes, terrorism or maybe just pay my hooker - and don’t want anyone to see what questionable purposes I spent my money on, then I better use good old cash which is indeed untraceable and far more anonymous than Bitcoin ever was.

And, as it happens, various crimes which were committed via Bitcoin were indeed solved and the concerned persons arrested were judged by the existing laws for the committed offences. The laws to punish people who pursue criminal activities already exist; the possibilities to find people committing crimes via Bitcoin are even easier than with the completely untraceable and anonymous cash.

And yes, it may also be true that Bitcoin enables some new possibilities for criminals, but so it does for everyone else!

A lot of thieves on the streets of Saigon use the invention of the "motorbike" as an enabler to commit their crimes by hastily fleeing the scene with these "crime-enabling machines" instead of walking away by foot. But maybe there is also an upside by allowing people to use motorbikes. I think one can say for sure, that the Vietnamese economy would be orders of magnitude weaker, if using motorbikes would be illegal and persecuted.

It is important not to focus just on the potential downsides of an innovation - but also on the potential advantages, which could be achieved by embracing the arrival of a new technology.

For the first time I can remember, a Vietnamese developer achieved worldwide fame for their creation of "Flappy Bird", a - even despite or moreover because of its astonishing simplicity - completely unexpected viral success in the booming worldwide market for mobile apps. Even though I, by nature, follow news about Vietnamese technological innovations closely, I cannot remember an original Vietnamese product ever becoming such a global buzz.

Aren’t these the headlines we want to see about Vietnam? That Vietnamese innovators, entrepreneurs and developers are able to compete in the world market in whatever occupation they have chosen to pursue? That Vietnamese startups are pushing the edge of technological innovation - bringing jobs, opportunities, wealth, innovation and a higher standard of living to their home country?

Therefore my explicit call: Let the Bitcoin economy prosper in your country. Persecute and convict criminals who abuse this technology - but don’t criminalize those people who are willing to use this technology with the best intentions. Let entrepreneurs take a chance by adopting this technology, let developers expand its usefulness - and give your country the chance to keep pace with the rapid, worldwide change which will be caused by Bitcoin and all its derived innovations.

Bitcoin is not the currency of the criminals - Bitcoin is the currency of people!

Dominik Weil (29) is the Co-Founder of Bitcoin Frankfurt (, Managing Director of Bits of Gold Germany (in formation) and freelance consultant at Bitcoin Vietnam Co. Ltd. (, Vietnam’s first registered Bitcoin exchange.

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