'Bitcoin Girl' tries and fails to spend her crypto. Photo: Qiyi scrteengrab
'Bitcoin Girl' tries and fails to spend her crypto. Photo: Qiyi scrteengrab

The crackdowns from the People’s Republic on China’s Bitcoin and the crypto industry in general has failed to put everyone off. One group of self-styled crypto aficionados has even made a documentary entitled “Bitcoin Girl” which follows a woman, who goes by her online name of “He Youbing”, as she attempts to live off crypto alone.

Some of China’s mega-cities are rapidly transforming towards a cashless society powered by services such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. The quickly-adopted apps enable users to pay for a wide range of goods and services from their smartphones.

Film-makers Team 1234 has taken this a step further by telling the story of a daring attempt at living on crypto alone. For 21 days the film follows He Youbing as she travels the country attempting to live off 0.21 BTC (approximately US$1,400 when her journey began).

The three-week experiment covered some of China’s super-cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai. It was aired on iQiyi TV, a Chinese video streaming channel, and showed the difficulties she had buying everyday items, according to a report by TechCrunch.

The biggest hurdle came from vendors who did not even know what Bitcoin was, let alone accept it in their stores. In Beijing she traveled around on an unlocked bicycle plucked from a bike sharing service, and spent a night sleeping in a McDonald’s where earlier she had dined on ketchup packets. Things got so bad that He actually passed out due to low blood sugar levels, spurring a friend she had made in a crypto chat group to help her get to a hospital.

Things started to improve when she arrived in Shenzhen where she found restaurants that took Bitcoin and people who would buy it from her for cash, enabling a stay in a mid-range hotel. As the story gained traction across Chinese social media circles, crypto enthusiasts rallied in support of the quest offering goods and services in exchange for her dwindling supply of Bitcoin.

The cypto community came to the rescue as WeChat groups of over 3,000 supporters supplied toiletries, clothing and accommodation in exchange for Bitcoin. Many even started researching local places that would accept the digital currency on her behalf.

While highlighting that Bitcoin is still very much a nascent form of payment and that it really is a challenge trying to live off it full time, the experiment did deliver one other, potentially vital, lesson: crypto is about the community.

The concept of Bitcoin was originally designed by so-called cypherpunks aiming to create a community-driven, peer to peer, decentralized method of payment and wealth, removing it from the clutches of the profit-hungry banking giants and governments that currently dictate people’s finances.

Bitcoin Girl provides crypto believers with just a hint that the spirit of the community is there, and that it works. Even if, in order to find out, He Youbing had to first survive on ketchup.

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