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CZ Interview Details How China’s Hostility to Crypto Drove Him Abroad

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • Changpeng Zhao, widely known as CZ, has broken his media silence with a Fortune interview.
  • The interview details his early life and experience as a Chinese refugee in Canada.
  • The Binance founder explains his flight from China as a consequence of increasing regulatory pressure.
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Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, also called “CZ,” has opened up to Fortune Magazine, ending his recent media silence.

The founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has broken his media silence to speak to Fortune Magazine. CZ, real name Changpeng Zhao, has been largely silent in public this year. A fact the profile explains as “a decision based on the fraught regulatory environment and on frustration with what Binance regards as media mischaracterizations of the company and Zhao.”

Over nearly 6,000 words, the profile explores CZ’s past in rural China and his experience as a first-generation immigrant to Canada. Furthermore, the article discusses why CZ left Shanghai, where Binance was founded in 2017. 

To put in bluntly, officials in Beijing disliked cryptocurrency. China first barred banks from doing crypto transactions in 2013. In 2017, the regime also banned initial coin offerings (ICOs) and shut down crypto exchanges to stop money from leaving China and prevent financial fraud. The article describes CZ’s “frantic but stealthy” weeks-long effort to move the data hosted on more than 200 Alibaba servers.

Zhao relocated Binance to servers on Amazon Web Servers, beyond the reach of the Chinese government. Eventually the company moved to Tokyo, ending his 12-year stint as a China-based entrepreneur.

Binance, Sued, CTFC. Changpeng Zhao
Choapeng Zhao is perhaps the world’s most successful crypto entrepreneur.

Binance Has Moved Several Times

Binance reportedly had to move operations repeatedly due to regulatory issues in different countries. After relocating to Japan, regulators demanded that Binance register as an exchange, which was not acceptable to its founder. Binance moved to Malta before deciding the company would operate without a headquarters. 

At one point in the interview, CZ suggests the culture of crypto made him keener to keep finding better places to do business. “It’s not so much that we want to bend the rules or even avoid them, we just want to look for places that are more favorable,” he said.

However, Zhao’s country-hopping ways have drawn ire from Binance’s critics.

The company is currently in talks with the U.S. Justice Department and other regulators over a wide-ranging settlement offer. However, a recent lawsuit by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission against Binance has raised questions about the viability of such a settlement.

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.
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