Jihan Wu, the co-founder of the world’s largest mining machine company, Bitmain, has seen great success mixed with fierce criticism throughout his career. Often viewed as a controversial figure in a blockchain space. the 32-year-old sent tongues wagging once again with his shock exit from the head of the company he founded just before the new year.
Wu entered the blockchain world with a liberal outlook, investing in projects one after another, hoping to reform the blockchain world by himself. However, to his detractors, Wu has abandoned his previous beliefs and has turned into a dictator of the blockchain space. So what is the real truth?
“Winter is coming” – the warning for Wu
During the downturn of cryptocurrency in the market, dubbed the crypto “winter”, Bitmain is feeling the cold. Just before the end of 2019, it appeared to get much worse as on December 28, 2018, it was reported that Jihan Wu would leave the CEO position in Bitmain.
Wu himself has chosen to remain silent on the matter.
In the past six months, Wu Jihan’s remarks on Twitter were mostly related to Bitcoin Cash (BCH) fork. During this period, he took the initiative and repeatedly called for the removal of Craig Steven Wright (CSW), the “Fake Nakamoto”, from the BCH community. And every time it had been splashed by the opponent, he would always fight back to clarify for himself.
Although his last Twitter post (since deleted) on December 3, 2018, showed a marked change in approach and illustrated poignantly his feelings inside the company: “The employees who were cut off by Bitmain were spoiled…”
A Bitmain employee broke out the news of the layoff. Bitmain had started to use a tool called “Appia” among employees. According to official sources, Appia is a public cloud SaaS service developed by Bitmain for AI security systems. But today, it has morphed into a computer monitoring tool for employees. Has this become a breaking point for Wu?
Wu, who regarded liberalism as a standard, had no idea one day the company would establish such a monitoring system. He has always been a soldier in the social network. “The warrior in the blockchain industry” – according to Li Xiaolai.
Perhaps a look at how it all began for this blockchain “warrior” might give a greater insight into the complexed character of Wu.
Wu Jihan: From Rags to Riches
In 1986, Wu Jihan was born in Chongqing, the youngest city in China and a place with huge inequality.
Growing up, his family was not rich. However, at least from high school, Wu Jihan was having an excellent education. He studied at Chongqing Nankai Middle School, one of the best in the area, and later successfully applied to Peking University.
Whilst studying at Peking University School of Economics, he never concealed his belief in the Austrian School of thought. Firmly believing in a completely free market economy, and naturally opposing all forms of government intervention.
It was in 2011, Wu Jihan, whilst working as an investment manager of a bank, first touched Bitcoin.
“Welcome to the Bitcoin network. Here is the financial free port on the Internet, the tax-free trade zone and the anarchist paradise.”Wu proclaimed on Weibo in November 2012
At that time, he was undoubtedly a staunch liberal. He screamed on Weibo against Ripple, arguing about the centralization of the currency. He bluntly rebutted close-sourced Apple, and supported the Google X project that, “can really change the world”.
He translated the Bitcoin white paper and co-founded 8btc.com (one of the biggest Chinese online community forum). With the net name “QQAgent”, he became one of the most well-known Bitcoin evangelists on the Chinese Internet.
After 2012, a new round of bull market for Bitcoin had come. Mining became a tool for making wealth in the cryptocurrency circle.
At the beginning of 2013, “Pumpkin Zhang” (南瓜张) developed the world’s first Bitcoin’s ASIC mining chip – Avalon. That same year Wu Jihan quit his job in a bank and became a full-time Bitcoin practitioner.
After gaining investment, Wu began recruiting, trying to develop a mining machine based on the Avalon chip. But an accident caused him to encounter an unprecedented crisis. Wu Jihan ordered a batch of Avalon chips. Unexpectedly, the shipment of chips has been postponed. Angry customers and investors came to the door, and Wu Jihan was helpless.
Despite the early setback, Jihan together with a technical partner Micree Zhan founded Bitmain and by the end of 2013, Bitmain launched the first mining chip BM1380.
In just a few years, with mines and mining pools, Bitmain had established a monopoly in the mining area. In the blockchain world where hash power is everything, he has become an enemy in the eyes of many blockchain believers, but why?
Bitcoin Fork Tears and Betrayal
On August 1, 2017, Bitcoin was hard forked, and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) the large block program was born. The Bitcoin community experienced turbulence.
In the expansion of Bitcoin, Wu Jihan was not a staunch supporter of hard forks at first. But in the end, he became the one who pressed the hard-fork “nuclear button.” Wu knew that the hash power he held in his hands was the best weapon to launch the fork.
This must have not sat well with Wu and is the predominant reason for many to consider him to be hypocritical as he appeared to have monopolized the power.
Jihan did not seem to deny it: “In China, open source culture is not popular. I can’t understand it myself.”He wrote on Twitter, in April 2017
Wu being “Unable to understand open source culture” seems incredulous. A few years ago, he was still criticizing the Ripple coin, which was not open source, and regarded the free and open source of Bitcoin as an advantage. What has provoked this sudden change of opinion? Perhaps, as they say: power corrupts.
Hero or Villain?
At the end of 2017, Wu Jihan was selected as one of the top ten figures in the US blockchain media Coindesk.
In the comics drawn by Coindesk, he stood in front of a row of mining machines, wearing a golden suit of Flocky from the Marvel comics, holding a horned helmet and revealing a strange smile.
His eyes burst into the same green color as the power lights of the mining machine behind him.
Just in 2017, Wu Jihan launched a fork on Bitcoin and thus, Coindesk labeled him the “villain”.
Despite his obvious negative image, Coindesk still pointed out that there are still people who regard Wu Jihan as a “heroic” and “passionate bitcoin rich.”
“But for all the permissionless innovation bitcoin was built upon, the space has become more black or white, more right or wrong than many could have predicted. And whether you’re a hero or a villain depends on which side people are judging you from»Summing up beautifully the divisive character of Wu
Wu will most definitely be a central figure in the blockchain history books, which will be written about him remains to be seen.
Whatever your opinions on the man, what is undeniable is his enigmatic nature and confidence. The creation of Bitmain, self-developed chips, the fork of Bitcoin and support for BCH are the gambles in Wu Jihan’s life. Bitmain got him very high, but the fork pulls him down.
Wu Jihan may still want to fight to the end, but there are simply not enough funds to support the fighting. As a person with a deep understanding of the blockchain will never forget that one of the biggest advantages of the decentralized structure lies in safety.
Maybe Wu will play it safe or take one more gamble again. 2019 may give us all the answers.
Edited by Adam Slater
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