The 21 day Bitcoin challenge: how easy is it to survive by spending Bitcoins in your country?

The Chinese Netflix, iQiyi, has been airing a 21-day challenge documentary of a Chinese woman who tries to survive or live on 0.21 Bitcoin without help or donations.

Although she is almost done with the 21-day challenge, successfully with only her phone and Bitcoins, the documentary sheds light on the actual challenges against cryptocurrency and its adoption and usage in China and all around the world. However, the film also evidences that cryptocurrency enthusiasm is still thriving in the country amidst cold crypto regulation.

For instance, while China's Beijing and Shenzhen cities have recently banned public cryptocurrency-related speeches, events, or activities and even banned and blocked a number of WeChat media accounts promoting cryptocurrencies, there still is a good size of the pro-crypto community and a good number of people still believes in cryptocurrencies.

The girl named He You Bing, travels through some of China's largest cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, without carrying anything with her and tries to buy food, pay for housing and other basic commodities from her Bitcoin, using her mobile phone. Her name translates to "having a disease" and alludes to her over-enthusiasm for Bitcoin.

Although a meal in these cities can go for as low as just $1, the real question for her is who and who among the sellers are accepting Bitcoin as payment. No doubt that there are only a few people doing that.

As she moves along asking whether small to medium to larger stores and hotels are accepting Bitcoins for payment, the attitudes by her audience vary from ignorance and distrust to welcoming. No doubt that different people think differently about Bitcoins. In some cases, she has to first explain to the vendors what Bitcoin is rather than paying in Bitcoin. Much is frustration but she finds some success along the way.

On day one, the girl first tries to visit an amusement park in Beijing where the entrance fee is only 2 Chinese Yuan or around 30 cents in USD, but unfortunately, they can't accept Bitcoin. She also checks with many food restaurants in the city who cannot also accept Bitcoin payment. She finds an unlocked Ofo bike, a dockless bike that can be unlocked and paid for using a cellphone, which she does and tries to bike around on it in order to reach out to more vendors. She does not manage to get a food store accepting Bitcoin and has to eat four packets of ketchup and food samples from a supermarket. She also does not manage to find a hostel or accommodation that can be paid for in Bitcoins and instead sleeps in a 24-hour McDonald’s on her first night.

The second day is tough for her because she can't find any store selling food for Bitcoin as payment and instead eats fruits from wild trees and some leftover burger at a McDonald’s. She gets a stomach ache and threw up while spending the night in another 24-hour McDonald’s.

She almost fainted and gave up on the third day, but she is sent to the hospital by the filmmakers. Also, at this point, some supporters are able to contact the filmmakers as the challenge gathered some attention. They were bringing her food and she could pay it by Bitcoin. She sleeps in an art gallery on the third night.

Later, people were able to find her on WeChat and offered to exchange the Bitcoin for fiat but because the challenge would, therefore, become so easy, the filmmakers changed the rules. The new rules required her to only exchange Bitcoins offline with people she can physically find and meet. The story attracted a lot of attention and was even covered by local Chinese media.

The challenge then moves to Shenzhen on the sixth day. The audience got suspicious of the filmmakers concerned that they were scammers. Also, six support groups were formed on WeChat each having a maximum of 500 people, dedicated to supporting the girl. The participants in these groups included bitcoin believers, real estate agents, and advertising salesmen.

The filmmakers also said they turned down requests coming from companies and institutions who asked to donate and sponsor the filmmakers and help the girl.

On the seventh day, she is able to connect with some of her WeChat supporters and is able to purchase face wash from them. She also finds a restaurant that accepts Bitcoin, then finds someone to buy her clothes at Uniqlo by exchanging bitcoin with them, then someone willing to book a hotel for her by exchanging Bitcoins.

Her supporters also started to approach shops asking whether they accepted Bitcoins and they would relay the information to her.

The team documents the number of successful Bitcoin transactions Bing makes and the number of people she reaches out to. After ten days, she was able to gain more confidence and a strategy on how to find people to exchange her Bitcoins and what to exchange for. The number of inquiries she made increased from ten to twenty a day to over 100 in a day although the number of successful transactions was still very small in a single day.

The challenge migrated to Guangzhou later. She is able to find people with who to exchange the Bitcoin for fiat and buy train tickets, pay for hotel rooms, and for her meals.

The film signal some hope for cryptocurrency enthusiasts although reveals that there is much to be done in promoting cryptocurrency adoption by masses.

David Kariuki

David Kariuki likes to regard himself as a freelance tech journalist who has written and writes widely about a variety of tech issues that affect our society daily, including cryptocurrencies (see and; climate change (, OpenSim and virtual reality (see He is currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Management at Open University. He does write here not to offer any investment advise but with the intention of informing audience, and articles in here are of his own opinion. Anyone willing to use any opinion here as advise to invest in crypto should obviously take own responsibility and accountability of their losses (or benefits) thereof. You can reach me at [email protected] or [email protected]

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