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Goldman Sachs is exploring a possible expansion of its involvement in bitcoin beyond clearing derivatives for clients, according to its chief operating officer.

David Solomon today said the bank was “cautious but exploring those activities”, in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

In May the bank said it will launch a bitcoin trading desk, shortly after it hired a head of digital assets to examine the sector.

Read more: Goldman Sachs to open bitcoin trading desk as it wades into crypto world

Goldman currently offers institutional clients access to bitcoin futures launched by US exchanges CME Group and CBOE at the end of last year, as a the mania around crypto assets reached its peak.

Solomon, who is seen by analysts as the primary contender to succeed Lloyd Blankfein as the chief executive of the firm, was speaking in China as the firm announced the hire of a new co-head of the investment bank in the country.

Cai Wei is the firms first external hire at the partner level in China, in a signal of Goldmans intent in the worlds second largest economy. He was previously a partner at private equity firm Fountainvest, and a top China banker at UBS, according to an internal memo.

The banks leadership has been “encouraged” by messages given by Chinas leadership on opening access to the market, Solomon said.

Read more: Goldman Sachs targeting £109bn Lloyds investment fund

The bank currently runs a third of a joint venture in China, but new liberalisation of rules will allow it to take a majority ownership of 51 per cent followed by a 100 per cent shareholding for the first time.

“We see the opportunity here in China to be quite significant,” Solomon said. The large and fast-growing market has seen little penetration from foreign financial services, with Goldmans burgeoning wealth management arm a particular focus.

However, Solomon echoed warnings from business leaders and economists around the world that a tariff dispute which currently has the makings of a trade war threatens to damage the global economy.

“Theres no doubt that the level of friction is escalating,” Solomon said. “Everyones hopeful, because this relationship [between the US and China] is so important.”

Read more: Goldman Sachs: The case for owning commodities has "rarely been stronger"

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