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A Driver's-Eye View of Uber in China

Categories: East Asia, China, Economics & Business, Labor
Photo by Flickr user 2 dogs. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 [1]

Photo by Flickr user 2 dogs. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Below is a version of “Uber in China: A Driver’s View [2]” by Lyn Jeffery, originally published on the blog 88 Bar [3] and republished here with permission. 

China’s major cities are seeing fierce competition for drivers to join ride-hailing platforms like Uber and China’s homegrown leader Didi Kuadi [4]. I just spent a few weeks in China using “People’s Uber”, the American company's technically non-profit ride-sharing service that uses private cars, and interviewed 10-12 Uber drivers in Beijing and Shenzhen. Even though these services are currently illegal [5], it’s easy to find an Uber just a few minutes away in both cities. And the US version of the app works shockingly well in China.

Here’s what I learned from talking with Uber drivers and regular taxi drivers. It may not all be accurate, but it’s a driver's-eye view of how the company is operating in Beijing and Shenzhen.

It seems like drivers are taking a wait-and-see attitude about regulation and trying to make as much money as they can. At the same time, Uber is reducing its subsidies as it gains more drivers. In other words, the risks are rising while the rewards are falling… for now.