Em­brac­ing The Shar­ing Econ­omy

Beijing Review - - Editor’s Desk -

As red, yel­low and blue bi­cy­cles ap­pear more fre­quently on the streets, a new term is spread­ing fast around China—the shar­ing econ­omy. Be­sides bi­cy­cles, mo­bile de­vice power packs and even cars can be bor­rowed by scan­ning quick re­sponse codes. Thus, the shar­ing econ­omy is thriv­ing in China.

Ac­tu­ally, shar­ing ac­tiv­i­ties have long ex­isted. For ex­am­ple, li­braries are open to the pub­lic to share the books therein, and peo­ple swim in pools at aquat­ics cen­ters shared by many oth­ers. How­ever, these ac­tiv­i­ties did not lead to the cre­ation of a spe­cific eco­nomic model.

The rapid devel­op­ment of the In­ter­net has made it pos­si­ble for the shar­ing econ­omy to de­velop on a big scale. The In­ter­net serves as a tie con­nect­ing sup­pli­ers and con­sumers, whether for shar­ing in­for­ma­tion in on­line fo­rums and com­mu­ni­ties or for ex­chang­ing tan­gi­ble goods.

While the In­ter­net is the ba­sis for the ex­pand­ing shar­ing econ­omy, gov­ern­ment sup­port is the driv­ing force. Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang has re­peat­edly stressed the ben­e­fit of com­bin­ing the shar­ing econ­omy with in­no­va­tion and startup busi­nesses, lay­ing out a plan for its devel­op­ment.

As for the scale of China’s shar­ing econ­omy, there are no of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics yet, but ac­cord­ing to the Shen­zhen-head­quar­tered mar­ket re­search firm For­ward, more than 500 mil­lion peo­ple are in­volved, with 5,000 or so sup­ply­ing rel­e­vant ser­vices. The shar­ing econ­omy is now worth about 2 tril­lion yuan ($290 bil­lion) in China.

By low­er­ing the thresh­old for in­no­va­tion and cre­ation of new busi­nesses, the shar­ing econ­omy makes full use of unused re­sources, pro­vides jobs and is be­com­ing a new area for eco­nomic growth. As this model is open to ev­ery­one, the shar­ing econ­omy can also help pro­mote so­cial equal­ity and jus­tice.

How­ever, as a fresh eco­nomic sec­tor in China, it still needs fur­ther im­prove­ment. For ex­am­ple, in this model, sup­pli­ers trans­fer only the right of use to con­sumers for a cer­tain pe­riod of time in re­turn for eco­nomic gain, usu­ally in the form of rent. Users are not en­ti­tled to the right of own­er­ship. But some users mo­nop­o­lize these re­sources as their own pri­vate prop­erty.

Also, the shar­ing econ­omy has brought some fi­nan­cial con­cerns. Presently, users pay re­fund­able de­posits to ac­cess shared items. For bi­cy­cles, the de­posit ranges from 99 to 299 yuan ($14-43). These de­posits amount to hun­dreds of mil­lions of yuan in to­tal. No de­tailed poli­cies ex­ist on how to en­sure the se­cu­rity and proper use of this money.

The shar­ing econ­omy is chang­ing peo­ple’s lives. Nonethe­less, the emerg­ing sec­tor needs to be bet­ter man­aged and reg­u­lated so that it will de­liver greater ben­e­fits to con­sumers and con­trib­ute more to the country’s sound eco­nomic growth.

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