Chengdu good ex­am­ple for manag­ing car-hail­ing

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Of the more than a dozen Chi­nese cities that have re­cently re­leased their draft plans on man­age­ment of car-hail­ing ser­vices, Chengdu, cap­i­tal city of South­west China’s Sichuan province, is ar­guably the most tol­er­ant.

In gen­eral, the tone of its draft rules is softer and more con­sid­er­ate. Un­like Bei­jing which re­quires ride-shar­ing driv­ers to pos­sess a lo­cal house­hold reg­is­tra­tion, and their ve­hi­cles to have en­gine dis­place­ments of at least 2.0L or 1.8T and a wheel­base longer than 2.65 me­ters, Chengdu de­mands none of that. Rather, it has made clear its con­fi­dence in the shar­ing econ­omy and the mar­ket.

To en­cour­age cit­i­zens to choose greener, safer and more ef­fi­cient trans­port, Chengdu has set spe­cific rules rang­ing from driv­ers’ re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity to pas­sen­gers’ right to su­per­vise and make com­plaints, and it has elab­o­rated on each of them.

In par­tic­u­lar, its pledge to com­pen­sate pas­sen­gers if their com­plaints are well-founded but re­main unan­swered by the driv­ers, sets a good ex­am­ple for the pro­tect­ing of res­i­dents’ le­gal in­ter­ests that should be learned by other Internet Plus busi­ness mod­els. In com­par­i­son, other cities have been in­clined to take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach – set­ting higher thresh­olds for driv­ers to stay in the car-hail­ing busi­ness – in an at­tempt to pro­tect pas­sen­gers.

How­ever, keep­ing a tighter rein on ride-shar­ing plat­forms such as Didi Chux­ing and their driv­ers is not nec­es­sar­ily in line with peo­ple’s needs and de­mands and may cast a shadow over the in­no­va­tion-driven econ­omy. The Bei­jing gov­ern­ment, for ex­am­ple, said it would ex­er­cise its pric­ing right “if need be”. The gov­ern­ment in Chengdu, on the other hand, has promised to let the mar­ket de­cide how much pas­sen­gers should pay for their rides.

Relin­quish­ing the gov­ern­ment guided-price sys­tem, in fact, is un­likely to cause ir­ra­tional pric­ing in the ride-shar­ing mar­ket. When an over­sup­ply of ve­hi­cles oc­curs, more driv­ers will choose to quit as their earn­ings will wane as pas­sen­gers opt for the cheap­est ride push­ing down prices and thus driv­ers’ in­comes. Like­wise, an un­der­sup­ply could lead to a rise in fares that would at­tract more driv­ers to get in­volved. The mar­ket al­ways bet­ter judges how many taxis are re­quired than trans­porta­tion au­thor­i­ties.

But the clashes are not just be­tween these vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble hands, but also be­tween tra­di­tional taxis and emerg­ing rideshar­ing cars. Chengdu gov­ern­ment’s so­lu­tion is to break the bound­aries that sep­a­rate them. Ac­cord­ing to its lat­est draft rules, qual­i­fied taxi driv­ers are al­lowed to use car-hail­ing plat­forms without giv­ing up their job with a tra­di­tional taxi com­pany or us­ing an­other car.

On the one hand, they have the free­dom to choose the way of do­ing busi­ness on the ba­sis of mar­ket de­mand, and can work for mul­ti­ple plat­forms at the low­est cost. On the other hand, the in­te­gra­tion be­tween taxi in­dus­try and car-hail­ing ser­vices is a boon to the former’s long-sought re­form. Bei­jing and Shang­hai are right to buy some time for an over­haul in the man­age­ment of taxis, but this can­not be done at the cost of the ride-shar­ing busi­ness. They are bet­ter dealt with to­gether than separately. On the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for carhail­ing driv­ers and ve­hi­cles, Chengdu’s plan also makes more sense. It not only wel­comes new en­ergy ve­hi­cles to the ride-shar­ing busi­ness, but also has less strict re­quire­ments for en­gine dis­place­ment (1.6L and 1.4T or above). Be­sides, non-lo­cal driv­ers with a lo­cal res­i­dence per­mit can also work for car-hail­ing plat­forms. Bei­jing’s draft reg­u­la­tions would ex­clude tra­di­tional taxis and high-end ve­hi­cles, as well as non-lo­cals, from the ride-shar­ing busi­ness. The house­hold reg­is­tra­tion re­stric­tion is con­tro­ver­sial, un­nec­es­sary, even a bit dis­crim­i­na­tory, and may be deemed in­valid be­cause it con­tra­dicts with the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Li­cens­ing Law that for­bids ex­clu­sion of non-lo­cal prod­ucts and ser­vices. Both pas­sen­gers and driv­ers should be given the equal ac­cess to en­joy the div­i­dends of the shar­ing econ­omy, which has greater po­ten­tials to op­ti­mize ur­ban­iza­tion and im­prove em­ploy­ment than over­reach­ing gov­er­nance. Law. The au­thor is deputy direc­tor of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Law Cen­ter at China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Science and

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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