Shared econ­omy must get past grow­ing pains

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Liu Jianxi The author is a re­porter with the Global Times. li­u­jianxi@glob­al­times.com.cn

Un­de­ni­ably, the shared econ­omy has be­come an in­dis­pens­able part of our lives. Peo­ple pay one yuan to ride the “last kilo­me­ter” from the sub­way to work. They rent an um­brella to get home through heavy rains. They work out in a tiny shared gym near their of­fice. How­ever, au­thor­i­ties in Shang­hai de­cided that shar­ing baby strollers was a step too far. They re­cently sus­pended such a scheme just two days after it started.

Like bike-shar­ing schemes that have sprung up across China, Di­meng Tech­nol­ogy, the ser­vice op­er­a­tor, of­fered 500 baby strollers for hire across Pudong New District in Shang­hai. Users will be needed to reg­is­ter, have their names au­then­ti­cated, and put down a 99 yuan de­posit. But after two days of op­er­a­tion, the scheme was banned by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment for lack­ing per­mis­sion from au­thor­i­ties. The mea­sures by Shang­hai to curb the spread of ve­hi­cle-hir­ing ser­vices have thrust the is­sue of the ex­ces­sive use of the shar­ing econ­omy into the lime­light.

The baby strollers and all other shared schemes are mak­ing peo­ple’s lives eas­ier. How­ever, the boom in shar­ing ser­vices has gen­er­ated complaints about van­dal­ism, park­ing con­ges­tion and traf­fic vi­o­la­tions. Ve­hi­cles are be­ing sab­o­taged, scat­tered in a dis­or­derly way and even­tu­ally aban­doned in ditches. The QR codes, used to un­lock the ve­hi­cles, have been scratched or painted over. What’s more, while users need to pay 99 yuan as a de­posit to use the stroller, buy­ing the same stroller only costs 80 yuan on­line. Many ar­gue that ve­hi­cle-shar­ing is just the lat­est mar­ket­ing gim­mick.

Ve­hi­cle-shar­ing is an emerg­ing eco­nomic phe­nom­e­non in China, and it is nat­u­ral for new­borns to get sick. De­spite the prob­lems, we need to view the shared econ­omy in an ob­jec­tive way.

In many Chi­nese cities, even the first-tier ones, public fa­cil­i­ties have failed to ad­dress ci­ti­zens’ qual­ity of life de­mands. Un­der out­dated de­vel­op­men­tal ideas, ur­ban de­sign in some cities is still far from per­fect. For in­stance, “the last kilo­me­ter” be­tween public trans­porta­tion stops and com­pa­nies is al­ways a has­sle for many white-col­lar work­ers, es­pe­cially when they are run­ning late. The long wait for a bus is a night­mare on freez­ing win­ter days. Ve­hi­cle shar­ing caters to public needs and has ef­fec­tively bal­anced de­mand and sup­ply. The shared econ­omy is un­doubt­edly an ef­fi­cient way to al­lo­cate re­sources, ac­com­mo­dat­ing the needs of a max­i­mized num­ber of peo­ple. It ought to be the pride of a highly civ­i­lized so­ci­ety. Mean­while, shared ve­hi­cles are much more con­ve­nient than public trans­porta­tion. While peo­ple have to walk 10 min­utes to the stop and wait for an­other five min­utes for a bus, some­times even longer in bad weather, a shared ve­hi­cle is read­ily ac­ces­si­ble at nearly ev­ery cor­ner of the city. It takes peo­ple only sec­onds to scan the QR code to un­lock. Ci­ti­zens and the gov­ern­ment should have an open mind to­ward the shared econ­omy. Be­ing sick can help build a baby’s im­mune sys­tem, and we should give ve­hi­cle shar­ing some time to find its foot­ing. After all, new things al­ways come with var­i­ous un­fore­see­able prob­lems. Pa­tience is needed for the shared econ­omy to de­velop and flour­ish in China.

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