Liv­ing the Life Kuaidi

The World of Chinese - - News - Manag­ing Ed­i­tor Robert Foyle Hun­wick

Pedal to the metal, the tr­ishaw driver seizes the last pos­si­ble mo­ment to take ad­van­tage of the traf­fic lights, veer­ing a wide arc left­ward in his ea­ger­ness to make it to the next stretch of road in time to nick a few sec­onds off his jour­ney. He doesn’t count on the Honda saloon slam­ming its ac­cel­er­a­tor down with the same pur­pose; and the Honda doesn’t con­sider the car in front sud­denly brak­ing for its own rea­sons.

In an in­stant all three col­lide, and with the screech of brakes and col­lec­tive sigh of de­spair comes a brief domino ef­fect of chaos, as ev­ery ve­hi­cle in the vicin­ity strug­gles to avoid the pileup. Scoot­ers, bod­ies, and pro­duce spread across the street, but for­tu­nately no last­ing harm is done, ex­cept per­haps to a few faces: The shout­ing match con­tin­ues long af­ter ev­ery­one else moves on.

Traf­fic is the heart­beat of the city; it only takes a sin­gle clot, a mi­nor aorta to miss its cue, for the whole sys­tem to go into melt­down. And at the cen­ter of the blood­stream are the masses of mo­tor­cy­cles, scoot­ers, and tri­cy­cles that power China’s enor­mous e-com­merce sec­tor. Whirrr! One short­cuts through a side street. Bzzz! An­other de­liv­ery done. Bang! Down goes the driver.

With their side­walk-hop­ping and manic ma­neu­vers to beat the clock, lit­tle won­der the uni­formed kuaidi driv­ers are the bane of many mo­torists’ ex­is­tence, a mod­ern gad­fly on our grid­locked streets. But what about the other point of view? In this is­sue, TWOC looks be­hind the smart soft­ware to put a hu­man face on the hum­ble de­liv­ery­man. We hear tales of busi­ness and brother­hood, high risks and low re­wards, that will cer­tainly give pause for thought next time you curse your pizza for be­ing five min­utes over­time.

Else­where, as hip­ster ver­sions land abroad, we go in search of the au­then­tic jian­bing; re­turn to the for­got­ten roots of over­seas Chi­nese; take an unswerv­ing look at the his­tory of school uni­forms; won­der whether knowl­edge has a price; and try to buy a live chicken. Well, our pizza was late…

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