In China the “sharing economy” has taken off of late. But many of its supposedly innovative business concepts are nothing more than “gimmicks,” said the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist party, in a commentary published today (Aug. 15). It also argued such services need to be more regulated—which suggests they likely will be in the near future.
The commentary (link in Chinese) argued many such offerings were being dishonest by calling themselves “sharing” services. It didn’t mention specific companies.
As Quartz has reported, services offering umbrellas, phone chargers, and sleeping pods have been touted as being part of the sharing economy. So has a company that basically offers tissue vending machines (as if sharing tissues were a thing). But unlike with, say, Uber, where independent drivers generally “share” their own cars, in China often what’s being offered is owned by the same company behind the sharing platform.
Bike-sharing services are already facing more regulations. In China the services allow bikes to be left anywhere rather than returned to designated docking stations. This often results in messy, chaotic public spaces, with heaps of discarded bikes. New national guidelines from the transport ministry, issued earlier this month, call for local governments to instead ensure a rational allocation of bikes.
In late July the local government of Zhengzhou, a city of over 9 million in the Henan province, also put a brake on bike shares (link in Chinese), noting it already had nearly 400,000 on its streets.
Other services seem unlikely to gain much traction to begin with. In Beijing, a startup began offering folding stools at some bus stations on Sunday (Aug. 13). By day’s end, over half of the stools had gone missing.
Universities have also been home to some dubious ideas. A college in the southwestern city of Chengdu recently offered 40-plus “sharing dormitories” (link in Chinese) to tourists. And at a university in the central Hubei province, a student entrepreneur offered a “sharing kitchen” where users bring their own ingredients (link in Chinese). In both instances, the spaces were simply school property being rented out.