In January this year, taxi drivers in cities across China went out on strike in protest at the high rental fees paid to cab companies and the growing use of taxi hailing apps used by unlicensed drivers to poach their business.
Taxi drivers outside Nanjing High-speed Railway Station on 8 January in protest at high vehicle leasing fees.
Now, it seems that many of the delegates at the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing have got the message.
The Southern Metropolis Daily reported on 3 March that delegateswere calling for the reform in the taxi industry by opening up the market to more players and giving customers more choices. NPC Deputy Cai Jiming noted:
In the Internet age, the existence of cars that can be hailed from your phone have a huge impact on the taxi companies’ traditional monopoly. Reform of this monopoly will put the resolution, bravery, and wisdom of the government to the test. We can knock down the tigers, but are we too afraid to challenge the bosses?”
His remarks were echoed by Li Shufu, CPPCC delegate and president of a car manufacturer, who submitted a proposal demanding the structural reform of the taxi industry. He welcomed an Opinion published by the transportation department in January which “encouraged a variety of taxi hailing services.”
“The Opinion criticized the cab companies’ business monopoly. It is up to the government now to provide practical guidance on how structural reform of the industry should proceed,” Li was quoted as saying.
It is important to note that most taxi drivers are not opposed to taxi apps as such, in fact many welcome them. They are simply opposed to their use by unlicensed drivers who are free from the numerous burdens regular drivers have to endure, chief among them being the monthly vehicle rental fee.
“I love the taxi apps,” said one driver based in the southern city of Dongguan. “They allow me to plan my working day more efficiently. The drivers on strike were not really angry at the use of apps but at the sickening system that has exploited us for decades.”
The driver said the taxi companies were nothing but parasites feeding off the monthly fees paid by the drivers:
On paper, we are employed by the company but we have to pay for car insurance, maintenance, police fines, and all of our social security contributions. The taxi companies should not even exist at all because they literally serve no function. It is in everybody’s best interest to let the government do the licensing and car registration, and let the drivers own their cars and decide their own working hours.