How the smartphone completely transformed China in a decade
When finance industry employee Ringo Li relocated back to Beijing from Tokyo in 2010, he brought along his first smartphone – an iPhone 3G. Although one of the most advanced handsets available at the time, it was mainly used for text messages and phone calls, and occasional internet-surfing where Wi-fi was available. Life was mostly offline back then. Li would go to restaurants to order food, pay bills with cash and hail a taxi with an outstretched arm standing on the roadside. Fast forward 10 years and Li’s life has completely changed. No longer in finance, he communicates via WeChat and uses apps on his iPhone XS to order food, hail taxis, pay bills and shop. Most of the apps that permeate
Didi’s carpooling curfew now applies to men too
China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing applied its carpooling “curfew” to all users on Thursday after the company was widely criticized for closing the service to female passengers after 8pm.  Didi said on Wednesday it would relaunch the UberPool-like service, named Hitch, later this month after the rape and murder of two female passengers, which plunged the company into crisis.  Didi had said it would begin a trial run starting in November in seven cities with improved safety features. Men would be able to use the carpooling service from 5am to 11pm, while women can access it from 5am to 8pm.  The earlier hour for women prompted outrage on social media. Gender equality advocates had called
Didi’s carpooling service under attack for setting ‘curfew’ for women
China’s dominant ride-hailing app, Didi Chuxing, has come under attack for closing its carpooling service to female passengers after 8pm.  Over the past year, the ride-sharing giant has been criticized for failing to protect female riders. The company suspended its UberPool-like service Hitch in August 2018 after the rape and murder of two female passengers in separate incidents, which plunged Didi into crisis.  On Wednesday, Didi said it would relaunch Hitch in a trial run starting in November in seven cities with improved safety features. Men will be able to use the service from 5am to 11pm, while women can access it from 5am to 8pm.  Announcement of the trial run, however, prompted outra
China’s tech giants pledge allegiance ahead of national day
A week before China’s national day celebration on October 1, tech giant Tencent is promoting a red Chinese flag filter to users of its all-in-one app WeChat. On Monday, Chinese netizens began adding a small national flag to the right corner of their profile picture on Wechat.  The online campaign was an instant hit on the super app. The service crashed at one point due to an avalanche of users, Tencent told the National Business Daily. On another social media site, the Twitter-like Weibo, the Communist Youth League of China, the youth wing of the Communist Party, launched a campaign asking users to share a photo of themselves with the national flag.  It asked users to spell out their love t
Can China’s Uber regain trust after murders?
At an internal meeting at the Chinese car-hailing giant Didi last year, the questions came thick and fast – as if a steam cooker had just blown its lid. “Have we foregone safety to pursue scale and rapid growth?” asked an employee. “Do we just care about what our investors think?” asked another. “Have we simply paid lip service to ‘safety first’?” Didi’s 36-year-old co-founder and chief executive Cheng Wei and president Jean Liu acknowledged the concerns, according to people familiar with the situation who don’t want to be identified as the meeting was private. The staff session – held to allow employees to state their opinions and frustrations direct to management – followed the rape and mu
Didi driver sentenced to death
A former driver for Didi Chuxing, China’s largest car-hailing service, has been sentenced to death for raping and killing a female passenger in August. 28-year-old Zhong Yuan was found guilty on Friday of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman in August 2018. The young woman was the second female passenger to have been killed by a Didi driver in the space of three months last year. Both victims used Hitch, Didi’s Uber Pool-like carpooling service. Didi has been grappling with a crisis of public confidence after the two murders, which forced it to suspend Hitch indefinitely. In their sentencing on Friday, the court in Wenzhou, a city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, found that the mur
Think twice before drinking from that water bottle in your cab
The next time you’re offered a free bottle of water by your taxi or ride-hailing driver, maybe you should pass. A passenger in China learned the hard way. According to multiple Chinese media reports, a man surnamed Sun was in car booked through Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest car-hailing platform, along with three other colleagues in Shanghai on Tuesday night. Since they had booked a premium service, Sun told the Beijing News he thought nothing of picking up a bottle of free water with the Didi logo printed on it. He even asked the driver whether it was OK to drink from it, as the cap was loose.   “I confirmed with the driver immediately and he said probably the previous passenger left the ca
How safe is ride-sharing in China?
It was just past 10am on a Friday morning in late August, and a 16-year-old girl by the name of Zhang had to go to the bank. So she did what 20 million Chinese people do every day: she hailed a taxi through the popular Didi Chuxing ride-booking app, China’s biggest hailing platform. Soon enough she received a notification that a “Master Sun” was en route to her home in the eastern port city of Yantai. Minutes later, he called to confirm the pickup point. She got into the taxi, which turned out to be unlicensed. The driver’s name was not Sun, as the Didi app had showed, but Zhang Weixing, 36. As he drove off, he told the teenager how much he liked her. He said he wanted to go to the seaside w
Sorry’s not enough for China’s ride-hailing customers
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has failed to calm public anger with a groveling apology, after a second female passenger was killed in three months. Police said a 20-year-old woman was raped and killed by a driver for Didi Hitch, a carpooling service similar to Uber Pool, last week in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The case came just three months after the alleged rape and murder of a 21-year-old flight attendant by another Hitch driver in central China. The latest case has spurred calls for a boycott, with phrases such as “Uninstall Didi” and “Boycott Didi” becoming popular on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. In the face of the growing crisis of confidence, Didi founder Cheng
Backlash against China’s Didi after second woman killed
Chinese users have begun to boycott the country’s biggest ride-hailing app, Didi Chuxing, after police said a driver had raped and murdered a female passenger. Police said in a statement over the weekend that the suspect, a driver for Didi’s carpooling service, had confessed to raping and stabbing a 20 year-old passenger last Friday in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The driver, surnamed Zhong, has been arrested. Didi has apologized and suspended its carpooling service, called Hitch, which works similarly to Uber Pool. Two senior executives have been fired. “I will never use Didi ever in my life again. I am not important and there’s nothing much I can do, but I can start with uninstalling