Uber escapes China taxi app crackdown

It looks like Uber has escaped China’s crackdown on taxi-hailing apps.
China’s Ministry of Transport posted new guidelines on Friday that prohibit private cars and unlicensed vehicles from offering services through ride-hailing apps.

But for now, Uber’s China “business is running as usual,” said spokeswoman Xue Huang.
That’s because Uber doesn’t directly work with any private drivers, nor does it own cars in China. Instead, Uber Black and Uber X partner with licensed local car rental companies — many of which are state-owned companies — that already provide services for hotels or tourists.

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In one other major change, Uber’s base fare in Shanghai is now down to RMB 30 (US$5), after initially charging double that when the service first launched last summer.

Of course, Uber is not the first web-connected limo service in China. Homegrown startup Yongche is all over the country, offering both car rental and limos with drivers. For comparison, Yongche quotes a price of RMB 300 (US$50) to send you to Shanghai Pudong airport in an Audi A6, while Uber charges RMB 350 (US$58) in its mid-range to high-end wheels.

But if you’re willing to forsake the smartphone app, China already has plenty of professional ‘black car’ companies that offer cheaper rates than Uber and Yongche for pre-booked journeys. As is always the case with China, it’s a tough market with strong local competition.