Thriving sharing economy faces uncertainties

Updated 2017-08-21 16:00:17 CGTN
The photo taken on July 14, 2017 shows a shared compartment in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

The photo taken on July 14, 2017 shows a shared compartment in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Bicycles, umbrellas, chargers and even the gym... more and more daily necessities are being introduced to the Chinese market for sharing. In early July, a nap capsule popped up in office buildings in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu and soon gained a following of committed nappers.

However, the latest sharing innovation disappeared from the market just several weeks after its launch, triggering wide speculation that the capsules were dismantled by police for violating certain regulations.

Dai Jiangong, founder of the shared sleeping product, told CGTN that they proactively recalled the nap capsules for upgrading, as they found safety risks during the trial operation.

Each white-colored capsule is about two meters long. They include disposable bedding, USB interfaces and a ventilator, among other features. Users can enjoy a siesta for half an hour for 10 yuan (1.5 U.S. dollars).

Interviews with office workers in Beijing found many to be interested in the new invention, expressing that a brief break after lunch refreshes them before hunkering down for work in the afternoon. Some, however, were concerned about the hygienic and safety problems.

Dai admitted that the safety risk was a major reason for the sudden recall, as there were no fire warnings and firefighting equipment in the capsules.

The business model also remains controversial. Regulators hold that the capsules should be operated under the same regulations as hotels, calling for multiple requirements.

Despite the challenges, Dai said he would not give up on the product. "Our team is working hard to have it rectified as the regulators have suggested. I am still confident with the product and the service we are trying to provide."

The nap capsule's setbacks have prompted heated discussions on China's booming sharing economy business model. Some experts say the concept has been misused.

He Weiwen, senior researcher at the Center for China and Globalization, told CGTN that he thinks the government and media have the obligation to guide the development of the sharing economy.

"It should be driven by social needs not by capital, but now many companies of time-sharing services are just chasing for capitals, just chasing for profits. That's not a correct way," He said.

A joint report released by the National Information Center and the Internet Society of China says the revenue from China's sharing economy market was 3,452 billion yuan (517.5 billion US dollars) in 2016, up by 103 percent from the previous year. According to the report, it's expected increase 40 percent in the coming years.

"The enterprises should not try to obtain financing and carry out promotion in the name of sharing economy. The disorderly expansion will only lead to the fall of the industry," He warned.

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