A Chinese mobile phone user uses the taxi-hailing app Didi Chuxing on her smartphone.
The booming sharing ecnomy has extended to liquefied natural gas tanks, which can be "shared" by residents in Hefei, East China's Anhui province, by scanning the quick response code on the tank. The tanks are delivered by appointment online. China Youth Daily commented on Wednesday:
The struggle of most "sharing" business operators to make profits does not seem to bother some people, as capital has been pouring into not just the transportation sector but also many unorthodox businesses, from umbrella and basketball to gas tanks. In Beijing, even "shared" folding stools have been offered to people for free and without registering or paying any deposit, a promotional stunt to lure people to subscribe to the WeChat accounts of certain companies.
Bizarre innovations like these are blurring the boundaries between genuine sharing economy and copycat businesses, which are a lot like short-term hire-on-demand services that are basically about lending idle items or services to those in need in exchange for financial gains, of course, through a third-party platform, be it a company or government organization. But the exchange of shared goods should be confined to those that do not come with extra costs, for example, a temporarily vacant room.
In other words, what many so-called sharing business operators provide is just online renting at the cost of consumer surplus, with consumers gaining or saving money because they can purchase a product for a price lower than the highest they would be willing to pay.
Didi's shunfengche, or "hitchhiking" project, allows one to pay far less than taking a taxi for an inter-city travel without generating any extra cost for either the passenger or the driver. Which manifests a tested mode of sharing economy, not some stunts that would end up with colossal waste of resources.