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Uber confident of equal treatment in China

2015-06-03 13:58:32Source:China DailyAuthor:

Uber expresses confidence in fair competition in China. [File photo]

Uber is confident of fair competition in what could be the world's largest market, said a senior vice president of the ride-hailing startup major.

"We will find a way to partner and move forward," said David Plouffe, head of policy and strategy, adding that China may be the best example in the world of where many options are needed to reduce traffic congestion and emissions.

The onetime manager of Barak Obama's presidential campaign gave an exclusive interview to China Daily on Thursday at the International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig, Germany.

Plouffe said he is optimistic about the company's operation in China and "confident" that the company is in a fair play, despite recent inspections and the move made by Shanghai of officially acknowledging its counterpart Didi Kuaidi in a government-sponsored platform.

Uber's mission matches well with the authority's priorities, along with other competitors, he said. "We are eager to find ways to work together with the government".

The US-based ride-booking startup entered China last year and was ranked a remote No. 2 in the region by booking orders, according to Analysys. Didi Kuaidi, covering 61 cities, held nearly 80 percent market share in the first quarter, while Uber, serving only 9 cities, accounted for 10.9 percent.

Despite region-specific enforcement, the issue of legitimacy still hangs over the industry players, as current rules ban private passenger vehicles from making taxi-like for-profit trips.

Raids "not a surprise"

Last month, Uber's offices in Chengdu and Guangzhou were inspected for allegedly organizing private cars not qualified to provide passenger services.

However, Plouffe referred to the raids as "not a surprise". "It's just part of a process we are working through. We have seen it all around the world."

During the raid in Guangzhou, police confiscated a number of mobile phones, while drivers caught earlier had to pay fines of 30,000 yuan, according to a local newspaper.

Controversies have faced the ride-sharing juggernaut elsewhere, as its offices in Paris and Amsterdam were also raided by police earlier this year, reported Business Insider. Portugal and Germany have joined countries to ban Uber services, while India is pursuing a crackdown following an alleged rape by a driver.

"It's not only a theoretical question, because there's clearly demand and need," said the 49-year-old senior VP while pointing out regulatory progress.

The Philippines has become the first country in the world to introduce nationwide new regulations tailored for app-based service providers such as Uber, announced the country's Department of Transportation and Communications in May.

"In the US, one year ago, there wasn't a single new law for ride sharing. Now we see major cities that actually pass new laws," said Plouffe, adding that Nevada has just passed the bill to allow Uber's operation.

New law mulled

Chinese regulators are also studying and preparing to launch new laws that concern car-on-demand apps, said Dai Dongchang, acting Vice Minister of Transport, after the International Transport Forum.

The ITF at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is an intergovernmental organization that acts as a think tank and organizes an annual summit of ministers of transport.

"The new trends are the results of openness and innovation. For regulators, the ultimate goal is to promote better development within the industry," added Dai.

Plouffe refused to share his projection on the legislation timeline, but added that demand is huge in China for both ride-hailing platforms and riders.

"We will engage as much as possible to provide information and answer questions and also to make clear that our mission is to help cities," he said.

"Once we get through regulatory issues, a really exciting conversation begins, which is how can we partner with cities to accomplish their economic, safety and environmental goals."

Uber Campaign

"Populations grow in the major cities of China. Congestion is already problematic and in many parts of China just as the major cities, something has to give it," said the once presidential campaign manager.

Young people need the assurance of reliable and portable transportation to give up their cars, said Plouffe, adding that Uber serves all parts of cities and takes reliability seriously.

Prior to joining Uber, Plouffe served as senior advisor to US President Obama from 2011 to 2013. He was reported to be the mastermind behind the 2008 presidential campaign and currently serves on the board of the Barack Obama Foundation.

"Uber has been in a campaign but hasn't been running one. That is changing now," wrote Travis Kalanick, CEO of the world's most valuable startup, in the announcement that Plouffe would manage all global policy and political activities and branding from September last year.

"The important thing is to deal with regulators, to make sure they understand we are here to help and that every country is different and we are going to have to be both agile and flexible about our approach," said the campaign veteran.