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Like Uber, but for China: Beijing creates state-owned meta rideshare service

Private services smeared for 'disorderly expansion and data security problems'

China's government has announced it's built its own rideshare and transport-as-a-service platform.

News of the Qiangguo Jiaotong service – which translates as "strong nation's transportation" – was broken yesterday by Communist Party organ Beijing Daily in a story that indicated it was developed to combat "the disorderly expansion and data security problems that once existed in the online car-hailing industry."

In the case of Chinese rideshare giant DiDi, those security problems included illegal collection and use of personal data – an offense that earned it an eighteen month ban on signing up new users. That ban ended three days ago.

Qiangguo Jiaotong will offer rideshares for individuals, as well as freight services on land and sea. It appears to be more of a meta-app than a discrete service, with the Beijing Daily describing it as being connected to "dozens of online car-hailing capacity companies" and on track to link with 90 percent of such operators.

One purpose for the project is serving as the means for state employees to arrange rides, safe in the knowledge that data is handled by the government rather than private concerns. Arranging transport for the elderly is another function of the app.

The service will also link to WeChat, Alipay and Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), making it easier for passengers to pay for rides using their preferred payment systems.

China's command economy features many government-operated entities. Rideshare services, by contrast, tend to be private concerns. And, as Beijing has amply demonstrated in recent years, it's not entirely happy with the way those private platforms have tried to expand their user base and power.

A national platform has clear potential to give the government leverage over private companies – those who continue to be "disorderly" could easily find themselves de-platformed. China has recently authorized robo-taxis in some cities, and The Register imagines Beijing could ditch those from the new app if they experience any issues.

China is not shy about using government resources to stimulate technology businesses it thinks will benefit its economy and security. Earlier this week the nation announced plans to spark local infosec capabilities and industries with investments in education and industrial parks – a formula Beijing has also applied to operating systems and silicon in recent years. ®

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