Exploring the Complex Interplay of Culture, Technology, and Policy: A Comparative Study of the Chinese and American Markets
After experiencing rapid technological progress and drastic changes in society and culture, the sharing economy has had a profound impact on many fields of the global economy with its unique model and popularization form. It promotes the optimal utilization of idle resources, changes the traditional industrial structure, and constantly shapes and redefines people’s consumption and service experience. This article will delve into the definition, development trajectory, and performance and challenges of the sharing economy in different cultural and social contexts, especially in China and the United States.
The emergence and evolution of the sharing economy
The definition and multi-dimensional impact of the sharing economy
As a modern economic model, the key to the sharing economy is to integrate and mobilize offline idle resources and connect service providers and demanders to jointly create value. In this economic model, the supply side transfers the right to use items or provides services within a specific period in order to obtain monetary rewards, while the demand side usually enjoys related resources or services through leasing rather than owning them. However, resource sharing processes are particularly salient when exhibiting short-term characteristics. Two key elements—spatial limitations and building trust relationships among participants—become the main factors affecting the implementation of the sharing economy.
The emergence: dual promotion of social culture and technology
- Technological developments have played a key role in the rise of the sharing economy. Mobile positioning technology makes it possible for precise matching and resource sharing between individuals, promoting the rise of sharing platforms and business expansion.
- The evolution of social structure also contributes to the development of the sharing economy. Changes in social structure and culture, such as social atomization and the refinement of division of labor, provide a favorable social foundation for the sharing economy.
- When economies go through shocks, especially after the global financial crisis in 2008, the need for efficiency and savings increases significantly. Such an economic background has enabled the sharing economy model to gain significant market recognition and development momentum.
The unfolding: expansion in multiple fields
The development of the sharing economy has expanded from specific fields to multiple industries around the world. For example, from Airbnb accommodation sharing to Zipcar car sharing, it has gradually covered multiple fields such as transportation, accommodation, labor and financing, and has become a new global economic phenomenon.
Interaction between sharing economy and cultural and social background
The sharing economy model is widely recognized globally and shows its own characteristics in different regions according to cultural and social backgrounds. In this context, China and the United States, as important markets for this model, exhibit unique cultural and social differences.
In the United States, taking Airbnb and Uber as examples, these platforms provide a channel for individuals to earn income by sharing vacant resources, while providing convenient services to those in need. This is consistent with individualism and free market principles, which figure prominently in American cultural and economic life.
In comparison, China’s sharing economy market is characterized by its high degree of platformization, centralization and scale. Its subsequent driving force mainly comes from the popularity and convenience of mobile payment, society’s rapid acceptance of new technologies and a high degree of Urbanization. For example, the popularity of mobile payment tools such as Alipay has greatly facilitated the use of shared services. The combination of these factors creates a market environment that is extremely convenient, easy to access and rapidly expand.
Development bottlenecks and challenges
In the rapid development of the sharing economy between China and the United States, both countries are facing some development bottlenecks and challenges. These problems are not only related to technology application and market promotion, but also deeply reflect the impact of their respective social, cultural and legal environments.
The United States faces certain challenges in the regulatory framework of the sharing economy. In some cities and states, there are sharing economic platforms that have greater conflicts of interest with traditional industries. In addition, issues such as the protection of labor rights, tax treatment, and user privacy protection in the sharing economy continue to cause controversy. Taking tax treatment as an example, Uber has repeatedly argued with governments over whether its drivers should be considered freelancers or employees. This is critical because different classifications have different responsibilities and rights under tax law. There have been previous disputes about Uber incorrectly classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This misclassification resulted in Uber not being able to compensate for unemployment., workforce development and temporary disability issues such as paying New Jersey payroll taxes. Additionally, as an international company, Uber’s global operations due to its cross-border nature may pose challenges to tax administrations as they are unable to determine which country has the authority to tax income generated from a particular transaction or activity (Migai et al., 2019). These regulatory and policy issues have limited the expansion of the sharing economy in some fields and regions to a certain extent.
For China, although the application of mobile payment and big data technology has provided strong support for the rise of the sharing economy, the risks of over-investment and market bubbles have also often received attention. In areas such as shared bicycles and shared power banks, excessive market competition and investment have led to irrational allocation and waste of resources. At the same time, with the rapid development of the sharing economy, how to ensure the security of the platform and the rights and interests of users, and how to reconcile the contradiction between traditional industries and new economic models, have also become difficult problems facing the government and the market.
Although the sharing economy models of the two countries appear to be similar on the surface, behind their operation and development, the complex interweaving of culture, society and market gives them different characteristics and challenges.
Sharing economy and resource optimization
The sharing economy has entered people’s lives with a new concept of resource allocation, trying to find answers to this complex urban transportation problem. As a leader in the sharing economy, Uber has made certain contributions to the optimization of resources through the clever use of technology and algorithms, but it has also created some problems and challenges.
Uber, as the embodiment of the sharing economy, has revealed the potential of resource optimization and algorithm-driven demand matching, successfully reducing the empty driving rate of vehicles and enhancing their usage efficiency, while expanding and supplementing the urban public transportation network. Although the online ride-hailing model has shown benefits beyond traditional taxi services in matching demand and supply through the convenience of its online services, it has reduced transaction costs. In the dimensions of time and space, online car-hailing not only fills the gap in public transportation at night and on weekends, providing urban residents with additional travel options, and it plays a role in supplementing public transportation in terms of spatial distribution. , acting as an effective branch line of the urban transportation network, thus further optimizing and enriching the overall layout and utilization of urban transportation resources to a certain extent (Scarlett et al., 2018), the industry impact it brings and the accompanying series of controversies, such as the impact on traditional industries, regulatory issues, and price rationality, are still being widely discussed. In addition, although online ride-hailing has played a significant role in resource optimization and improving urban transportation flexibility, its potential privacy and security issues are also factors that must be fully considered when promoting and adopting this new form of transportation.
To sum up, the sharing economy, as a brand-new economic model, shows great development potential and multi-dimensional impact. From the popularity of Uber to the popularity of Airbnb, we have seen a new way of allocating resources and creating value. However, in different cultural and social contexts, the sharing economy exhibits different characteristics and problems. From the cases of China and the United States, we can see the positive role that the sharing economy plays in promoting resource optimization and improving service efficiency. It also exposes many challenges and problems. In the future, how to balance innovation and supervision, technology and ethics, efficiency and fairness will be the key to the sustainable development of the sharing economy.
Jin, S. T., Kong, H., Wu, R., & Sui, D. Z. (2018). Ridesourcing, the sharing economy, and the future of cities. Cities, 76, 96–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2018.01.012
Migai, C. O., de Jong, J., & Owens, J. P. (2019). The sharing economy: turning challenges into compliance opportunities for tax administrations. eJournal of Tax Research, 16(3), 395–424.
Sabine B. (2018, January 30). Collaborative consumption or the sharing economy explained in 4 minutes! [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79hQ-4yTR2c