Didi Chuxing

Didi plans to hire more Party members in China to act as customer service ‘role models’ amid safety overhaul

The proposed hiring of Party members by Didi reflects similar moves by other Chinese companies that have run afoul of authorities in the past year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 8:03am

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, plans to hire 1,000 Communist Party members as part of its customer service team as it seeks to shore up public confidence in safety following two recent alleged rape and murders by its drivers.

Party members are expected to serve as “role models” in the building of an emergency safety team, the Beijing-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. The recruitment would “secure the Party committee’s core role” in safety assurance and emergency management, it said, without elaborating.

The proposed hiring of Party members by Didi reflects similar moves by other Chinese companies that have run afoul of authorities in the past year as they seek to get closer to the government, amid a drive by President Xi Jinping – under a slogan of “the party leads everything” – for the Communist Party to assert greater control over China’s economic, foreign, corporate and cultural affairs.

Rising technology companies such as popular news app Jinri Toutiao and live streaming platform Kuaishou both labelled Party members as a “preferred choice” in recent online job adverts for content reviewers – in a recruitment drive that followed a government crackdown on content it deemed inappropriate.

“While Beijing has been liberalising some parts of the economy, in others it has been exerting a stronger influence," said Brock Silvers, managing director of Shanghai-based investment advisory Kaiyuan Capital. “The forward risk lies in the massive pipeline of China offshore IPOs. Chinese companies obviously need to adhere to Chinese regulations. New foreign shareholders may not be fully aware of China’s corporate-government nexus … any eventual reconciliation may not be simple or pretty.”

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Liu Shiyu, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, has openly praised the positive impact of the Party on corporate governance in China, in comments at odds with the views of corporate governance experts.

“It is a common phenomenon among listed firms that no matter whether it’s state-owned, private or a company with mixed ownership, one can stand invincible through competition as long as [one] pays attention to the construction of Party branch and gives play to the vanguard role of Party members,” Liu said in a briefing in February last year.

The not-for-profit Asia Corporate Governance Association recently said most foreign institutional investors would welcome more explanation and clearer lines of accountability around Party organisations. Details such as membership, structure and activities of Party organisations could be included in a “report from the Party organisation”, similar to those written by boards of directors and supervisory boards, the association said.

About 3,700 of Didi’s 10,000-plus workforce are Party members, according to a company statement. Last month, Didi pledged to spend 140 million yuan (US$20.2 million) to strengthen its customer service and expand the in-house team from 5,000 to 8,000 people by year end.

The ride-hailing company processes about 2.1 million calls on an average day, including 10,000 emergency calls for help, and screens out more than 40,000 drivers a day that fail to pass its qualification test.

Toutiao hiring 2,000 content reviewers, with Party members top of its target list

The efforts come in the wake of the second alleged murder of a passenger by her Didi driver, highlighting how the company’s previous efforts to improve passenger safety failed to prevent the crime. A review of public court records by the Post showed at least a dozen previous sexual assault convictions involving Didi drivers and their passengers.

Police in Yueqing city, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, found the body of a 20-year-old female surnamed Zhao in August, and arrested a Didi driver who confessed to her rape and murder.

In May, another woman, aged 21, was raped and killed in Zhengzhou, in central China, allegedly by an unregistered Didi driver. Her body was later found in a river.

Didi, which counts tech giants Tencent Holdings, Baidu and Alibaba Group Holding among its shareholders, is said to be exploring an initial public offering and is locked in an ongoing battle with emerging rivals including DiDa Chuxing, UCAR, Geely’s Caocao Car and Meituan Dianping in ride-hailing.

Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.