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Start-ups

Chinese firm eDaijia ends service to outsource alcohol consumption to surrogate drinkers

More than 100,000 people had signed up to become surrogate drinkers with the service called eDaihe, which means ‘to drink on behalf of’ in Mandarin

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 1:03am

People looking to land a job as a surrogate drinker in China’s gig economy need to find another occupation.

Chinese technology start-up eDaijia, which runs a popular mobile app that links inebriated car owners with substitute drivers, has terminated a new service that allowed users to summon surrogate drinkers.

Just weeks after its introduction, the new feature called eDaihe, which means “to drink on behalf of” in Mandarin, is no longer on the eDaijia app as of Wednesday. 

“The service is not in line with the core socialist values. It doesn’t have enough positive energy. We will be punished (by the authorities) if we get more media attention,” said He Dongpeng, a spokesman for eDaijia, on the company’s decision to drop the new location-based booking feature.

The company did not disclose when its surrogate drinker service ceased operations.

Chinese start-up launches app to outsource alcohol consumption to surrogate drinkers

That failed endeavour marked another twist in the ongoing development of China’s red-hot sharing economy, which has rapidly grown on the back of the country’s vast number of smartphone users, broad internet coverage and strong adoption of mobile payment platforms.

From using apps to hail a ride to summoning an in-home massage, China’s sharing economy is predicted to create a new labour market of about 400 million self-employed people by 2036, according to AliResearch, South China Morning Post owner Alibaba Group Holding’s research arm.

More than 100,000 people signed up to become surrogate drinkers within 24 hours since eDaihe was launched at the end of December, according to eDaijia.

The company, however, did not set any age or gender restrictions for people who wanted to be a provider under its new service. It also did not establish any vetting process for those who apply as surrogate drinkers.

It said the service was developed in time for China’s lengthy holiday season, which stretches from the end of last year to the Lunar New Year festival this February.

Still, Beijing-based eDaijia’s new service received plenty of backlash from mainland media on the potential risks involved with running that new activity.

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In an online commentary published on Tuesday by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, the eDaijia app’s surrogate drinker feature was described as “against rules and regulations”.

“The boom in the sharing economy does not give services the right to break rules. You cannot make a legitimate business out of something that was merely intended to meet a market demand. It should be in line with the values of society,” it said.

While drinking is considered an important social skill in China, the government has called for less consumption of liquor, especially during business-related banquets.

Yet China’s drinking culture has also created a 15.4 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) industry in recent years, with a number of new jobs, such as designated drivers, being created, according to a report in August from People’s Daily, which cited the findings of a Tsinghua University research.

“All of the on-demand services … can raise safety concerns because of the loopholes in regulation,” the eDaijia spokesman said at last month’s eDaihe launch. “But we still need to embrace new things to innovate.”