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China turns to support taxi-hailing apps

A top Chinese official said on Thursday that the government is generally supportive of the development of taxi-hailing apps in the country, but the negative effects of these apps should be inhibited to the lowest level.

The Chinese government is taking a positive attitude towards taxi-hailing apps such as Didi Kuaidi and Uber, but it will not turn a blind eye to the negative aspects of these newly emerged products, Miao Wei, Minister of Industry and Information Technology said during a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.

Citing Didi Kuaidi as an example, Miao admitted that taxi-hailing apps -- products of the internet era -- have had a huge impact on traditional industries; not just the transport industry, but also the IT industry, as the apps involve the application of internet technology, Miao said.

Miao further added that the government is, in general, taking a supportive attitude on the development of these taxi-hailing apps in China, and the Ministry of Transport is seeking public views on the supervision of these apps. He nevertheless did not elaborate what "negative effects" have resulted from these apps and how the government plans to tackle them.

After a spate of crackdowns on the use of taxi-hailing apps in several Chinese cities last year, the government has expressed clear support of private sedans running taxi services -- deemed illegal in the country due to their lack of operating licences.

In the second half of 2015, local media reported several cases of both drivers and the taxi-hailing app firms being fined for the utilisation of Didi Kuaidi and Uber apps.

Last July, drivers who used taxi-hailing apps in Shanghai were facing penalties including 10,000 yuan ($1,611) fines and the suspension of their driver's licence for three to six months. Taxi-hailing app companies were fined 100,000 yuan for each case as well, according to an earlier report.

The following month, China's number one messaging app, WeChat, an essential marketing and promotional platform for Uber, banned Uber accounts on its platforms.

Meanwhile, Chinese internet firm Didi Kuaidi has been actively taking in new investment to combat its rival Uber's expansion in the country. A Wall Street Journal report on Thursday said Didi Kuaidi will raise about $1 billion in its latest fundraising round, giving the firm a valuation at more than $20 billion, after the completion of $3 billion fundraising round in September last year.