Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing giant that swallowed Uber China, has announced the beta launch of bilingual functions on its app. The service is now only available in the country’s three top metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, where most foreigners live and travel, but the firm disclosed it will be available in other cities later. Starting today, users in the three cities will gradually have access to an English interface.
While the company plans to make the app 100% bilingual, it is first starting this feature for core services of Taxi (出租车), Premier (专车)and Express, including ExpressPool (快车and顺风车). The app also enables real-time, in-app instant text messaging translation between English and Chinese to facilitate rider-driver communication. Users will also have access to bilingual customer service support via email and phone.
Before this, the most prominent ride-hailing service in China was Mandarin only. When the company discontinued the English interface of Uber China last year, there was an outcry among China’s laowai (老外, a colloquial term for foreigner) community, who felt abandoned in the upgrade.
In addition, the Didi app is also making improvements in payments with support for major international credit cards. Users can sign up with mobile numbers registered in 12 regions of the world, including the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, the United States and Brazil.
The move comes amid Didi’s globalization push. While the company is expanding progressively to overseas markets, it considers the “internationalization of mobility services in China . . . a crucial link in Didi’s broader global strategy.”
As an international economic and cultural hub, China increasingly attracts inbound foreign tourists, business travelers, and expatriates. According to Chinese tourism authorities, over 28 million international tourists visited the country in 2016, up 8.3% year-on-year, with over 1 million working and living in China.