Based on the new paradigm of the fourth industrial revolution, the sharing economy has been prosperous worldwide, with the expectation of a rapid growth [1
]. Owing to the successful inauguration of star ventures such as Airbnb and Uber, numerous new businesses have successfully entered into the market, and many new start-up companies with sales volumes of more than 1 billion dollars have been established based on the principles of sharing business, serving as a new growth engine for the global economy [2
]. The sharing economy is fundamentally different from the traditional competition-based consumer economy, since sharing the value from collaborative networking among all partners, such as consumers and workers, enhances sustainable performance [2
]. Under the new norm of sustainable management, the sharing economy could strengthen corporate social responsibility (CSR) and be a source of creating shared value for all partners. If the sharing economy can create social trust as the reputational capital of society, then all the partners in the sharing economy can create value based on cooperative networking performance [3
China has participated in this trend, beginning with the bike-sharing system that was introduced in 2014 by the first commercial bike-sharing web company, OFFO, which perfectly met the enormous demand, especially in the downtown areas of major Chinese cities, resulting in a booming new market in a short time. There have been diverse trials of bike-sharing services around the world before their successful inauguration in China. However, most of these bike-sharing services were part of public goods provided by the local governments, resulting in failure due to the tragedy of commons [4
], expressed as, for example, stealing or destroying public bikes. After these trial and error experiences, many European countries introduced more updated bike-sharing systems, still as public goods. However, in China, initiated by a private web-based company, OFFO, with smart mobility based on a one-stop service from payment to consumption, many private bike-sharing companies entered the transportation service market in metropolitan areas with great success in a short period [5
]. This one-stop service based on smartphones showed extraordinary success in the initial phase of the bike-sharing industry in China. A user has to download a bike-sharing application (App) on his/her smartphone and register to pay through a payment application such as Alipay or WeChat, a very popular smart payment system in China. Then, the user can trace the closest location of a sharing bike on the App and check the quick response (QR) code of the bike with their smartphone. Thus, they are ready to share a bike. After the user rides this sharing bike, he/she gets off the bike and locks it; then, automatically, the service fees shall be transferred to the bike-sharing company based on the duration the bike was used. Through its App, the bike-sharing company can monitor and trace all the sharing bikes in the city in real time.
According to Verified Market Research (2019), the global market size of the sharing bike industry was 1.5 billion US dollars in year 2018 and will have grown at a 22.4% annual growth rate by 2026 [6
]. The growth rate is especially higher in Asian countries due to rapidly accelerating urbanization. Based on the successful inauguration of the first private bike-sharing business in 2014, the Chinese government highlighted the sharing economy as one of five core national paradigms (i.e., innovation, cooperation, green [environment], openness, and sharing economy) of the 13th five-year development plan from 2016 to 2020. Led by the bike-sharing industry, the Chinese government predicted at least a 40% annual growth rate of the sharing economy during this five-year plan, up to 10% of the national GDP in 2020. Based on this strong, proactive support by the Chinese government, many sharing businesses have become gigantic leading companies through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) with other sharing companies, with no doubt about the future of this explosive trend in the sharing economy, especially in the bike-sharing industry [7
From the Chinese government perspective, a much more important mission of the successful bike-sharing industry could be its consideration as an ideal business model for a communist society. Thus, it is strongly supported by diverse incentives, deregulation of the industry, and much more investment by the government. There are several reasons for the success of the sharing economy in China. First, Chinese consumers are ready to use cashless payment systems by phone, and this smart mobility has offered users easy and convenient access to the sharing economy industries. Second, Chinese consumers are early adapters of the sharing economy due to the high penetration rate of smartphone payment systems. More than 51.5% of consumers have already used sharing services to enhance their quality of life [8
]. Third, the strong support by the Chinese government means it is very likely for the sharing economy businesses to receive more investment in the future. Fourth, the young generation in China is more accustomed to this new type of sharing businesses due to its convenience and easy access at a very reasonable cost.
However, the bubble of the sharing economy could burst, if the too high expectations from it are not met, with many serious environmental, social, and industrial legacy system problems. Garrett (1968) argued there is a conflict between individual interests and shared resources, known as the tragedy of commons [4
], which comes from the lack of partnership among all the participants of the sharing economy. Owing to the lack of voluntary participation by the users to maintain this sharing economy, at present, thousands of malfunctioning bicycles are collected every morning nationwide in China by trucks, implying that there some missing links for the sustainable management of this type of sharing economy. As shown in Figure 1
, 46.8% of Chinese consumers are experiencing convenience in their life through the sharing economy, while 29.8% are benefiting through savings (economy) in consumption [9
]. Nonetheless, 27.7% of consumers complained about the accidents due to the low morality of other consumers, and 25.5% are worried about the privacy and security issues of the sharing economy. In particular, 17% of consumers pointed out the importance of appropriate legal measures by the government, and another 14.4% asked for enhanced control and monitoring by the government, implying that ‘the tragedy of commons’ phenomena occurs in the sharing economy of China, and consequently, a strong, appropriate ‘participation’ by the government should be accompanied with an ideal public-private partnership (PPP) in the sharing economy.
Therefore, a smooth and soft transition management path toward the sustainable sharing economy has become one of the critical challenges facing the Chinese government, as it could be one of the symbols used to lead the global economy by an ideal communist economy. Similar to Didi chuxing, a car-sharing company, the bike-sharing industry has been one of the hotspots in the Chinese economy. However, owing to the lack of social trust in the bike-sharing industry, there exists serious doubt about the sustainable governance of this industry. Here, we define governance as the workable mechanism of sustainable performance. From the governance perspective, is this type of sharing economy really feasible in a sustainable manner? The objective of this paper is to find out an appropriate answer for this research question. Thus, this paper evaluates the bike-sharing industry in terms of sustainable governance in the future and identifies the sustainable governance factors. For this research purpose, we examine the participating users of shared bicycles in terms of the causal relationship between the perceived values and risks and the willingness for continuous use of the bike-sharing services.
This paper contributes to the literature as follows. First, our research integrates all the marketing theories on customer satisfaction, especially from sustainable management perspectives, thus identifying more systematic, integrated determinants of the sharing economy in the bike-sharing industry. Since the sustainable management factors of the sharing economy are barely examined in the previous studies, our study offers illuminating insights into the bike-sharing services, the corporations, and the cooperating partners establishing good governance for sustainable management in the sharing economy networks. Second, our research data are based on diverse nationwide major cities by internet respondents who are much more familiar with using sharing systems through information technology (IT) applications. Since they are in general early adapters of new technologies and/or business services, our paper identifies the future challenges facing the sharing economy in China. Third, our paper emphasizes the role of the Chinese government because the sharing economy could be one of the best strategies for China to lead the global economy under its different social and economic system. China has already begun its differentiated strategies on the global economy by focusing on ecological civilization as the national goal of the 21st century. When the United States (US) decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, the Chinese government held its strong position to promote an environment-friendly green growth strategy. The sharing economy could be another ideal national strategy that helps China lead the global economy. Therefore, our paper evaluates the future of the Chinese economy during its transition toward the sharing economy, which is strongly supported by the Chinese government, in terms of feasibility of the bike-sharing industry.
The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2
reviews the related literature with respect to the sharing economy, focusing on the bike-sharing industry in China. Section 3
develops the variables and hypotheses. Section 4
presents the research method and data. Section 5
demonstrates the empirical results. Section 5
summarizes the conclusions and offers insightful policy suggestions.
5. Empirical Results
5.1. Structural Model Result and its Implication
The result of the path analysis based on the SEM in Figure 2
is shown in Figure 3
, with the perceived rational and emotional values, perceived risk and externalities being used as four independent variables, while the sustainable management economic and environmental variables and the resulting satisfaction variables used as the modulating variables for the final output variable of continuous use intention. Based on the 95% level of statistical significance, all the lines show the accepted causal relationships, while the dotted lines show the rejected variables. First, for the sustainable management economic factors, only the externality variable is accepted, with all other three hypotheses on the perceived rational and emotional values, and perceived risk rejected.
Second, only the perceived emotional values are found to have a statistically significant and positive effect on the sustainable management environmental factors, while all other three characteristics of the bike-sharing service are rejected. Third, all four hypotheses (H3-1~3) on the service characteristics of bike sharing are accepted, implying that externalities, perceived rational and emotional values are positively related with the user’s satisfaction, while the perceived risk is negatively associated with the satisfaction of the user. In particular, the perceived rational values showed the largest coefficients, implying that the economic and convenient reasons have the greatest impact on satisfaction. The estimated coefficient of the perceived risk is also −3.064, much larger compared to the other coefficients, implying that the users are very sensitive to the safety of the bike-sharing service and the privacy of the user’s information.
Fourth, H4 is rejected, indicating a strong relationship between sustainable management economic factors and user’s satisfaction. It is critical that the users may not be concerned about the sustainable management economic activities of the service-providing companies, and/or that the bike-sharing companies have failed in transferring their efforts to emphasize the sustainable management activities. Since the bike-sharing service is based on the premises of being environment-friendly, providing healthy exercises for all community, the rejection of H4 implies that the bike-sharing companies should put in more efforts to make the users more sensitive to sustainable management activities. For example, if the bike-sharing companies offer incentives or value sharing to the users, they will promote sustainable management economic activities and result in a much better performance in terms of higher satisfaction of the users. Additionally, H5 is accepted, implying that there is a strong, positive relationship between sustainable management economic and environmental activities. This result supports the implications of H4 that all users understand the bike-sharing system is environmentally friendly, leading to a strong viability of sustainable management. Moreover, H6 is accepted, implying that sustainable management environmental activities of bike-sharing companies result in a better satisfaction of the users. Recently, most bike-sharing companies have begun to promote much diverse environment-friendly activities to bring about more participation by the community members. By verifying H6, we confirm the effectiveness of this new trend of environment-friendly campaigns by the Chinese bike-sharing companies in the sustainable governance of the sharing economy.
Fifth, among the three modulating hypotheses, sustainable management economic values (H8) and user’s satisfaction (H7) are shown to have statistically significant and positive relationship with the continuous use intention, while the hypothesis that sustainable management environmental values have a positive effect on continuous use intention (H9) is rejected. It implies that the traditional approach to the continuous use intention by the user’s satisfaction as well as the sustainable management values is supported, while the current sustainable management of environmental activities is not significantly perceived by the users, resulting in the rejection of H9. As mentioned above, the bike-sharing companies should put in more consistent efforts to make the users more sensitive to their decisions on the continuous use intention (H9).
5.2. Modulating Effects and Its Implication
To evaluate the statistical significance of the modulating effect, the AMOS bootstrapping simulation method is used. Using 5000 times of iteration of the bootstrapping method, we obtain reliable statistical results as shown in Table 6
. First, the modulating effect of the user’s satisfaction on the continuous use intention by all the four inputs of PRV (0.304), PEV (0.298), PR (−0.156) and EXT (0.263) as well as the other indirect variable of sustainable management environmental factors (0.284) is shown to be statistically significant. Second, the modulating effect of the sustainable management economic factors on sustainable management environmental factors (0.252) is shown to be statistically significant. Moreover, the modulating effect of the sustainable management environmental factors on the user’s satisfaction by PEV (0.126) and ECON (0.134) is shown to be statistically significant as well. All these indirect effects by the modulators indicate that our selected modulators of sustainable management (ECON, Envi) and user’s satisfaction (SAT) have statistically significant effects on the continuous use intention. It implies that the new norm of environment-friendly activities promoted by the sustainable management of the bike-sharing companies has contributed significantly to the impact of sustainable governance on the continuous user’s intention [10
In addition, perceived risk is found to be significant only with the modulator of user’s satisfaction, implying that even if the users are sensitive to sustainable management with respect to the safe and consistent conditions to use bikes, most bikes are not suitable to be reused, resulting in the distrust of the service management with the lack of governance as a perceived risk. Thus, it is very crucial for the Chinese government to regulate the bike-sharing industry by imposing appropriate measures for users to safely participate in the sharing economy. The bike-sharing service, at present, in China is a dockless free style of management, resulting in the reckless and irresponsible deployment of bikes after its use. Some of those end up in private territories and/or untraceable areas such as riversides or mountain areas. When a user wants to use a shared bike, it might not be easy to find one due to the reckless return of the bikes by other users, resulting in the distrust of the sharing economy. Therefore, the bike-sharing companies as well as the Chinese government should put in more efforts to promote the voluntary participation of users to improve the service without any perceived risks.
6. Conclusions and Policy Implications
Socialist countries, such as China, have emphasized the importance of an equitable society where citizens work together, and thus, the basic paradigm of sharing economy might be one of the best directions for the Chinese government. In 2016, Xi Jinping, the leader of China, announced a new paradigm of “Ecological Civilization” for China, indicating that the Chinese dream of being the leader of the global economy should begin with the economic transformation, as a trendsetter, to sustainable development, harmonizing all the interests of the Chinese people for achieving a better quality of life. Evidently, the sharing economy, represented by the bike-sharing industry, could be one of the exemplary business cases for this Chinese dream.
After the initial stage of bursting bubbles in the bike-sharing industry in 2016, the Chinese government allowed M&A across other industries of the sharing economy. Owing to these appropriate measures, many bike-sharing companies have been integrated for achieving a better performance. Moreover, some bike-sharing companies began to emphasize innovation in the sharing economy using more user-friendly approaches. For example, the Mobike company began to provide new services such as reports on CO2 abatement volumes by each shared bike and the number of burned calories from the bike-sharing exercise. Many innovations ware introduced by newspapers and netizen groups to promote the bike-sharing systems, including mileage programs based on reused hours and frequencies and coupons that can to be used in neighboring shops.
All these efforts by the companies and government facilitated the transition from the trial and error phase for the bike-sharing industry. As shown in the empirical results of our study, there is an important role of the modulators in promoting the bike-sharing industry. We can summarize our findings as follows.
First, the role of perceived rational values such as the easiness to use and the saving of the moving time could promote the bike-sharing industry at best [21
]. Thus, an appropriate deployment of the shared bikes in the congested metropolitan areas should be well managed in a smart way. In particular, the rational values are strongly interrelated with the sustainable management factors, and thus, the bike-sharing companies should put in more diverse efforts to develop one-source multi-use types of innovation for the sharing service. They may provide other practical benefits such as coupons for the nearest shops, social benefits such as the reports on CO2 emission abatement volumes for each round of bike sharing, and the functions that enhances the quality of life such as mileage contribution from bike sharing for disabled persons.
Second, transparent business management is required for accountability in the user community [22
]. At the initial stage, there were numerous deposits from the new users of the bike-sharing service, and many companies did not know how to use it, resulting in a huge loss coming from the moral hazard regarding the deposits of members. Even if the Chinese government did not allow this type of initiation cost any more, a company should ensure more efficient, transparent business management because, in the sharing economy, all revenues from the users should be used for all interest groups, not just the stockholders.
Third, in a socialist country such as China, the Chinese government should eliminate “the over-supply issues”. All the idle bikes should be redistributed, and appropriate competition structure should be maintained based on the licensing system, regulations, and promoting policies. From the empirical results, even if the rational values are critical to the continuous use intention, the emotional values and other externalities have a much stronger effect on sustainable management, implying that the partnership with users is a cornerstone for future sustainable governance. Therefore, the Chinese government should work with private bike-sharing companies to build a better public-private partnership (PPP), since the sharing economy should be based on the harmonization of all interest groups to create value.
Since there are many rejected variables, this paper could have some limitations with respect to the deterministic evaluation of the governance factors. Thus, it may need more precise articulation of the variables and hypotheses with the participation of more respondents to the survey.