Dockless bikeshares in Europe predated the arrival of Chinese companies like Ofo and Mobike, at least in Berlin, but it was a recent trip in Shenzhen and Beijing that I saw their potential at scale. I am used to seeing Chinese tech phenomena remain just that, ie, limited to China. But the near omnipresence of these bikes in major cities — I documented them in Paris, Rome, Florence, Lyon, Berlin — seems to all be due to Chinese companies. (To be clear, not all the bikes in this post are from Chinese companies.)
Add to this the rise in Huawei phone usage in Europe and general popularity of DJI drones, and there’s a larger story at play: Chinese tech companies are starting to globalize like American ones, with top down branding and market saturation techniques in the global north. Selfie sticks, hoverboards and fidget spinners are bottom-up precursors in this regard. We should expect to see more of this, through both top-down and bottom-up methods. As Jan Chipchase has noted, the global creative center of gravity is shifting. Here are the signs.
There’s an environmental critique to be made about/against these bikes, but I’ve not seen convincing evidence that they’re any worse than the environmental impact of cars, airplanes and smartphones. This is not to say that environmental issues are not important, but the selectivity of this critique deserves examining.