Thrown under the bus and outrunning it! The logic of Didi and taxi drivers’ labour and activism in the on-demand economy

This article examines how taxi drivers adapt to, manipulate and fight against the rise of ride-hailing platforms like Didi Chuxing in China (which purchased Uber China). Chinese taxi drivers entered the on-demand labour platforms before private car drivers. Based on a nationwide data survey, the article argues that the technological power of Didi took shape by reinforcing inequalities facing informally employed taxi drivers prior to the emergence of ride-hailing apps. Drivers, far from being passive app users, have counteracted the changes in the work environment that resulted from platformisation in new and evolving ways, from strikes to algorithmic activism. This study suggests that online platforms are contested spaces where digital labour politics penetrate beyond the purported algorithmic power of the technology. The article enriches research on on-demand labour by deconstructing the distinction between taxi drivers and private gig drivers and by pointing to the unfolding new grounds for digital labour activism.

Chen, J. (2017), 'Thrown under the bus and outrunning it! The logic of Didi and taxi drivers' labour and activism in the on-demand economy,' New Media and Society online.


  • Research publication, Case study-worker
  • China
  • Yes
  • transport
  • On-location platform-determined routine work
  • Didi
  • representation, industrial relations, social dialogue, industrial action, algorithm
  • English
  • New Media & Society (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2017
  • Subscription
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