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共享单车“独角兽”和一座小镇的生与死

How China’s ‘Unicorns’ Shook a Bicycle Town

艾莎, CAO LI
王庆坨的一处共享单车墓地。这个镇子受益于Ofo和摩拜等共享单车企业的繁荣,但现在到处都是丢弃的自行车。
王庆坨的一处共享单车墓地。这个镇子受益于Ofo和摩拜等共享单车企业的繁荣,但现在到处都是丢弃的自行车。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
WANGQINGTUO, China — This farm grows bikes, by the looks of it. Hundreds of blue and mint-green bicycles stand in rows on this field in Wangqingtuo, the small community that calls itself “bicycle town.” Only the occasional caretaker and a pen of bleating goats watch over them as they rust.
中国王庆坨——这片农田看样子是种自行车的。上百辆蓝色和薄荷绿色的自行车成排码放在自称“自行车镇”的王庆坨的这片土地上。车正在生锈,只有偶尔的看管者和围栏里一群咩咩叫的山羊在照管它们。
Just a year ago, global investors were throwing money at Chinese companies that rented those bicycles to consumers. Bicycle start-ups became “unicorns,” or new companies worth more than $1 billion. This town, home to factories that made many of the bikes, prospered.
仅一年前,全球的投资者还在大笔投资中国向消费者出租自行车的公司。共享单车初创企业成了“独角兽”,即估值超过10亿美元的新公司。这个小镇一度很繁荣,有许多制造这种单车的工厂。
Now the boom has become China’s latest investment bust. Too many bikes litter the streets of Chinese cities. Some start-ups hit financial trouble. Wangqingtuo now has closed factories, a work force that’s leaving and too many bikes.
如今,这股热潮已成为中国最新的投资泡沫。太多的共享单车扔在中国城市的街头。一些初创企业陷入了财务困境。王庆坨现在有的是关门的工厂、正在离开的工人,以及过多的自行车。
“They came very quickly,” Ye Rongqing, who runs a business in town painting bicycle frames, said of the start-ups, “and they left very quickly.”
“他们来的很快,”叶荣清在王庆坨经营着一家做自行车烤漆的厂,“去的也很快。”
王庆坨现在有的是关门的工厂、正在离开的工人,以及过多的自行车。
王庆坨现在有的是关门的工厂、正在离开的工人,以及过多的自行车。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
Booms and busts punctuate the Chinese internet scene in a way that even Silicon Valley would see as extreme. From shopping to ride sharing to bike sharing and even truck sharing, deep-pocketed investors have turned new businesses into billion-dollar companies in a matter of months. Last year, China minted a new unicorn roughly every four days, according to Hurun, a research firm in Shanghai.
中国互联网行业不时出现的大起大落,就连硅谷都会在某种程度上视之为极端。从购物拼车,再到共享单车甚至共享卡车,财力雄厚的投资者在短短几个月里就把新企业变成了估值高达数十亿美元的公司。据上海的研究公司胡润的数据,去年,中国大约每四天就造就一个新的独角兽公司。
“You had investors that were after the next big thing or afraid of missing it,” said Dan Wang, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm.
“有些投资者是在追逐或担心错过下一个大事件,”研究公司佳富龙洲(Gavekal Dragonomics)分析师汪丹(Dan Wang)说。

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Then many collapsed. While thriving new industries are created and many investors profit, the flameouts still take a toll. Small investors and suppliers can be wiped out. Customers lose money or start paying higher prices. Workers lose jobs.
许多这样的企业后来都垮了。虽然开创了新产业,而且不少投资者从中获得了利益,但仍带来恶果。小投资者和供应商可能血本无归。顾客赔钱,或开始支付更高的价格。工人失去工作。
Bike-sharing swept through Chinese cities over three short years, giving millions of commuters a way to get from the subway stop to the office. Today there are more than 23 million of these bikes on the streets of major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, according to the firm iiMedia Research.
在短短三年的时间里,共享单车席卷了中国的城市,为数百万上班族提供了一个从地铁站到办公室的交通工具。据艾媒咨询(iiMedia Research)的数据,如今,在北京和上海等中国主要城市的街道上,有逾2300万辆这种自行车。
Unlike bikes with sharing services in New York and other places, Chinese bikes didn’t need to be parked in a dock. Instead, each bike had its own lock that could be unfastened with a smartphone app. Politicians trying to tackle nasty pollution and urban congestion problems found them especially appealing.
与纽约和其他地方的共享单车服务不同,中国的自行车不需要锁在固定的桩子上。每辆自行车都自带可以通过智能手机上的应用程序打开的锁。为解决严重污染和城市拥堵问题伤脑筋的政客们认为共享单车特别有吸引力。
王庆坨一家自行车车架厂的生产线。
王庆坨一家自行车车架厂的生产线。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
Billions of dollars in venture capital money flooded in, creating opportunities for other entrepreneurs to copy. Soon there were too many bikes. Instead of consolidating, more start-ups cropped up. The start-ups, focused on growth, charged riders little or nothing. Mobike, one of the companies, still charges around 20 cents for a 30-minute ride.
数十亿美元的风险资本涌入这个行业,为其他企业家创造了复制成功的机会。很快就有了太多的共享单车。更多的初创企业涌现出来,而不是进行整合。初创企业将注意力集中在增长上,向用户收取极低的费用,甚至不收费。其中的摩拜单车骑行30分钟现在收费1.5元。
“Even the companies that grew so big still haven’t figured out how to make money,” said Fu Yifu, a researcher with Suning Financial Research Institute, an organization attached to a Chinese internet finance company.
“即便做的这么大,怎么样盈利还是没有成为现实,”付一夫说,他是一家中国互联网金融机构下属的苏宁金融研究院的研究员。
Bikes in every color of the rainbow were made in Wangqingtuo and shipped to cities near and far. Yellow bikes became synonymous with Ofo, orange bikes with Mobike, blue with Bluegogo.
王庆坨制造的自行车五颜六色,它们被运往远近的城市。黄色等同于Ofo,橙色等同于摩拜,蓝色等同于小蓝单车(Bluegogo)。
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Wangqingtuo, which began putting together two-wheeled rides in the 1970s, became a bicycle hub during China’s economic rise, the way other places became centers for making lighters or zippers. A sign at the town entrance proclaims, “China’s bicycle industrial base: Wangqingtuo welcomes you.” It suffered as increasingly affluent Chinese turned to cars and scooters, and it turned to making bicycles for other countries.
王庆坨从20世纪70年代开始组装两轮自行车,在中国经济崛起中成为一个自行车制造中心,就像其他地方成为打火机或拉链制造中心一样。镇外的一块牌子上写着“中国自行车产业基地王庆坨欢迎您”的字样。随着越来越富裕的中国人转向汽车和小型摩托车,王庆坨受到了冲击,开始为其他国家生产自行车。
Then the bike-sharing boom hit. The Shanghai Phoenix Bicycle factory in town took on so many orders for Ofo’s bright yellow and black bikes that by 2017 it was churning out 10,000 bikes a day, according to Gao Yuntian, an employee from Shanghai. Most, he said, were for Ofo.
后来出现了共享单车热潮。据镇子里的上海凤凰自行车厂员工、来自上海的高云天说,工厂接到的Ofo鲜黄色和黑色自行车的订单如此之多,到2017年时,工厂的日产量达到了一万辆。他说,大多数自行车是为Ofo生产的。
Then money slowed.
再后来,钱的速度放慢了。
Ofo “had ordered so much that they started to have problems with a cash squeeze,” Mr. Gao said. “Then they paid us less and less.”
Ofo“出货量那么大,资金周转有问题,”高云天说,“给我们付的款越来越少。”
Ofo, which has faced a flood of demands from customers who want their deposits back, says it has been hit by industrywide problems. “Under such circumstances, Ofo is one of the few companies in the industry that still strives to survive on its own,” Scarlett Zhao, a spokeswoman for Ofo, wrote in an email.
Ofo还面临着大量顾客要求退还押金的问题,公司说,企业受到了整个行业问题的冲击。“在这种情况下,Ofo是业内少数几家仍在努力靠自己生存的公司之一,”公司发言人赵彤在电子邮件中写道。
王庆坨在共享单车热潮期间新修建的公寓,目前空置着。
王庆坨在共享单车热潮期间新修建的公寓,目前空置着。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
Fan Duan, who moved to Wangqingtuo in 2014 to lead the sales department of a bike company, had his own run-in with Ofo. Leigesasi, Mr. Fan’s company, began making Ofo bikes in early 2016. But soon Ofo got big and wanted more.
在一家自行车厂担任销售部门领导的樊端是2014年搬到王庆坨来的,也有过与Ofo闹翻的经历。他所在的雷格萨斯自行车厂从2016年初开始为Ofo生产自行车。但Ofo很快变大后,开始提出更多的要求。
“They started to demand deliver first and pay later. We stopped manufacturing for Ofo,” Mr. Fan said.
“要赊账我们就没有再做了,”樊端说。
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By 2017, things started to go wrong. Factories were making so many bikes that there was a surplus. Some start-ups could no longer pay for their orders.
2017年,问题开始出现了。镇里的工厂生产了太多的自行车,产量过剩了。一些初创企业已无力为它们的订单付款。
Bluegogo, China’s third-largest bike-share company, went bankrupt in November 2017. A year later, Ofo suddenly faced mounting financial pressures. Its founder was placed on a government blacklist for a growing pile of unpaid bills. Riders lined up to collect their $15 to $30 in deposits each.
中国第三大共享单车公司小蓝单车在2017年11月宣布破产。一年后,Ofo突然面临越来越大的财务压力。这家公司的创始人由于欠下的账越来越多,被政府列入了黑名单。顾客们为拿回他们的99元或199元的押金,在公司总部排起了长队。
Ofo will “be responsible to our users and responsible for every debt,” Ms. Zhao wrote.
Ofo将“对我们的用户负责,对每一笔债务负责”,赵彤写道。
Many factories in Wangqingtuo were forced to sell their bikes at big discounts, according to Mr. Ye, who runs the frame-painting business. It set off a domino effect. Bike suppliers tried to sell unwanted orders of bicycles, finding limited success because the specifications were often particular to a company’s design.
据从事自行车烤漆生意的叶荣清说,王庆坨的许多工厂被迫以大打折扣的价格出售自行车。这就引发了多米诺骨牌效应。自行车供应商试图出售没人要的自行车订货,但买家有限,因为自行车通常是按某个公司的设计专门制造的。
From there, the town’s bike factories had little chance of recovering. “To put it in one sentence,” said Zhang Yi, chief analyst at iiMedia Research, “it really messed up the bike factories.”
镇子里的自行车工厂从这些问题中恢复过来的机会很小。“一句话:把自行车厂家给害惨了,”艾媒咨询首席分析师张毅说。
Today, parts of Wangqingtuo look like a ghost town. Many factories are locked tight, and the signs that once showed their names and specialties have been removed. Storefronts stand empty on the street where many of the bike factories used to run shops. A stack of bicycle wheels sits beside a storefront. Nearby, someone has piled unwanted bicycle forks in a haphazard row.
王庆坨的一些地方如今看起来像鬼城。许多工厂的大门紧锁,门上曾经展示工厂名字和经营范围的标志已被取了下来。在许多自行车工厂从前经营过商店的那条街上,店面都是空的。自行车轮子堆在一个店面旁边。不远的地方,不知什么人把没人要的自行车前叉杂乱无序地堆成一排。
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“I am going back home for Chinese New Year,” read a sign written on the metal garage door of one empty factory. “Will restart on the 18th of Chinese New Year,” it said, referring to Feb. 22. More than a month later, the person had yet to return.
“即日起回家过年,”一家无人工厂铁门上的通知写道。“正月十八开门营业。”通知指的是公历2月22日。一个多月已经过去,那个人还没有回来。
The bicycle manufacturer Tianjin Fuji-ta Group managed to stay in business. When its factory started working with bike-sharing start-ups like Ofo and Hello Bike in late 2016, it took around 400,000 orders. The next year, that number jumped to eight million.
自行车制造商天津富士达集团设法维持着运营。集团下属的工厂2016年底开始与Ofo和哈罗单车等共享单车初创企业合作时,接到了约40万份订单。第二年,订单数跃升至800万份。
许多工厂不得不以很大的折扣销售自行车。
许多工厂不得不以很大的折扣销售自行车。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
The orders have since halved again, but Fuji-ta is still working with start-ups that survived the industry culling.
虽然目前的订单比以前减少了一半,但富士达仍在与那些在行业淘汰中幸存下来的初创企业合作。
Some in town are still looking for the silver lining. In recent months, Mobike and Bluegogo, which Didi took over last year, have raised prices.
镇里有些人仍在黑暗中寻找一线光明。去年被滴滴收购的摩拜和小蓝单车都在最近几个月里提高了价格。
“This is in order to go back to market prices,” said Mr. Zhang, who believes that this could mean “a second spring” for sharing bikes.
“这是恢复市场价格,”张毅说,他认为这可能意味着共享单车的“第二春”。
Fang Hui, a 25-year-old from Wangqingtuo who makes bikes and sells them online, recently bought hundreds of yellow Ofo bike frames. On a recent visit, they were stacked in a pile on the floor of his makeshift factory. He paid just over $2 for each one, and he said he planned to find a way to put them to use.
来自王庆坨的方辉(音)现年25岁,他制作自行车并在网上销售。最近,他购买了数百个黄色的Ofo车架。在不久前的采访中,记者在他临时当工厂用的地方看到了这些堆在地上的车架。它们是他15元一个买来的,他说他计划找到把它们派上用场的办法。
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Mr. Fang recalled how much his hometown had changed in the past few years. During the boom, delivery trucks caused daily traffic jams, he said, and factories couldn’t get enough workers.
方辉回忆起老家在过去几年里发生的巨大变化。他说,繁荣的时候,送货卡车曾多到每天都造成交通堵塞的程度,工厂招不到足够的工人。
“Before, there were many people coming from outside this town to work here,” Mr. Fang said, adding, “We seldom see anyone from outside anymore.”
“以前有很多都是别的地区的人来干活儿,”方辉说。“这两年很少了,很少有外来的人。”

艾莎(Alexandra Stevenson)是时报驻香港商业记者,报道中国企业巨头、跨国公司以及中国在亚洲日益增长的经济和金融影响力。欢迎在TwitterFacebook上关注她。

翻译:Cindy Hao

点击查看本文英文版。

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Summary | 6 Annotations
This farm grows bikes, by the looks of it. Hundreds of blue and mint-green bicycles stand in rows on this field in Wangqingtuo, the small community that calls itself “bicycle town
2019/04/30 01:02
如今,这股热潮已成为中国最新的投资泡沫。太多的共享单车扔在中国城市的街头。
2019/04/30 01:05
与纽约和其他地方的共享单车服务不同,中国的自行车不需要锁在固定的桩子上。每辆自行车都自带可以通过智能手机上的应用程序打开的锁。为解决严重污染和城市拥堵问题伤脑筋的政客们认为共享单车特别有吸引力
2019/04/30 01:05
Bike-sharing swept through Chinese cities over three short years, giving millions of commuters a way to get from the subway stop to the office. Today there are more than 23 million of these bikes on the streets of major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai,
2019/04/30 01:06
王庆坨的一些地方如今看起来像鬼城。许多工厂的大门紧锁,门上曾经展示工厂名字和经营范围的标志已被取了下来
2019/04/30 01:06
Today, parts of Wangqingtuo look like a ghost town. Many factories are locked tight, and the signs that once showed their names and specialties have been removed.
2019/04/30 01:07