Chinese Plates Only For The Rich
The Shanghai transport authority would appear to be demonstrating excellent 'green' credentials by not only running a highly efficient public transport system but also by strictly limiting the number of cars it has on its roads.
However, it does this by issuing a fixed number of vehicle registrations each month and selling them at auction to the highest bidders.
Ten years ago, just 1000 plates were released each month. But the figure has risen steadily and 6000 were offered for sale in February this year.
Prices have risen too. The largest sum amount paid do far was equal to about £5600 although on average, Shanghai motorists can expect to pay around £2500 for the privilege.
Given these restrictions, it is not, perhaps surprising that there are relatively few cars on the roads, compared to Beijing, which, although similar in terms of population and wealth, has six times the number of registered vehicles.
The result of the auction system is of course that licence plate acquisition - and, therefore by definition, legal car ownership - is restricted to the wealthy. This prompts the less well-off to buy their vehicles from neighbouring provinces instead - a practice that goes some way to defeating the best intentions of the licensing practice.
There is considerable pressure on the Shanghai authorities to abandon the auction system and Assistant Commerce Minister Huang Hai claims that the system violates statutory legislation and damages car sales. "The car is a commodity that a modern society can't be short of," he said.
But the director of the Shanghai Urban Construction and Transportation Commission, Huang Rong has been quoted as saying that the plate auction will cease only as the city improves its public transport system. And Professor Chen Xiaohong of the Tongi University is adamant that "the priority is definitely public transport - and there is no other choice."
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