Six reasons not to buy a car in Beijing

by Chai Jing (柴静) on her Sina blog:

Chai Jing is a CCTV journalist and TV show host. She is the currently the host of CCTV program “face to face” and “24 hrs”.



As soon as I got into a taxi, the taxi driver looked at where I got in and started to chat with me, “going dancing?”

“No” I didn’t care to talk to him.

He was making conversations “You know the first disco club in Beijing was JJ, at that time I was dancing the Korean xx”

He used a very professional term, I did not understand and glanced at him – an over 30-year-old big fat man?

He understood my look, “When JJ was the hottest I was the most popular male dancer there.”

“What kind of dancing do you do?” I finally had the interest to ask questions.

“Pole dancing”

I tilted my head and looked at him carefully, his stomach pushed against the stirring wheel.

“Really, I was the reddest (means the most popular). I tell you my name you can go ask around… my wife was a student at Beijing International Studies University at the time, sat in the front row and watched me dance, then bought me a coke…” He was immersed in the past memories.

“Then how do you become like this after?”

“My wife said,” he said seriously, “must not dance for other women.”

“Do you still dance now?” I looked at him, all two hundred pond of him.

“Now Aunt Song in my residential community formed a ballroom dance team, calls me every night, ‘Liu why aren’t you here yet? We cannot dance if you don’t come.’” He said satisfyingly.


This taxi driver’s qualities looked different than others, wearing a blue jacket, looked like a department leader.

The atmosphere was also different from other taxis, in front of his seat, there were two portrait photos of two little girls, one younger and the other older.

“My daughters” he said.

“How can you have two kids?”

“I was the section chief of the Power Department ten years ago” he even carried his identification “my salary was over three thousand so…”

He was immersed in the past memories.

“You still didn’t tell me how you could have two kids?”

“I loved life at the time, went out drinking every night for ‘social obligations’, and went home at two three in the morning…”

He stopped and did not continue, looked like more than just drinking – also other things.

“Your wife didn’t care?”

“She was a lawyer, didn’t cry or make trouble. But one day, I drank till past 2 am and went home, she sat on the edge of the bed and said to me, ‘I am pregnant, four month, today I already found the Party Secretary at your work and told him that we have decided to have a 2nd child, your work is going to fire you tomorrow. I bought a car for you; you can leave with your taxi.”

He had a complicated expression, “See how harsh she was. Just like that, I drove taxi for ten years, and still working the night shifts every day.”


This taxi driver was from Shanxi, grew up in Jincheng village. There were only 9 people ever went outside of the village in the last twenty years, “When I was 15 I decided to become the tenth.”

50 miles out, he carried bricks for a year, damaged his skins and made two thousand yuan.

Village Minister of the Armed Department sent him off, the man patted his shoulder and side, “good kid.”

Then he was pulled to Beijing to join the military, stood in front of the former Soviet embassy as a guard.

Once the Ambassador’s daughter saw him, she hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. He was nervously shaking, and then spoke into his walkie-talkie, “Reporting, I was kissed.”

The radio went silent for two seconds and said “Maintain soldier’s bearings!”

Then someone sent over a white towel.

He was actually related to JJ as well. When it was the most popular club he was rented as the security guard.

He was immersed in past memories, “During our time… we were so slick, wearing a black suit, in front of the club were the most beautiful girls in the whole Beijing…”

He was excited and directly drove the car into Parkson mall underground parking despite that I asked him not to. He parked the car in a fixed parking space and said “I will wait for you here until you finish shopping then take you back.” An old man came up to us and said he was not allowed to park there, he put on a pair sun glasses and said “XXX department, on a mission”.

The old men twitched his mouth, wanted to say something but did not and left.

He turned around and said to me “See? Going into unavoidable confrontation, the brave one wins.”


One day I was not happy, got into the car and did not say a word. The taxi driver didn’t even look at me, he drew out his words “girl, life is just eight characters, happiness, anger, grief, joy, depression and worry, (last two words have two character each) ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’ are only two characters out of the eight, see through it then everything is ok.”


One of the buddies on Bullog is a foreigner, he took a taxi in Beijing.

“Where are you from? … Oh United States, United States is a good place.” The taxi driver said.

Then two of them talked about George W. Bush, Iraq war, military-industrial synthesis and so on.

The taxi driver said “Oh, you are an idealist!”

They chatted about the political differences between United States and China, then the taxi driver changed subject, asked him if he studied ancient Chinese philosophy. He said that he never learned anything other than Zhuangzi.

“Zhuangzi is good, but if you really want to know politics, you have to read “Guanzi”. The things it talks about are still useful today: administer a country must enrich its people first …”

Then two men talked about ancient Egypt, Beijing’s job market, human nature. When approaching Wudaokou, the driver asked a common question, “Where is your home in the States?”

He answered while getting out of the car, “Philadelphia”.

“Philadelphia! Franklin! He is a character!” The driver signed, then stepped on the gas peddle and disappeared in the night.


When I got into the car, I saw the taxi driver was uneasy.

After a while he could not hold back anymore and asked me “Can I smoke?”

I do not like the smell of cigarettes, but I glanced at him, a humble man, looked like has been holding for a while. I rolled down the window, nodded my head “go ahead”.

He awkwardly took out a cigarette box, then put it back.

“You go ahead, smoke”

He was embarrassed. “Forget it, forget it.”

“Then give me one” I said.

Summer’s coming, we both rolled down our windows, both spoke no words, each holding a Zhongnanhai (cigarette), both put one hand out of the window, satisfyingly moving on the Chang’an Avenue in the evening wind.

  1. I wish the taxis drivers would be less curious and mouthy. Shut the fuck up and drive. But all taxis drivers all over world are like that. There is a show on cable in the US that re-affirms cab divers and their profession. Gotta have something to fill your 14 hour day of cruising around.

  2. So… somewhere between NYC, SF, and Vegas – according to this lot. Could have been worse – could have been involved in a P.R. Chinese version of the “Cash Cab”.

  3. Wonderfull , it is great to hear the stories , beside the fact that you can always get a cab in Beijing , it is a total time waste to sit in your own car , and think about the cue and your own life if you can sit in a taxi , and think about the drivers life.

  4. I can counter with “Six reasons to buy a car in Shenyang.” The drivers here are appalling. You’re more likely to get into an argument over their attitude and lack of direction than share a touching moment together.

  5. eh, the taxis here normally have good drivers and you can learn a lot from them. but personally i prefer to drive myself… it’s really not all that bad as far as traffic goes once you get used to it

  6. “One of the buddies on Bullog is a foreigner, he took a taxi in Beijing.”

    should be bokane, he had a blog posting about a likely identical conversation.

  7. I agree with b-real.

    Taxi drivers are shit. They’re always asking questions about things that are none of their business.

    Once a driver asked me to sit in the front so he could hold my hand. I don’t know why he said that. I immediately got out of the taxi. This has happened to me several times.

    Taxi drivers are too pushy.

  8. I am so confused by these reasons not to buy a car in beijing…
    Looked more like 6 reasons to spend a small fortune to purchase your very own 二手的 Alto..

    @ Kai~ it’s cuz you cute ~

  9. A lot of taxi driver in China are well educated, hearing their point of views in life can really enlighten us! There’s no better way to interact with strangers in China than taxi drives since the culture here is not to talk to strangers. I like chatting with strangers but most of the time the other person think you want something from them or even worse trying to con them…

  10. A cab driver once shooed me out of his taxi for “being japanese”.

    I´m manchurian.

    It was in Harbin.


  11. Sorry – did I miss something here? The title of the article was the reasons not to buy a car, however, your story although very interesting does not give me the answers. I was appalled to see that cab drivers can still smoke with a passenger in their car – yuck. I’m not sure if I will be taking a taxi anytime soon when I visit China again.
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  12. Thank you so much for sharing this insightful article. I was born in Beijing and I totally understand how difficult is it to purchase and own a vehecle in big city like Beijing. There are always traffic jams during peak hours and car accidents happen almost everyday

  13. Beijing is a very ancient and traditional city. As you can see in those pictures within the article, they used a lot of wood material and structure when building the temple and building in ancient time. If you ever visit Beiing, please don’t just focus on the modern part of the city, but the traitional side is the most attractive ones

  14. I went to Beijing two years ago before COVID hit. It’s a very big and busy city. You can see people everywhere on the street even at very late night

  15. When I was in Beijing i found the air quality notoriously bad, and cars are one of the main contributors to pollution. Plus the traffic in Beijing is often very congested, which can make driving frustrating and time-consuming. Parking was also very difficult to find and can also be quite expensive. So stick to walking and public transport.

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