Frequency of Changing Lanes

Something to observe – in Shanghai, the frequency of changing lanes on the road is very high, if not a constant action. People will shift from one lane to another, and to another, and back and forth, all the time.

The frequency of the same action is so low in the bay area. Generally people need to change lane just few times in the whole journey. For example, get onto the University Ave, follow the one lane street, and choose the lane going to US-101 later. Keep the lane on the right before getting the ramp exit, and then follow the lane to hotel. That was a typical route.

Drivers’ behavior difference is obviously the reason, maybe the only direct reason, but there must be deeper reason for the difference. What are those reasons?

Speed Difference

Speed difference of cars. Look at the cars on road of Shanghai. They drive in completely different speed. Some drive at 60 km/h, nearby cars are running at 80km/h, while others just cut into the road with 20km/h (because they don’t yield at turn). The majority of the cars in Shanghai are still manual shift, and drivers have completely different skills since new drivers are of much higher portion in a fast increase auto car market, that caused the speed difference. The faster cars have to change lanes almost at every time it passes a car, to keep the same speed.

The lack of speed limit is also the reason. Some cars enjoy the freedom to drive much higher speed than required, making it hard to form a generally accepted speed.

Number of Lanes

Most of the roads in Shanghai have many lanes – Beijing has more, but compared to local roads in places like Silicon Valley, Shanghai’s main road have more lanes, to allow drivers to navigate from the left most, to the right most lanes

Road Design

The road design is also an important factor. To drive in Shanghai, you have to constantly switch lanes to get to your destination. There are more merges of lanes in Shanghai, and the buffer length left for the driver is short. You are forced to merge into another lane or change a lane. I have once tried to follow the way I drive in the States – choose a lane and stick to it. It is just impossible. It is generally much easier to drive in the Silicon Valley because of the planning of lanes to allow cars to stick to a lane as long as possible, and there are fewer merger, and a lot of fork. And there are a lot of signs to help drivers to merge (“THROUGH TRAFFIC MERGE LEFT”). That avoided a lot of last minute switching of lanes.


I believe in the future, when most of the reasons change, cars in China will follow the internationally accepted rules, and will not need to change lanes as frequently as now.

When the general quality of cars get better, and transit to auto shift, and the adoption of cruise (even for a small percentage of the cars), that may help to stablize the speed. Meanwhile, when the portion of new drivers (less than 5 years) go down, people will tend to choose the easiest, and less effort consuming way to drive, more people would not bother to switch lanes to get a little bit ahead of others, it should be OK.

For the road design, when the cars number reaches to a threshold that makes the optimization of the road system is economically feasible (build more ramps, build via-duct, and more signs), because the same change can benefit twice or more cars than today, that also help to avoid the need for drivers to change lanes.

I am a happy observer and thinking of all the small difference between my world and the world I am less familiar with, and most of the analysis leads me to be optimistic about the future of my world.

Beijing use Lucky Draw for License Plate

After 20 years for Shanghai to use bidding for car license, Beijing is introducing a lottery based license plate system. You have to submit application, and try your luck. For the first week, the odd is 1 out of 12. With more and more people joining and the previous participants still in the pool, the chance gets fewer and fewer. If I can vote, I would definitely vote against it.

Just watched the 10:30 CCTV-2 program by Rui Cheng Gang 芮成钢, another YLFer focusing on Gabby. He interviewed John Holden, the previous chairman of National Committee of US-China Relationship, and one of the founder of YLF program, and shared his own experience with Gabby and Mark. (YLF was held in Huangshan in 2003, and Gabby’s home state Arizona in Sedona in 2004).

GM EN-V Unveild in Shanghai

General Motor unveiled a new concept car – EN-V. That car is expected to hit market in 2030, 20 years from today. EN-V is electronic driven, and there will be a plug to re-charge the car. Once fully charged, it is said to be able to run for 40 km.

Thanks to Xiaojing and Jia to give me this very nice toy – a EN-V model. You can see the details of this car from inside out. Here are the photos:

Below is the local report about the launch of this concept car on TV.

Failed to Bid for Shanghai Plate

My regular readers (I mean from 5 years to 6 years ago) know my struggle to get a Shanghai car plate.

Finally, I decided to join the tens of thousands of people to bid for a Shanghai plate. Unlike many others though, we are not very eager to get one. Our attitude is just to join the bidding, and if the price is OK, we get it. If now, we give it up.

Bid for a Shanghai Plate

On Saturday, Wendy and I joined the bidding for a Shanghai plate. The price turned out to be 33900 RMB. We failed in the bidding. Our price was 34400 RMB at the last second, but it is out of the +-300 RMB range, and was rejected.

The Way Bidding Works

The procedure of the bidding is like this:

  • You need to go to the government agency office to buy a bidding permit. That cost 100 RMB with 2000 RMB deposit to guarantee that you will pay the money if you win.
  • You install the software on PC and join the bidding at 10:00 AM on the last Saturday of the month.
  • You are allowed to place a price during the first hour (10:00 AM to 11:00 AM). At 11:00 AM, the first phase of the bidding closes. The system will broadcast the lowest winning price based on the bid it received. If you don’t place a bid, you give up this bidding, and can join the next month.
  • In the second phase, from 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM, based on the current lowest winning price, you can place your bid once or twice. It requires the offer must be within the +300 RMB and -300 RMB range of the current price. With the bidding going on, the lowest winning price goes up, and so can you raise your bid along with it.
  • At 11:30 AM, the auction closes, and announces the lowest bidding price

The trick is, you always need to place a bidding price higher than the lowest winning price + 300 RMB, since at the time you place your bid at the last minute, there is always a chance the price jumps up. So it is a fine art to hold the bidding as late as possible but still be able to enter it before it closes.

At 33600 RMB, we entered 34400 RMB (the lowest bidding price + 800 RMB) hoping that we can be sure to get it. But finally, when we hit enter, the price didn’t go that high, and we were rejected.

We will join the next bidding the next month and report back the result. It is a combination of strategy and luck – with luck as a very important fact.

A Car Plate = 27200 RMB in Sept 2009

The car plate bidding this morning resulted in the lowest bidding price to be 27200 RMB for one car plate in Shanghai (news source)

I kept tracking the car plate since 2003. I wanted to buy a car plate at the very beginning, and then choose a Hangzhou plate. Now, Wendy and I started to think about a Shanghai plate. We planned to participate in the bidding this month, but just didn’t take action to pay the required 2000 RMB bidding deposit. Maybe the next month.

Shanghai Auto Show 2009

3:00 PM, when Yifan fell asleep, Wendy and I tried to figure out where to spend the precious 2 hours without interruption, we had the idea to visit the Shanghai Auto Show. We should cherish our opportunity to be in Shanghai, and live just 5 km away from the Shanghai International Exhibition Center, where the Auto Show is located.

Is it a Auto Show, a Model Show, or People Sea Show?

Who thought of the great idea of putting beautiful girls/models along with nice cars? With girls attracting people’s attention, and providing something that everyone is interested, the cars are even more highlighted. It turned out people’s attention follow girls, not cars. It seems so at least in terms of camera lens.

I took photos of the models of a Buick, and for Volkswagen

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Who said there are financial crisis? Look at how many people in the show! I would say, I regret immediately after I arrive at W1 Exhibition Hall – there are so many people that no one can move.

No wonder there are so many people in the show. According to latest news report, it is expected that China will, for the first time, surpass US and become the largest auto market this year. 10 million new cars are going to be shipped this year. The recent tax reduction from 10% to 5% for 1.5 liter or below greatly accelerated the speed of adoption of cars in China. After all, there are just 44 cars in every 1000 people in China, while the number is 750 in US, and 120 of the world.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Future Cars?

In the show, I feel the keywords of “Green”, or Blue (like in BlueEngine Technology), and Hybrid are everywhere. Look at this Nissan small car, which will be shipped in several years! It is cute. There is an electronic plug at the head of the car.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Wendy and I love it a lot and thought it is ideal for Wendy taking Yifan to school.

Best Booth – FAQ-Volkswagen?

I would say, the FAW-Volkswagen in the W2 is the best show I saw. It is huge, and has the best exhibition design. The most impressive stage is at far end of W2, where there are large screen displaying natural views, and city background, and models walk before the big screen – creating a very future, and natural type of feeling. It reminds me of the Taichi scene of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Other Photos

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Car Towing Services in Shanghai

During the Spring Festival, my car broken down on the road. It is the first time I called a towing service in Shanghai. With the popularity of cars, the demand for towing services may increase. Let me share what I learn from the experience.

The Tow Company

There are only two major towing companies in Shanghai: Anchang 安畅 and Jiuyuan 救援

Anchange’s phone number is 021-56995995

(995 in Chinese sounds like “Save Me”)

Jiuyuan’s Phone number is 021-54471005

My personal experience told me that Anchang seems to be much better than Jiuyuan from the customer service they provide over phone.

Fee Structure

Both of them use the following fomular:

100 RMB initial fee, with 10 KM included.

5 RMB for every additional KM.

You need to pay for any toll fees occured.

Distance is calculated based on the location of your car and the destination.

The Towing Car

The towing car is pretty professional. It is that kind of big car that put your car on top of it, which means it is pretty safe for the car being towed (compared to those smaller towing car as seen in the cartoon movie Cars).

Look, Goudaner is being towed!

I hope you don’t need this information. :-)

P.S. My RSS is OK now

My RSS didn’t work since I moved here, and I have just fixed. Let me know if there is any more problems.

I know the user’s comment page is not ready yet. I will do it the next week.

Shanghai Car Plate is NOT Investment

This is a follow up post for my entry Shanghai Car Plates IS Investment I wrote 4 months ago. Within just 4 months, the high valued car plate dropped dramatically.

My Record on Car Plate Price in Shanghai

From my blog post on Car Plates in Shanghai, you can get some idea about how the prices of a car plate in Shanghai changes over time.

Shanghai’s Car Plate Bidding

Shanghai is the only place in China to have Car Plate Bidding practices. Every month, around 7000 car plates are issued to the public and people bid for the plates in a public auction. With the high demand for private cars, and limited number of car plates, the car plate price in Shanghai went all the way high to more than 50,000 Yuan last month.

This Month

This month, the lowest bidding price for car plate dropped to 8,100 Yuan, and the average winning price is 23,370 Yuan, less than half of the record high of 56,042 Yuan in December, 2007.

What Caused the Drop?

The most important change is, this time, the authority made the bidding price of all the other buyers public, so people can see how much other people want to pay. Also, people are given a second chance to change their bidding price according to other’s price. This helps the higher bidder to lower down their price, and the lower bidder to raise their price – to finally make the bidding price more concentrated among a certain number.

Before that, the price guideline is given by the car dealers – they have some sort of information sources to tell the buyers about the finally winning price, so everyone has to pay higher than that, and this guidance price always raises.

The other reason is with the Spring Festival in Feb, they pause the Feb bidding and double the amount of car plate supply this month.

The final reason is because of the bottle neck of the Telephone and Internet system of the authority, many people could not dial in via telephone or logon to the web site. This further reduced the number of Would-be buyers.

Is it an Investment?

Everyone is trying to predict the future. I am the same.

Four months ago, I regret that I didn’t bid for a Shanghai Car Plate in my post: Shanghai Car Plates IS Investment. I changed my mind this month, and very likely, I will change my mind again in the next few months if the car plate price goes all the way high.

P.S. This post should have another title: Shanghai Car Plate = 8100 RMB

Seat-Belt? Oh. No. Thanks!

There are many common practices that does not make common sense. People’s resistance of seat-belt is a typical one.

Many people HATE seat-belts, especially taxi drivers.

This morning, I get on board a Jinjiang taxi. The driver drove like crazy, and set the record time to get to Xujiahui from where I live in Pudong.

He don’t like seat-belt.

In Shanghai, if someone is caught driving without seat-belt, he will be fined 200 RMB. So, this is what happened.

Every time he passed a crossroad with policeman there, he put on the seat-belt, and he remove it as soon as the car rear passed the policeman. Along the road, he put the seat-belt on, and off, one and off, on and off, on and off… Even I, as a passenger got annoyed.

This also happens to me. When someone get on board my car, I always need to reminder them for the safe belt. Some did, but many (more than 50%) felt and confused. There are typically three types of answers.

  • “We are not going to expressway. What’s the use of seat-belt?”
  • “Policemen all went home already.”
  • “That is not comfortable. It is the time to relax”

OK. Well…

When I walk and wait at the red light, sometime I did quick survey of the usage rate of seat-belt. My personal data at Guangyuan Road (before the SJTU gate) is, as more as 70% of drivers in Shanghai don’t take seat-belt.

I am sure more people will take seat-belt in the future, when they understand seat-belt is not just a mouse-and-cat game to play with policemen.

Shanghai Car Plates IS Investment

I have a car with name of Goudaner.

However, I don’t have a car plate from Shanghai, simply because it is too expensive. Instead, I drove 200 km away to Hangzhou (the capital of Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai) to register my car there.

Now I am a Shanghai driver, bought a car in Shanghai, driving in Shanghai… with a Hangzhou car plate. Sounds wired, isn’t it?

I thought I made a right decision three years ago. Now? I don’t think so.

The History of the Decision

In August 2003, you need to give government 38,500 RMB to get a car plate. In March 2004 (seven months later), it costs 43,000 RMB. In May 2004, the price dropped for the first time to 34,226 RMB, then to 21001 RMB the next month. I didn’t track the price of car plate since then.

Comparing to the high price of a Shanghai plate, to register in other city is attractive. It is almost free.

There are some limitations for these cars (there are 130 thousand cars running in Shanghai with outside plates), and more and more fees are added to these cars. Beside that, I need to drive my car personally to Hangzhou for annual checking which is not always pleasant journey.

Car Plate as Investment

With the explosion of number of cars in Shanghai, the recent bid result for car plates keep going up and is always above 40,000 RMB. I thought it has nothing to do with me any more, until I chatted with Jia about his experience to attempt sell a car.

When it comes to a point that you need to sell your car, the different is huge.

For cars with Shanghai plate, the plate is still a lot of money – according to the current bidding price for the plate. For most people, they can make some money because of the price difference.

For cars with other plates, the plate itself worth nothing, even lower the price you paid to get it. Meanwhile, since the car transaction involves transportation administration of another city, there are additional 3000 RMB for this.

So, the conclusion is clear:

1. To register outside Shanghai is cheaper, until you sell it.

2. To register in Shanghai is more expensive, until you sell it.

My Conclusion

This teaches me a basic economic rule: when we buy something, always distinguish whether it is debt, or asset. By the definition of Poor Dad, Rich Dad, debts are something to take money out of your pocket, and assets help to put money into your pocket.

When we make decision about a deal, we should look at the both side of the equation. Take the Shanghai Car Plate or house example, you pay money on the left hand, and get some asset on the other hand, so you are still balanced in your Balance Sheet. To get a plate out of Shanghai, although on the left hand, I didn’t pay too munch money, on the right hand, I got nothing (not an asset). This is not a good idea.

P.S. It is not so fair to say I made a wrong decision since at that time, everyone was expecting the cancellation of the plate bidding in Shanghai. If that is the case, the asset disappears in a day.

Long Detour by Road Construction

Let me show you a map.


Image in courtesy of Google Maps

On the map, the red line and the blue line together is the daily route I drive from Xujiahui to the elevated highway (then my home is just 10 kms or 20 minutes away).

Today, since there is a small detour at the starting of the blue line – the road was completely blocked and no cars are allowed to enter. Then to to go to the entrance of the elevated highway, I used the red line plus the green line.

Look at how far I went just to workaround the detour.

This is due to the complicated one-way system in this area. For example, at the immediate next cross road, the Wanping Road 宛平路 is a single way road that I cannot turn right (one block south, it is both way). Then I have to go the next block. I turned right. I should have the opportunity to get back to the blue line, but there is another single way road, so I have to continue until I get to the elevated highway.

Turning right, on the whole way, there was no opportunity to make U-turn or left turn, until I reached the Tianyaoqiao Road. I turned left (no U-turn allowed), and went to a residential area. Enter that area and get out, so to do the U-Turn, and then run a long way back.

After I am back to the elevated highway, 40 minutes already past.

What a day.

P.S. Many car drivers can save this 40 minutes by some “tricks”, like make U-turn when it is now allowed, or even make U-turn when left turn is not allowed. Most people did. I followed the rule, and that is the result. It seems the policeman didn’t notice this at all, since they thought “smart” people workaround this anyway.

Controversy Car Plates

When I wrote about the Chinese Car Plate the other day, I suddenly recalled from my memory that China has once opened the restriction on the car plate numbers and allow car owners to choose the car plate numbers by themselves.

That was back to Aug 12, 2002 (one month before I started my blog). In Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen, car owners started to have the freedom to choose the 6 digits of their car plate. They can use whatever numbers or alphabetic combination (with restriction of using I, O, T which may be confusing with numbers).

After 4000 people get their car plates, 10 days later, the pilot was stopped. The reason is, some people are not comfortable with the personalized car plate people choose. There are some examples:








So, this practice is stopped. I am not surprised at all. When people still believe very few people can help to define the rules and moral guidelines for the whole society, they will still try to control…

What do you think about this small piece of history?

Chinese Car Plate

My reader in Wuxi suggested me to talk about the car plate in China – this is an interesting topic. There is a Chinese character on the plate as the first character, and there are difference colors – blue, yellow, and black. What do all these mean?

Here is a picture of a car plate:

The Chinese Character

There must be a Chinese character on each car plate. It represent the province of the car. Although the full name of China province is at least two or three Chinese characters, they all have abridged version, just like WA for Washington, CA for California in U.S.

There is something different though. The Chinese abbr. of a province name is often completely different from the Chinese name.

For example, Shang Hai 上海 has two characters. Its abbr. is neither Shang 上 or Hai 海. It is Hu 沪.

So every car registered in Shanghai will have a plate starting with





My car is registered in Hangzhou, Zhejiang (why, limitations), it starts with


浙 means Zhejiang province.

The Second Character

The second character, which is an English letter, represent the city of the province (or districts of a city like Shanghai).

A in Henan means Zhengzhou

B in Henan means Kaifeng

C means Luoyang

R means Nanyang

So every city has its number.

Here is a complete list of these places (all in Chinese) since the translate of location names does not work well.


京A、京C、京E、京F、北京市(城区),京G 北京市(远郊区), 京B 出租车,京O警察


津A、津B、津C、天津市 ,津E 出租车


沪A、沪B、沪D 上海市区,沪C 远郊区


渝A 重庆市区(江南),渝B 重庆市区(江北),渝C 永川区,渝F 万州区,渝G 涪陵区,渝H 黔江区


冀A 石家庄,冀B 唐山,冀C 秦皇岛,冀D 邯郸,冀E 邢台,冀F 保定,冀G 张家口,冀H 承德,冀J 沧州,冀R 廊坊,冀T 衡水


豫A 郑州,豫B 开封,豫C 洛阳,豫D 平顶山,豫E 安阳,豫F 鹤壁,豫G 新乡,豫H 焦作,豫J 濮阳,豫K 许昌,豫L 漯河,豫M 三门峡,豫N 商丘,豫P 周口,豫Q 驻马店,豫R 南阳,豫S 信阳,豫U 济源


云A 昆明,云B 东川,云C 昭通,云D 曲靖, 云E 楚雄彝族,云F 玉溪,云G 红河哈尼族,云H 文山壮族苗,云J 思茅,云L 大理白族,云K 西双版纳,云M 保山,云N 德宏傣族,云P 丽江,云Q 怒江傈族,云R 迪庆藏族,云S 临沧


辽A 沈阳,辽B 大连,辽C 鞍山,辽D 抚顺,辽E 本溪,辽F 丹东,辽G 锦州,辽H 营口,辽J 阜新,辽K 辽阳,辽L 盘锦,辽M 铁岭,辽N 朝阳,辽P 葫芦岛,辽V 省直机关


黑A 哈尔滨 ,黑B 齐齐哈尔,黑C 牡丹江,黑D 佳木斯,黑E 大庆,黑F 伊春,黑G 鸡西,黑H 鹤岗,黑J 双鸭山,黑K 七台河,黑L 松花江行署,黑M 绥化,黑N 黑河,黑P 大兴安岭


湘A 长沙,湘B 株洲,湘C 湘潭,湘D 衡阳,湘E 邵阳,湘F 岳阳,湘G 大庸,湘H 益阳,湘J 常德,湘K 娄底,湘L 郴州,湘M 零陵,湘N怀化,湘P 湘西州


皖A 合肥,皖B 芜湖,皖C 蚌埠,皖D 淮南,皖E 马鞍山,皖F 淮北,皖G 铜陵,皖H 安庆,皖J 黄山,皖K 阜阳,皖L 宿州,皖M 滁州,皖N 六安,皖P 宣城,皖Q 巢湖,皖R 池州


鲁A 济南,鲁B 青岛,鲁C 淄博,鲁D 枣庄,鲁E 东营,鲁F 烟台,鲁G 潍坊,鲁H 济宁,鲁J 泰安,鲁K 威海,鲁L 日照,鲁M 莱芜,鲁N 德州,鲁P 聊城,鲁Q 临沂,鲁R 菏泽,鲁U 青岛开发区


新A 乌鲁木齐,新B 昌吉回族,新C 石河子,新D 奎屯,新E 博尔塔拉,新F 伊犁哈萨,新G 塔城,新H 阿勒泰,新J 克拉玛依,新K 吐鲁番, 新L 哈密,新M 巴音郭,新N 阿克苏,新P 克孜勒苏柯,新Q 喀什,新R 和田


苏A 南京,苏B 无锡,苏C 徐州,苏D 常州,苏E 苏州,苏F 南通,苏G 连云港,苏H 淮阴,苏J 盐城,苏K 扬州,苏L 镇江,苏M 泰州,苏N 宿迁


浙A 杭州,浙B 宁波,浙C 温州,浙D 绍兴,浙E 湖州,浙F 嘉兴,浙G 金华,浙H 衢州,浙J 台州,浙K 丽水,浙L 舟山


赣A 南昌,赣B 赣州,赣C 宜春,赣D 吉安,赣E 上饶,赣F 抚州,赣G 九江,赣H 景德镇,赣J 萍乡,赣K 新余,赣L 鹰潭


鄂A 武汉,鄂B 黄石,鄂C 十堰,鄂D 沙市,鄂E 宜昌,鄂F 襄樊,鄂G 鄂州,鄂H 荆门,鄂J 黄岗,鄂K 孝感,鄂L 咸宁,鄂M 荆州,鄂N 郧阳,鄂P 宜昌,鄂Q 鄂西州


桂A 南宁,桂B 柳州,桂C 桂林,桂D 梧州,桂E 北海,桂F 南宁,桂G 柳州,桂H 桂林,桂J 贺州(属梧州),桂K 玉林,桂M 河池,桂L 百色,桂N 钦州,桂P 防城


甘A 兰州,甘B 嘉峪关,甘C 金昌,甘D 白银,甘E 天水,甘F 酒泉,甘G 张掖,甘H 武威,甘J 定西,甘K 陇南,甘L 平凉,甘M 庆阳 ,甘N 临夏回族,甘P 甘南藏族


晋A 太原,晋B 大同,晋C 阳泉,晋D 长治,晋E 晋城,晋F 朔州,晋H 忻州,晋J 吕梁,晋K 晋中,晋L 临汾,晋M 运城


蒙A 呼和浩特,蒙B 包头,蒙C 乌海,蒙D 赤峰,蒙E 呼伦贝尔盟,蒙F 兴安盟,蒙G 锡林郭勒盟,蒙H 乌兰察布盟,蒙J 伊克昭盟,蒙K 巴彦淖尔盟,蒙L 阿拉善盟


陕A 西安,陕B 铜川,陕C 宝鸡,陕D 威阳,陕E 渭南,陕F 汉中,陕G 安康,陕H 商洛,陕J 延安,陕K 榆林,陕U 省直机关


吉A 长春,吉B 吉林,吉C 四平,吉D 辽源,吉E 通化,吉F 白山,吉G 白城,吉H 延边朝鲜族


闽A 福州,闽B 莆田,闽C 泉州,闽D 厦门,闽E 漳州,闽F 龙岩,闽G 三明,闽H 南平,闽J 宁德,闽K 省直机关


贵A 贵阳,贵B 六盘水,贵C 遵义,贵D 铜仁,贵E 黔西南州,贵F 毕节,贵G 安顺,贵H 黔东南州,贵J 黔南州


粤A 广州,粤B 深圳,粤C 珠海,粤D 汕头,粤E 佛山,粤F 韶关,粤G 湛江,粤H 肇庆,粤J 江门,粤K 茂名,粤L 惠州,粤M 梅州,粤N 汕尾,粤P 河源,粤Q 阳江,粤R 清远,粤S 东莞,粤T 中山,粤U 潮州,粤V 揭阳,粤W 云浮,粤X 顺德,粤Y 南海,粤Z港澳进入内地车辆


青A 西宁,青B 海东,青C 海北,青D 黄南,青E 海南州,青F 果洛州,青G 玉树州,青H 海西州,


藏A 拉萨,藏B 昌都,藏C 山南,藏D 日喀则,藏E 那曲,藏F 阿里,藏G 林芝


川A 成都,川B 绵阳,川C 自贡,川D 攀枝花,川E 泸州,川F 德阳,川H 广元,川J 遂宁,川K 内江,川L 乐山,川Q 宜宾,川R 南充,川S 达县,川T 雅安,川U 阿坝藏族,川V 甘孜藏族,川W 凉山彝族,川Z 眉山。 


宁A 银川,宁B 石嘴山,宁C 银南,宁D 固原


琼A 海口,琼B 三亚,琼C 琼北

According to this chart,

A, B, D in Shanghai means cars registered in downtown Shanghai

C means cars in Shanghai registered in rural areas.

In some places, taxi has its own unique numbers.

The Rest 5 Characters

The rest of the numbers are numbered according to rules of each province. For example, in Shanghai, the third (or the first of the rest numbers) can be English letters, while in Zhejiang, the fifth character can be letters. The rest are numbers.


The most common color is blue. It means it is small or middle sized car. For big cars, like buses, or trunks, it is in yellow. There are also black car plates, which means the car is owned by a foreigner or foreign company (I don’t know why thy make it different).

P.S. This is according to the 1992 standard of car plate.

Take Taxi or Buy a Car?

There are still many people debating about which is more cost-effective, taking taxi or buying a car.

There are many people claim that taking taxi is cheaper, since you don’t have to buy the car, and don’t need to pay all the related fees, including but not limited to: road construction fee, annual checking fee, gas, fine (if you drive violately), parking fee, and repair/maintance fee.

There are other people claiming that buying a car is cheaper in Shanghai, since taxi fair is way too expensive compared to the gas cost – 2.1 rmb/km, and no one will take a taxi to go camping or outting.

My answer? I would say, to buy a car is definitely more expensive than taking taxi. Why?

Take my car as an example. In the last 3 years, the decrease in price is around 80,000 RMB (or 10K USD), and my car went about 40,000 km. That is almost the same as 2.0 RMB/km – the same as the taxi rate.

This is just for the car itself. I didn’t count on the much more expensive cost as I listed above.

The answer is clear – to buy a car is much more expensive than taking taxi.

However, buying a car has much more than taking taxi – it is something called freedom.

What do you think?

How I drive in Shanghai – Part II

After I drive back to home at 12:23 AM and check my blog, I saw many comments – comments from really concerned people. Calm down, please.

This is not the first time I saw this kind of situation. So take a break and let me try to explain it better. Shockr, thanks for your point. That helps a lot.

I Do Follow Rules

I did an evaluation, and believe I am absolutely the top 5% drivers who follow the rules most. Seriously. There is no question about it.

I reviewed my last post, and it seems I broke every rules. Wrong impression.

Believe it or not, I am the kind of person who stopped at a broken red light at deep night (11:00 PM) for 15 minutes on my way home, and later was interviewed by TV because of it … I believe I follow the rules much better than most people, including expats, in Shanghai. Don’t get me wrong about it.

I learnt a lot during my driving experience from U.S. and Australia – frankly speaking, that experience helped me a lot to under how the traffic rules should work. As you can imagine, I feel I am driving under the spotlight most of the time (as my life is on Internet, and I am trying very hard to do the right thing), so I follow the rules.

Before I continue, let me correct some misunderstanding in the comments:

  • I always yield to pedestrians, always!
  • I pass by zebras slowly and with great care, always.
  • I stop at stop sign, when it is not dangerous to do so.
  • I respect speed limit, when it is possible.

What I was trying to communicate in my previous post was, there are limited but real situations that I cannot follow the rule.

Situation #1: The rule is correct, but by following the written rule, I am putting the life of myself or other drivers at danger. (I know many people don’t believe that this situation ever exist in the world. “Follow the rules is the only safe way to do it!”)

Situation #2: The rule itself is the wrong rule.

About Turning Right at Red Light

For this part, I have to make it more clear, since I found the statement in my last post misleading. The reasons I gave (resources v.s. demand) was to justify Why it is Allowed to Turn Right at Red Light instead of Why drivers don’t give way to pedestrians. I hate drivers who didn’t show any respect to pedestrians, as a driver and as a pedestrian. That is what I was talking about in many posts. I said, it is still not practical to BAN any right turn in Shanghai as Europe is doing now. Anyone tell me why in many countries (including U.S.), it is allowed to make right turn at red light? I was a strong advocator for banning the right turn before, but after talking with transportation experts, I was convinced that it is not realistic in the current situation.

What I am talking about – in a frank matter – was, to wait for all pedestrians to leave the zebra is also just impossible at certain intersection (not all). It takes, as one commenter said, hours for the road to clear up. The most troublesome problem I have is, even if I stop, people still yield to me, and we run into a situation of dead lock. That was really bad situation. So, in this situation, the way people do is to wait for the first round of people to pass, and see the space, and then the cars go, and then pedestian.

Anyone been to Cambodia? The traffic of the whole country worked (although not well) without any traffic light! (Just a few on the road of capital). I don’t think traffic light is the only way for a peaceful transportation.

What to do with the Bad Rule?

Then there is another situation that people not driving in Shanghai may not face: when the traffic rule is the wrong rule and it causes great danger to traffic. “Is there any situation that you are not able to follow the rules?”. That is the point. Read about my last entry and find out some situations.

For the speed limit and the stop sign, I have to say, the rule or the sign were badly designed. The statement of “Always follow the rule” is incomplete, since it is in the situation where the rule is the right rule.

One commenter mentioned the Nazi example. Really good people don’t follow the rule set by Nazi, just as I don’t follow the censorship rule in China government. I break the bad rule and do the right thing. Traffic rules are completely another thing than the Nazi rules. I know that, but think about a traffic sign that is improperly designed. Just as I sad, how many minutes would you wait at a broken (always on) red light? I waited 15 minutes. How about you? 30? One hour before a broken red light? What I did was to call the police, call the media, and to make some small impact. Still remember that I called almost everyone to fight against typo in Metro? Talking is easy, as everyone in the last post did.

In current China, due to well-know political reasons, there are huge number of bad rules. To build a better world, people need to use the right rule to replace the bad rule. This is what many people are doing.

On day, when I was thought about the ethics, I even asked myself, do I want to do something to have 4 collisions per month just to proof that I follow the rules? People’s life (including mine) or rule, which is, in practice, more important? What is the final value of a rule? I completely see where people come from, and in most places, to follow the written rules means safety. If you firmly believe so, you should go to see certain circumstances that it is conflicting. Just as Google’s don’t do evil rule works great in most places, but in China, because of the Great Firewall, it is against user experience. It is a hard problem to answer, and I am deeply disappointed that Google is trying to solve user experience issue and give up it value. Hehe.

I am so blessed to be able to sit in the middle of the conflict of the two cultures (western and eastern), so most of the cultural conflict results in an inner mind conflict inside me. This gave me a chance to see the world even better.

To conclude, if you can find out any driver who show respect to pedestrians and follow rules when possible, we can drive together, and I am sure I am doing a better job than he/she does. After writing so many articles about traffic problem in Shanghai and thought about it for 4 years, I still know what to do. Just keep this in mind, and then see the real situation we are facing everyday. What I want to do is to present the real situation every driver in Shanghai will face, and thus people can understand the situation much better than what the text book tells.

Keep all the criticism coming. It seems everyone just pouring all the frustration about bad traffic to someone who stand up first and claim “I don’t always follow rules”. Don’t worry. I share the same frustration, and the point is, what we can do about it. Me? I think it is my responsibility to bring the topic to everyone’s attention so we can discuss about it.

How I Drive in Shanghai?

When I talked about Reasons of Bad Traffic in Shanghai, people asked me about how I drive in Shanghai. This is a good question. Very good one. As a daily driver, and as someone who is highly concerned about traffic rules, and the chaos traffic, let me explain how I drive. I don’t want to be political correct at all – don’t expect me to tell you that I follow all traffic rules – I just want to share exactly how I drive and why. This helps better than telling everyone how I SHOULD drive.

Stop Signs

First thing, I don’t stop and stop signs.

As I described in this post: On Ethic, to stop at stop signs create chaos.

I do slow down at stop signs.

There are two reasons for this. Not many drivers in Shanghai respect stop sign, and to stop at stop sign is exactly as to do a full stop on the road. The car behind you can easily hit your car, or offended. Whenever I stop at stop signs, and if there is a car behind me, they may either horn, or flash the front lights, or more often, turns and pass me.

The second reason is, stop signs work better for road with not-so-wide bicycle lanes, or with fewer bicycles.

Taking the exit of my residential area as an example. If I stop at the stop sign, just before the bicycle lane, there is no way for me to see whether there are cars on the main road, because it is still 2 meters away, and the cars are completely hidden behind the green plants which separating the main road and the bicycle road.

If I move on a little bit, and completely stops at the bike lane, this is very like the stop sign position in US. Then I can see whether there are cars on the road, but the problem is, even if there are cars on the main road, I have to move on (slowly) since I have completely jammed the bikes. There is just no way for a car to stay in the middle of a bike lane (it is as wide as a car).

I do stop sometimes, at certain places (like the one behind Grand Gateway) every morning – only when there is no cars behind me.

Turning Right

I do turn right even when there are pedestrians on the zebras.

This is even more complicated. There are also two reasons.

Reason No. 1. Traffic rules are mutual agreement. I do stop at the zebra, and wait for pedestrians. Most of the time, they would stop and wait for you. Waving hands and gave signs for them to go first do not always work. In my experience, the working ways is to yelling at people and say, “go first”, and people hestitately move on. This is not a big problem though. The rule of thumb is, either decide to stop and stop firmly, or decide to go, and go carefully. Never get into the middle – when I stop, people stop. When they go, I go – too dangerous in this situation, even worse than directly go (but carefully).

The second reason, there are so many cars behind you. If you don’t go on, for example, at the Guangyuan Road and Gongcheng Road in Xujiahui, it is pretty sure that you will never be able to turn right. It is the same at Huaihai Road and many other roads in Shanghai. It is OK to stop for the first group of pedestrians, but to wait until there is no pedestrians on the zebra before you go is just impossible.

The Pedstrain go first rule does not work in crowded city like Shanghai. The only working rule is, go carefully, and gave way to pedestrians as much as possible.

I remember there was hot debate about this on newspaper – why it is allowed to turn right at red light? Many people propose for cars to stop at red light – just as in Europe. The explanation was, if Shanghai has this rule, the traffic will completely stop.

I thought twice, and believe this is a reasonable answer. It is all about resources. There are so few roads, and so many cars, and people. People have to accept the fact is, not everyone has 2 sq. meter of space in this city. It is just like in a village, there are totally 1000 USD there, and there are 100 people. The reality is, everyone only have 10 USD. We can either increase the total social wealth (by building more road) or reducing population (by limiting car numbers). When these two factors are not changed, people have to accept the fact that cars are allowed to make right turn at red light.

Having said that, I am not saying the current way is correct. Drivers must show respect to pedestrians at any time, and give ways as often as possible.

It is like the “PUSH to walk” button. In many places, there are such button. The intention of the design was to keep the traffic light system more efficient. it turns out that most of the buttons were not used, since it is pressed all the time all day – there are just too many people that the button does not help.


I don’t drive too fast. I respect most of the traffic signs, like 80 KM/h on the elevated highway, 110 KM/h on expressway.

There are some exceptions. One is at the Puxi part of Nanpu Bridge, heading toward Puxi. It makes 40, but when everyone is running at 60, to keep at 40 means intentionally mess up the traffic. I tried to keep at 40 KM/h, and in the 2 minutes of my drive, more than 10 cars behind me changed lane, passed me, and change back to the lane before me. That means because of me, the traffic was turned into a mess. To keep a rule that is not in effect and create real chaos, or to break the rule but be part of peaceful, and ordered traffic, that is a question for any driver.

The other is the Wanping Road Exit of Inner Ring. There are 1000 meters with speed limit of 30 km/h. The left lane has limit of 80 km/h. You can imagine what happens if I suddenly slow down to 30 and keeps that. The same problem.

While we see many “wrong rules”, the choice is, whether to follow the rule and create chaos, or to follow the reality. This is not an easy question to answer. I know the “political correct” answer, but my choice is the “reality correct” answer.

P.S. This is the bonus question for you:

A train running out of control. It runs toward a station. There are 20 children playing on the working railway, and one children playing at an abandoned railway. As the one in charge of the railway, you have two choices. One is to let the train go, and this will kill 20 children (who do not follow the safety rule, and playing in dangerous place), the other choice is to switch the train to the abandoned rail and kill one innocent children. He is doing the right thing but killed for someone else’s fault. What is your choice?

Update April 28, 2007

Check out the future discussion and explaination here.

How Car Annual Checking Works

It is a hot day – 27 degrees, and Hangzhou seems to enter Summer already. I am back – very tired. The 170+ km express way is not easy to cover. Next time I go to Hangzhou, I won’t drive – bus or train is a better choice – so I can enjoy the nice scene of Hangzhou without the frustration on the crowded road.

My car is registered in Hangzhou. From considering to get a car, to I finally get one, the car plate in Shanghai raise from 38500 RMB to 43000 RMB. So I chose the much cheaper solution – to register in Hangzhou. (Later, the Shanghai car plate price once dropped to 21001 RMB). The pro side is, it is much cheaper. The con is, I need to go to Hangzhou for the annual checking. Although there are many agents who are willing to do it for me, I hate to give my car to someone I don’t know. So I used the weekend to drive there.

The Place

The place is not easy to find. They moved from the old place, from Hanghai Road, to the other side of the Qiantang River.

The Qian Bridge No. 3 was closed for construction. The added additional difficulty to find the place. When I am there, it is already 3:10 PM.

It is Closed

When I got to the window, they told me they do not accept new applications already. Their business hour is 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. There are still one hour and 20 minutes left, but they refused to take my application. The parking lot is near empty. It seems the only way to get examined is to come the next day.

There is Always Workaround

At the entrance to the office, there is a “car club”. We stepped in. A woman was practicing Chinese typing at her computer. I asked is she able to help us on the exam. She said “sure”.

We gave her 100 RMB for the service. She went to the same counter, send it in. Very soon, some official came out and drove my car in. 5 minutes later, I got all my documents stamped, and I passed the exam.

This is the typical way government collect money – to close the office early or setup enough difficulty, so people need to go to agents (commercial organization), to get something – like visa, permission, certificates, or license. Since the government is not allowed to directly get any money from citizen, they can leverage a commercial partner to collect the money by providing priority service to the agents. People pay the agents to get better service. The money can be used as “activity fund” for the employees.

This is the only way I can find to explain why they don’t accept application but the office 100 meters away accept it.

Disclaimer: Only the fact part of this article is confirmed. The how it works and behind scene part is my guess based what someone told me.

Hangzhou for Car Yearly Checking

I am in Hangzhou.

Two years for Goudaner, and I have to do the car yearly checking. So, I drove to Hangzhou.

The first weekend, I was in Hangzhou for meeting.

The second weekend, I went to Nanjing.

The same Sunday, in Suzhou, Taihu.

The forth weekend, which is today, I am in Hangzhou.

I will post picture tomorrow.

Car Insurance in Shanghai

It is time to figure out how to buy another year of car insurance. The new car comes with 2 years of car insurances. It ends this month. I even didn’t notice that.

Car insurance is enforced. It is several thousand RMB per year – not cheap.

People like to ask about living cost in Shanghai. My simple answer is, to live the local live cost less than US, while to live U.S. live in Shanghai causes even higher than U.S.

Car is an example. Car is much more expensive than those in U.S. – a Volkswagon Polo is 10K RMB (or 12 K USD), and everything related to car is more expensive.

I guess that is the reason why Shanghai is ranked as one of the most expensive city for expat – because to play Golf in Shanghai is way far expensive than playing golf in U.S.

P.S. The suspension nightmare is not over yet. The guy is sending email again, and may want to suspend the site due to the wrong calculation of CPU usage they use. I am thinking about They are amazing in my first few telephone call – they pick up the phone almost instantly – or to be more exact, within 10 seconds. I’d say it is a little bit better than the 27 minutes expected waiting time from