Airbnb’s Rivals in China Hold Hands in a Nervous New Market

But like other global tech firms with an eye on China, Airbnb faces challenges. Chief among them are domestic versions of the site, including Xiaozhu and another rival, Tujia, that offer more local listings. To counter Airbnb’s advantage with cosmopolitan Chinese who may have used its service in New York, Paris or Tokyo, the competitors are taking big steps to educate other skeptical Chinese about renting out — and crashing in — a spare bedroom.

The cultural barriers are significant. In a country where a home is for family or for investment and tourism is still relatively new for many, the idea of posting homes online for random guests to rent takes some getting used to.

“There is a manager behind every property,” said Kelvin Chen, the chief executive of Xiaozhu. “We still need time to educate our users.”

Photo

Xiaozhu provided cushions for Mr. Sun’s sofa. The company offers its own cleaning services and training to teach hosts how to decorate and to get along with customers.

Credit
Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

Airbnb offers the latest gauge of whether an American technology company can make it in a politically and commercially thorny market. The government blocks Google, Facebook and Twitter. Uber and the online arm of Walmart bowed in the face of intense domestic competition and sold their businesses to local rivals.

Perhaps mindful of its regulatory scuffles in the United States and Europe, Airbnb is taking a careful approach in China. It has worked out agreements with Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. It has also teamed up with officials in cities like Shanghai to promote tourism.

Crucially, like LinkedIn, another international hopeful in China, Airbnb complies with Chinese laws requiring…

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