Although China is the second car market in the world after the US and also the fastest-growing one, it's not a given by any means that everybody drives. Only one in 45 Chinese people owns a car. Rising oil prices in the world are affecting China despite state regulation.
One in 45 Chinese owns a car
On a recent bus journey, Qian Feng from Shanghai got an idea of the increasing problems caused by high oil prices on the world market.
"I was on the way back from Henan,” he recalls. “The bus driver was finding it difficult to fill up. I immediately thought -- there's a bottleneck. There was a queue of cars in front of every petrol station -- hundreds of metres long. We would have had to wait for hours to get in the queue.”
“And then we'd only have been allowed to fill up for 10 euros worth -- about 20 litres. You can't go very far with that. The bus driver tried at ten petrol stations. Finally near Suzhou, an hour away from Shanghai, we got some petrol. Otherwise we would have been stuck."
The biggest Chinese petrol firms have introduced rationing since the government raised prices by 10 percent at the beginning of November 2007.
Before this raise, the prices didn't change for 17 months on government orders.
A litre of petrol costs 47 cents -- a lot of money for most Chinese and especially for taxi drivers. They drive around looking for customers and have to pay for the petrol themselves.
Difficult for taxis
"For my taxi drivers, the international price of oil is a very delicate matter,” says Zhang Guoquan, the manager of a Shanghai taxi company.
“It didn't use to have an impact on them. But now they're worried. Of course, the price of petrol in China still isn't completely dependent on the world market price because the government is still regulating things but the Chinese economy is becoming increasingly dependent on world prices. I'm also becoming more sensitive to the matter."
Shanghai resident Wang Jing was a taxi driver for years and is now a chauffeur. She has always loved cars and she knows everything about the technical aspects too.
But she doesn't feel the need to possess a car of her own: "I don't think it's important for me to buy a car. For one, I can't afford it. Secondly, public transport is fine -- I often travel by bus. Also, it's good to walk -- both for my health and for the environment. I don't think I'll buy a car in my lifetime. Most Chinese families are like mine -- we don't really think about cars."
There are only 22 cars per thousand Chinese. Romania, which has the lowest European rate, has 170 cars per thousand inhabitants.