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Uber in China is ‘cute’: Rival Didi’s president

Ride-hailing rivals Uber and Didi Chuxing continue to battle for market share in China, both announcing new funding this week. But Didi Chuxing's president, Jean Liu, downplayed any competition.

"I find it quite cute because I've never seen a company put their competitor's brand on their own homepage," Liu told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" at the Code Conference outside of Los Angeles on Friday.

Liu quickly pulled out her smartphone and opened the Chinese version of Uber's app to explain. Uber advertises that its prices are 30 percent lower than Didi's, with rides at five yuan, less than one U.S. dollar. There is no clear expiration on the deal.

"This is a very strong proof to show that we have better service, and I'd like to see this more often," she said.

In response to questions of Didi Chuxing, formerly known as Didi Kuaidi, needing to buy market share, Liu said the company already dominates 87 percent of the market in private car services, and almost 100 percent in taxis.


"Have you seen in other places market leaders buy market share?" Liu said. "Normally it's always the smaller player with smaller scale, lower efficiency and in most cases worse service that need to buy market share to heavily subsidize."

The Beijing-based company recently announced a $1-billion dollar investment from Apple and unveiled another batch of funding that's larger than Uber's recent round, Liu said on stage at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Wednesday.

The same day, Uber revealed a $3.5-billion injection from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which Zhen Liu, senior vice president of Uber China, told CNBC was "a vote of confidence in Uber and the ride-sharing market." Zhen Liu happens to be the cousin of Didi president Jean Liu.

"On the Uber news — I have to say — our industry is actually very early stage, so the more capital that goes into it, the faster it grows, so it benefits every one of us," Jean Liu said at the Code Conference on Wednesday.

Didi has already raised $5 billion, and said it has completed 14 million daily rides.

"Fundraising can go on forever, but at the end of the day you still need to figure out. If you want to win the market, it's really to win the heart of the user," the Didi Chuxing president said at Code on Wednesday. "That is what we are focused on."

Jason Calacanis, CEO of Inside.com and an early Uber investor who does not have an operational role in the company, responded to Liu's comments, saying it's more of a killer-animal type of cute.

"They are cute, like a pack of orcas is cute," Calacanis said. "They're nice to look at, but you may not want to get in there and swim with a pack of orcas. It may not turn out well for you."

He added that the ride-sharing competition in China is going to be a "dog fight."

"It's going to be hard for Uber to win there. No American company has won in China," he said. "But Uber is doing very well, and I think there is a good chance they could win."

Uber did not immediately respond for requests for comment.