Uber’s largest global city by volume may seem surprisingly obscure. Chengdu, a central Chinese metropolis straddling the border between first and second-tier status, has the most active Uber population by sheer numbers, and it’s produced a testing hotbed for the company’s global services. Chengdu was the world’s first city to test Uber Commute,the service designed to curb peak hour traffic. It was also the first city outside of the US to trial Uber Pool, the carpooling feature that now spans several countries.

Chengdu isn’t just a big city for Uber, it’s also at the heart of the Chinese subsidy war. The country’s tech giants have initiated a spending spree, injecting huge amounts of cash into a subsidization program they hope will help them claim an early market share in an increasingly competitive market. Uber’s primary rival Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) is no stranger to this cash burn. The company has raised upwards of $3 billion USD in the past 6 months to fuel their campaign, slashing costs for users.

Uber China, which has a comparatively small pool of funding, is now looking for ways to slash costs on subsidies, and Chengdu, one of the country’s biggest test markets, could hold the key to helping them do that. Last month Uber CEO Travis admitted that Uber China is losing $1 billion USD a year, but that they re aiming to achieve profitability within two years.

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or catecadell@technode.com