JD has been written off many times by commentators. It is far behind Alibaba in Market Capitalisation, and even Pinduoduo has overtaken it.
In 2018, Liu was briefly arrested in the US State of Minnesota for suspected sexual assault. The following year, he resigned from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body; and in 2020, he stepped down as CEO of JD’s operating entity, passing the job to Lei Xu.
Liu, who grew up in a poor village in northern Jiangsu province, might have still kept his political savvy. The announcement and presentation of JD’s latest quarterly earnings showed just that.
Not an internet platform
First, JD positions itself as a retailer, not a tech platform.
In normal circumstances, this might sound like just a trick to avoid comparison with Alibaba or Pinduoduo. However, in the current political and regulatory landscape in China – this now seems smarter than just that.
Second, in the earnings release, Richard Liu said the following:
“Over the past 18 years since our founding, JD.com has always placed the interests of our customers, partners and employees foremost while upholding our long-standing business principle of doing business the right way,” said Richard Liu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JD.com.
“Today, JD has become China’s leading supply chain-based technology and service company, serving a growing base of millions of partners and 532 million customers. With hundreds of thousands of full-time employees and our next generation smart supply chain and infrastructure network, JD has become a new type of real-economy based enterprise supporting China’s development for the long-term.”
Did you notice the key words? “supply chain-based technology and service company”, “full-time employees” and real-economy based enterprise”.
In other words, “We are not big tech”.
Expect other companies to say something similar in the next days or weeks.