JD has been written off many times by commentators. It is far behind Alibaba in Market Capitalisation, and even Pinduoduo has overtaken it.

However, as Alibaba’s Jack Ma is in limbo and Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang has stepped down, people might have forgotten that JD’s Richard Liu also had his fair share of turmoil.

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.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.