Richard Liu, founder, Chairman and CEO of Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com, is stepping down as President of the company to focus on long-term strategies and rural development. Lei Xu, previously CEO of JD Retail, will take over as President of the larger company, leading day-to-day operations.
The move comes amid a regulatory crackdown on China’s tech sector that the government says is necessary to ensure the long-term growth of the country’s digital economy. Liu isn’t the first high-profile Chinese tech boss to take a step back — Zhang Yiming, founder of TikTok owner ByteDance, and Colin Huang, founder of social ecommerce firm Pinduoduo, both ceded their leadership roles this year.
Liu’s announcement that he would now turn his focus to “contributing to the revitalization of rural areas” appears to be in direct response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent call for businesses and entrepreneurs to help narrow the wealth gap and pursue “common prosperity.” Shares of JD.com were up 1.5% in early morning trading following the announcement.
“JD has a sound management structure with a large number of excellent business leaders, who, represented by Mr. Lei Xu, have strong belief in JD’s long-term business philosophy, proven leadership capability and extensive industry experience,” said Liu in a statement. “Looking to the future, the correct long-term strategic design, the growth and development of young talents, and the healthy and coordinated development of various business units will continue to be the driving force for JD in doing the hardest and most challenging, but right and most valuable things for the industry.”
New JD.com President Xu has been with the company since 2009, previously handling the development, operation and strategy of the company’s retail business as CEO of JD Retail. JD Retail will now be led by Lijun Xin, formerly Executive Director and CEO of JD Health, a health management platform that Xin built “from scratch.” Xin is no stranger to the retail side of JD.com’s business, having led JD.com’s marketplace business prior to creating JD Health.