You might think that enmity runs deep between e-commerce rivals Dangdang and JD.com. But when it comes to relationship issues, the male bosses of the two companies have emerged as unlikely allies, prompting one to stand up for the other.
First, some background: just before Christmas a rape charge against JD.com’s founder Richard Liu was dropped. “It became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof and, therefore, we could not bring charges,” said Mike Freeman, the attorney of Minnesota’s Hennepin County. “It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual.”
Liu was accused of sexually assaulting a 22 year-old college student while he was enrolled in a business administration programme at the University of Minnesota last September (see WiC424).
Upon the announcement of the charge being dropped, Liu issued a repentant statement on his weibo, acknowledging his “behaviour” in Minnesota had hurt his family greatly, especially his wife Zhang Zetian, also known as “Milk Tea Girl” (see WiC231). “I feel deep regret and remorse. I have already told her the truth and I hope she can accept my sincere apology. I will try my best to repair the damage done to my family and fulfill my responsibility as a husband”.
While netizens speculated on the couple’s marital state (they were spotted skiing together over Christmas), Dangdang’s co-founder Li Guoqing defended Liu on his own weibo, saying the incident “looks bad”, but is not “unjustifiable”.
His reasoning? “First, [the incident] is not sexual assault, but simply extramarital sex. It can’t really hurt shareholders or employees. Second, it’s not extramarital affairs, but simply sex. It doesn’t hurt the wife that much. Third, he’s not visiting a prostitute, which means he’s not creating a bad social influence.”
He then went on to offer his own hook-up tips: “Before having sex with the girl, hold her hands and ask: there is no romance between you and I, do you accept it?”
His comments received a barrage of criticism. “Li tells you how to cheat with the lowest possible cost, and with your wealth and reputation intact. It’s a sharing of experience and technique, but also a shameless one,” said a netizen.
“Has he got no daughters or sisters?” asked another.
In the wake of the controversy online bookseller Dangdang distanced itself from the remarks, emphasising that Li (who has a 27.5% stake in the company versus his wife Yu Yu’s 64.2%) has not been sitting on the management board for some time. It also asked Li to remove Dangdang’s logo from his weibo page and in a bid to lure disenchanted customers back offered a 50% discount on its products.
But while the majority appeared to lambast Li online, he had a few defenders. “I agree with you. But to voice those opinions as a public figure, you’re pretty courageous,” said one fan. Another followed: “Which man aged above 50 could admit that he has never cheated?”
According to a report by local data provider iResearch in November, over 27% of Chinese married couples revealed that they’d thought of cheating on their partners, while 5% said they’d actually had extramarital sex. It is not known which gender cheated more, though.
While the number of divorces continues to rise, reaching above 4.37 million in 2017, 73% of such cases were filed by wives – suggestive, perhaps, that more of the infidelity was initiated by husbands.
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