Richard Liu is the founder and CEO of, the largest online retailer in China and one of the world’s top 10 retailers. He was born into a poor rural family in Jiangsu Province, but he has risen to become one of China’s most successful entrepreneurs. This article explores how Richard Liu built his business empire over two decades using innovation and creativity to build a retail giant that will surely shape global commerce for years to come.

Richard Liu’s Early Life

Richard Liu Qiangdong was born in 1969. He grew up in Suqian, Jiangsu Province, a tiny village about 200 km northwest of Shanghai. When he was young, his parents had to move the family to the countryside because they couldn’t afford school fees for Richard and his two sisters. Richard, who was 5 years old at that time, had to work as a farmer. He said in an interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times: “In those days, I worked from morning until night – no lunch break.”

Richard Liu first went to a primary school near his hometown for one year and then transferred to Suqian Middle School, one of the top schools in the province. He was only 13 years old when he graduated from middle school and applied to college at Nanjing University (NJU), now one of China’s most prestigious universities.

Richard Liu’s time at NJU was an important turning point in his life. At first, he majored in the Chinese language but later changed to economics, a totally new field for him. He was one of the top students at NJU and majored in international trade.

After graduation, Richard Liu spent more than two years looking for a job. During that period he worked as an ordinary employee in several state-owned companies. His monthly salary was barely enough for his living expenses. At the end of 1990, he decided to start his own business.

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