Steve's jobs' Cultural Revolution in China

What Steve needs right now is a very large market of fashion victims who are used to abuse and neglect. He needs a country with an exploding number of nouveau riche who don't care if his products work properly or not. They just want them because they're cool. He needs 1.3 billion consumers who will blindly buy anything American, even if they don't know what an app is - especially if they don't know what an app is. Steve needs an over-inflated population of buyers who are less concerned about open or closed, and more concerned about the prestige of owning a trendy western gadget. He needs a nation where the media is controlled with an iron fist so it doesn't bother big business with trivial concerns like selling defective and over-priced products, or helping them get an A on their assignment. He needs China.

The iPhone 4 was released in China on September the 24th, 2010. This author was lucky enough to be there at the time. The China Daily mentioned very little about Android's crushing blows to the iPhone’s market share. The Government controlled media only vaguely mentioned some issue with the iPhone's antenna. An item that did not make it at all to The China Daily was the government ban placed on the alleged iPhone copycat MeizuMe. Steve defended the iPhone-friendly Chinese Communist Party by stating the ban was justified "because they stole our ideas and intellectual property."[1] The China Daily either condemned or outright ignored these anti-revolutionary issues. Instead, every article about the iPhone 4 was simply a breathless countdown to the arrival of the American wonder-phone.
With Mao dead, the Chinese need something else to follow that makes them feel they are part of something larger than the individual. Since the 1980s, China has found salvation by opening itself to the Western market of shiny things.
The Chinese have an aversion to orderly queues, so there was no line outside the Beijing Apple Store. Instead, a messy crowd of a thousand fashionistas with new money swarmed around Apple’s glass doors for two days before the iPhone’s release. When the doors finally opened, the staff raced around slapping high-fives with the faithful. The first fan-boy to receive his Judas Phone, was embraced like a long lost son. The mob chanted “Apple, Apple, Apple”, and then “iPhone, iPhone, iPhone”. The only ones not chanting were the migrant farmers and housekeepers hired by executives who felt that waiting with the proles was beneath them. They probably wished their boss had sent them out for a bag of dumplings instead of some gadget they themselves would never own.
Many of the crowd were scalpers with armfuls of cash, who hauled away dozens of iPhones, only to re-sell them within minutes. These were no ordinary scalpers. They were Chinese scalpers - representing a long tradition of heavily organised and dodgy entrepreneurialism.  These guys worked in teams. They wiped out the store’s inventory before regular customers had time to reach for their Mastercard. Forlorn and empty-handed, the regular customers were led away to alleys by the canny scalpers who made at least ten per-cent profit on a resale. Within a week, Apple laid down the law. New rules dictated that people must make reservations online to buy only one-phone per day, and they can’t leave the store unless they sign up to service provider on the spot. This was no problemo as Chinese citizens were used to being told what to do.
You can normally count on Chinese retailers to sell Western wares at about half the Western price. Apple products are the exception to the rule. Chinese fan-boys shelled out double the price paid by their Western brothers. This meant the average Chinese probably worked quadruple the hours of a Westerner to earn enough Yuan to buy the shiny new gadget.
Steve would not be there for the frenzied launch, but his spirit was everywhere in the capital. In crowded back alley markets, displayed on folding tables, little plastic Steves could be found. The dolls wore perfectly miniaturised black turtlenecks, Levi 502s, and New Balance 991 sneakers. They stood in good company next to little plastic Obamas. The President as okay with his doll - unlike Scrooge McSteve. One month later He would eradicate the Steve dolls with a single letter to its Chinese manufacturer.[2] Such swift unquestioning response is why the Chinese market agrees so nicely with Steve’s megalomania.
At the Beijing Apple store, this author approached one of the staff and asked,

"Sooooo, how's the antenna problem going?"

"Apple fixed it before they released it in here in China"

"Oh right? What did they do to fix it?"

"I don't know. I was just told they fixed it"


Moving on to another youngster in the signature blue t-shirt:

"Soooo, sell a lot of covers in this store?"

"Yeah, sure. Covers are popular cos you know... it’s necessary."


"You know? The antenna problem."

"Oh yeah, the antenna problem."

Afterhours, the empty store remained fully lit up. The carefully composed track lighting cast a heavenly glow upon row after row of iPhones and their cornucopia of beautifully crafted accessories. Two young security guards sat on stools inside the locked glass doors. They’re a lot less threatening than the two gorillas that keep the same watch within the Sydney Apple Store. One of them texted his girl on an old iPhone 3. He couldn’t afford the new one just yet. However, regardless of which model he has, he still won’t be able to access Facebook, thanks to the Chinese Communist Party.

[1] Electronista (2010, October 10) Steve Jobs: MeizuMe “stole our ideas”. Retrieved from

[2] Snol, L. (2010, November 24) Apple Bans Steve Jobs Doll: One Less Thing. PC World.


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