Steve Jobs: China’s Princess Di of Tech


While the Western media somberly waxed lyrical about the resignation of Steve, the Chinese reaction was to go crazy with grief as if someone had shot their puppy.
The China Daily reported:

Jobs' resignation ranked the top hot topic of the day on Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging site, with 1.5 million posts on the topic by midday Thursday … On the question of "how do you think Jobs' resignation will affect Apple," …half of the survey respondents said the company would lose its soul… 20 percent said they would no longer buy Apple products. Li Yi, deputy director of China Mobile Internet Industry Alliance, said he believed that Apple could only reach its prime with Jobs in control.

From CNN’s surprisingly brilliant article, ‘China's Apple fans lament cult figure Jobs' resignation’:

Liu Jinhua says she almost choked when she heard the news that Steve Jobs has resigned. "I couldn't believe what I heard," says the private entrepreneur. "Then I chose to not to believe it." Liu is a confirmed Apple fan. At home and in her office, she and her husband own four iPhones, two iPads, three Mac laptops, two Mac desktop computers and two iPods. "For a long time I was absolutely speechless," Liu recalls…

Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer noted that "four stores in China were, on average, our highest traffic and our highest stores in the world."

China's wealthy consumers have embraced Apple products, analysts say, largely because of Jobs' charisma and business acumen.

Business analysts say Jobs is a cult figure among the iPad generation in China. Jeremy Goldkorn, an expert on Chinese digital media and founder of media and advertising website Danwei.org, said: "Bill Gates used to be the business leader that you'd most often hear young Chinese people talk about but that was mostly because he is very rich. Steve Jobs is not only very rich, but he's also responsible for the iPhone and iPad, which in a few short years have become highly desirable gadgets that project status."

Carrying the iPhones, iPods and iPads have become a conveniently portable way of projecting status. Apple products are a symbol of status for its Chinese fans. For many Apple owners, a Chinese analyst says, "Apple products indicate posh, wealthy, creative and well-educated."

Goldkorn thinks Apple's success in part lies in its products' expensive prices, which has given Apple the status of a luxury brand. "Just like large Gucci and Louis Vuitton logos on handbags, using an iPhone in public is an easy way to show you have money to burn."…

A typical [microblog] message said, "three apples have changed the world. One seduced Eva (sic), one awakened Newton, the third one is in the hands of Jobs." Another message posted by @ Jinzheng said "no matter what happens to the third Apple, the world became wonderful because of your (Jobs) existence." [1]

Wall Street Journal quoted a Chinese fanboy, ‘”Never has one company’s products been so deeply intertwined with my life,” former celebrity TV anchor-turned-Internet entrepreneur Wang Lifen’[2]  Steve’s most remarkable achievement in China was becoming their Gadget God without ever publicly addressing the Chinese people. In fact, it is difficult to find any record of him ever setting foot upon Chinese soil.

Chinese factory workers who have suffered permanent injuries from building Steve’s fancy gadgets – gadgets they will never afford - couldn’t give a frog’s fat ass about Steve stepping down. [3]

Of course, China fell into a downward spiral of mourning when Steve died. The glass doors of each Chinese Apple Store was clogged with flowers. The micro-blogger, Sina Weibo, was hit with double the traffic it received when he resigned. One user commented, "This is the first time a foreigner’s death has been hard for me to take.” [4]
On the other hand, the West grieved with a quiet dignity. President Obama took a break from making enemies left, right, and centre to talk about Steve - a kindred loner: “…brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.” [5]

We learned after his death that Steve sparred with Barack during the famous Silicon Valley dinner with The Prez. Obama asked Steve "What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Why can’t that work come home? Steve's flat reply was, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” [6]

Steve never visited China. His successor, Tim, however, can’t get enough of Apple craziest fans and cheapest workers. Tim visited China around the release of the "iPad 4G”. Pundits were impressed. “I want to give credit to Tim Cook for this,” gushed Dara O’Rourke, associate professor of environmental and labour policy at the University of California. “He’s admitting they’ve got problems.” Tim likes to tell us that his working class childhood in Alabama helped him appreciate factory work. “I spent a lot of time in factories personally, and not just as an executive,” Tim told investors at an SF conference after he ascended to CEO. “I worked in a paper mill in Alabama and an aluminium plant in Virginia.” I can almost hear The Boss singing “Born In The USA” in the background as I read the NY Times article. Both the NY Times [7] and The Guardian[8]  have suddenly decided that brave detractor, Mike Daisey, is wrong by criticizing Apple’s Chinese factories. In the wake of Steve’s death, the turncoat news icons now claim that the sweat-shops aren’t so bad after all.Tim put pay to the cherubic malcontent after Apple became the first technology company to join the Fair Labour Association. Tim invited the nonprofit global monitoring group to inspect its much maligned factories. [9] Good luck, Tim. The Chinese have become very adept at circumventing “inspections”. There are many very helpful online-forums in China that give advice on how to dodge regulations so that the bottom-line is not threatened by pesky Western sentiments like “duty of care”. 

What happened to that Chinese boy who sold his kidney to buy Steve's iPad? Apple products are hugely popular in China but are priced beyond the reach of many Chinese. The teenager was from one of China's poorest provinces. He was solicited over the internet to sell his kidney. He now suffers from renal deficiency, but is the proud owner of a now out-dated iPad. Five organ-pimps were arrested.  One of them, a degenerate gambler, received about US$35,000 to arrange the transplant. He paid the boy US$3500 and split the rest with the surgeon, and other medical staff. [10] ZDnet were moved enough to comment about the poor boy: "He got a poor deal". [11]  It is no wonder that Tim sees China as Apple's most vital market.


[1] FlorCruz, J. (2011, August 26) China's Apple fans lament cult figure Jobs' resignation.Cnn.com. Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/08/25/china.apple.jobs/

[2] Chin, J. (2011, August 25) A Place on the Ark? China Internet Users React to Steve Jobs’s Resignation. Wall Street Journal.

[3] Mclaughlin, K.E. (2011, August 30) China: Apple workers react to Steve Jobs’ resignation. Retrieved from: http://news.salon.com/2011/08/30/china_apple_workers_jobs/singleton/

[4] Osnos, E. (2011, October 6) China, Macau, and Steve Jobs [blog]. From Letter From China. New Yorker. Retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2011/10/china-macau-and-steve-jobs.html

[5] Obama, B. (2011, October, 5) Statement by the President on the Passing of Steve Jobs. Retrieved from:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/05/statement-president-passing-steve-jobs

[6] Duhigg, C. & Bradsher, K. (2012, January 21) How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work [blog]. From THE iECONOMY. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?pagewanted=all

[7] Carr, D. (2012, March 18) Theater, Disguised as Real Journalism [blog]. From THE MEDIA EQUATION. The New York Times.

[8] Lawson, M. (2012, March 23) Was Mike Daisey wrong to make fiction from fact? The Guardian.

[9] Wingfield, N. (2011, April 1) Apple’s Chief Puts Stamp on Labor Issues. New York Times

[10] Reuters (2012 April 6) Chinese teenager sold kidney to buy iPhone. The Guardian.

[11] Stewart-Smith, H. (2012, April 8) Is any gadget worth a kidney? Five arrested in China over illegal organ transplant [blog]. From Unboxing Asia in ZDNet.com. Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/asia/is-any-gadget-worth-a-kidney-five-arrested-in-china-over-illegal-organ-transplant/1579

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