Many of the world's Apple iPads and iPhones are assembled in China
Millions of messages were posted on microblogging sites following his death
Apple's relationship with China is complicated, including revelations of fake Apple stores
In China – home of manufacturing companies central to global production of Apple iPhones and iPads – the death of Steve Jobs’ death brought immediate reaction from Chinese netizens and captains of industry.
“When I head the news, I could not hold back my tears,” wrote Yu Minghong, founder and CEO of New Oriental Education, one of the largest private education service provider in China. “Because of him, the world has become different. Because of him, the boring world has become alive, the glum world has become creative, because of him a drab world has become colorful.”
Inside four hours of the announcement, nearly 35 million messages on Sina Weibo on Jobs’ death and 23 million messages of Tencent QQ Weibo, China’s first and second largest microblogging sites.
“Jobs is the spiritual leader of our time,” wrote @Xiongpeiyun on Sina Weibo. “I like Steve Jobs more than I like Apple. It’s a huge loss for the whole world. But his life was complete because he had been looking for and found what he loved. I haven’t committed whole heartedly to my life like Jobs had been doing. So, next to him, I feel more ashamed than being sad.”
Wrote @ QUENTIN_SHIH: “Only those who are so crazy as to think they can change the world can truly change the world.”
“Certainly Apple has achieved cult-like status amongst young, urban Chinese consumers,” said Duncan Clark, chairman and founder of BDA, a Beijing consultancy company focused on telecom, media and technology sectors. “Beyond the general public there is a vast, aspiring entrepreneurial class particular focused on understanding what makes successful business people like Steve Jobs tick.”
To be sure, Apple’s relationship with China is complicated. The revelation in recent months that as many as 22 fake Apple stores had cropped around China set new standards for piracy – even in a nation known for counterfeit technology.
“The fact that Apple stores, not just its products themselves, have been copied, shows that it is not just about hardware. The whole Apple experience is something that consumers aspire to,” Clark said.
“The world has lost a true hero and I have lost a friend whose dedication to his company, his customers, and our industry is reflected in the fact that he continued to work while dealing with such a devastating illness,” said Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, a leading manufacturing partner of Apple with 800,000 employees in China.
“Steve’s spirit will live on forever with those who, like me, had the honor to know and work with him,” Gou said. “However, everyone has been touched by his genius and, because of this, he has left the world a better place. He will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Yang Yuanqing, the CEO of China’s computer powerhouse Lenovo, said, “As a competitor, he helped ensure all of us pushed even harder. I am confident his legacy will continue to energize the industry for many years to come.”
“Jobs said, ‘Remember that you will be dead soon’,” said Lee Kaifu, venture capitalist and founding president of Google China, referring to Jobs’ famous 2005 Stanford University commencement speech.
“It helped me through making the most important choices in my life. Because all the glory and pride, embarrassment and fear will all vanish when confronting death. What I see that’s left with me is the truly crucial one. When you are worried that you will lose something, ‘Remember that you will be dead soon’ is the best remedy. If you can empty yourself, you have every reason to follow your heart.”
In Hong Kong, admirers plan an “i-Vigil” for Jobs – using iPhones with a flickering candle app – outside the city’s Apple store, which opened less than two weeks ago. “People have different ways of dealing with it,” says organizer Casey Lau on the loss of Jobs. “As a fan and as a user, I think (the reaction is) a little bit crazy but it’s a good idea to go out and pay our respects.”
CNN’s Kristie LuStout and Alexis Lai contributed to this report.