Steve Jobs Dies; Chinese Reactions

The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs, six weeks after his resignation as CEO, has triggered an enormous reaction around the world. As Twitter reportedly hit a new traffic record of 10,000 tweets per second, Sina Weibo was also flooded with reactions to Jobs’ passing, even setting up a dedicated micro-site. From Xinhua:

Chinese Apple fans poured out grief and regret Thursday over the death of the company’s visionary co-founder Steve Jobs, saying they believe the new iPhone 4S is just “iPhone for Steve.”

“I was really shocked when I woke up and heard the news in the morning.It is like a giant star falling from the sky,” microblogger “Wei Jinhuan” said on Sina Weibo, the largest microblogging website in China.

“His creativity and imagination had made the whole world astonished. His death means the end of an era,” microblogger “Li Rong” wrote.

“I will never see him introducing his new products in simple dress and with powerful and enlightening words. Alas!” user “Mo Xiaowei” posted.

China Real Time Report also reported netizens’ reactions, including a perhaps peculiarly Chinese note of scepticism:

Among the first to comment was Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google China. “Bon voyage, Master Jobs,” Mr. Lee wrote on his verified Weibo account. “Your products changed the world and your thinking influenced a generation.”

Thousands of Weibo users echoed Mr. Lee in mourning Mr. Jobs, littering the site with innumerable burning candle icons, while thousands more hopefully wondered whether the news was just another Chinese Internet rumor gone wild. “I really hope this is fake,” wrote Weibo user Astro_boy.

“Jobs is gone,” wrote another user going by the handle Buting Zheteng. “This is the first time a foreigner’s death has been hard for me to take.”

The Associated Press added:

Former Google and Microsoft executive, Li Kaifu, pasted a photograph of a rainbow near Apple headquarters that a friend sent him.

“I think God made this specially for Jobs,” Li wrote.

Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing expressed similar admiration in an email statement, according to Bloomberg:

“Today the world lost one of its greatest innovators and visionaries with the passing of Steve Jobs. His achievements are unmatched in our time.

“Steve led this industry like a beacon for the past decade. As a competitor, he helped ensure all of us pushed even harder, and I am confident his legacy will continue to energize the industry for many years to come.

“We admired his spirit, his creativity and his passion. He not only changed the technology industry, he changed the world and made it better.

“While we will all feel this enormous loss, I am confident that this industry will take to heart the lessons Steve taught us about innovation.”

These sober industry tributes contrast with that paid after Jobs’ resignation by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, who lamented that while Jobs lived, others in the technology sphere would always be outshone. From Penn Olson:

I believe Jobs is one of the great men of this age. He’s a Hollywood blockbuster …. But Jobs will die someday, so there are still opportunities for us. The meaning of our existence is just waiting for him to kick the bucket. Of course, on the one hand, we wish him a long life, but on the other hand, we don’t want the world to be blinded by his light; we’d rather live in a more colorful world.

In Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan showed an impromptu shrine taking shape outside the Sanlitun Apple Store, though there have been no reports yet of people burning paper iPads as offeringsA man selling bootleg iPhones outside one store dismissed the news as “impossible”, according to The Los Angeles Times’ David Pierson. The Wall Street Journal described scenes at Apple Stores around the world, noting also that AAPL’s rebound from its traditional post-iPhone announcement dip had been boosted by apparently commemorative share purchases.

In Beijing’s swank Sanlitun shopping district, 30-year-old Michael Li stood outside the local Apple store, head bowed and tears in his eyes. “We all knew this day was coming, but it doesn’t make it any less painful,” said Mr. Li, a Beijing native wearing red Angry Bird sneakers.

His wife, 29-year-old Wang Xi, bought lilacs for her husband to place at the door. He kneeled down in front of them for a few minutes after propping them against the glass building, just outside a large iPhone display. The card read: “Thanks, Steve!” […]

Even markets appeared to react to the news. In Taiwan, shares associated with Apple were up in early trading, a rise some attributed to an investor tribute.

“Some people are buying the shares to remember Steve Jobs after his passing,” said KGI Securities analyst Randy Chang. He said the purchases were similar to the way fans paid tribute to one of Mr. Jobs’ heroes, John Lennon, by buying his albums after he passed away.

Melissa Chan also provided some perspective, however:

Some Chinese walking by Apple store don’t know Jobs. Reminder that precious few privileged people in the world can afford iPhones, iPads.

(Equally, many of those in China who cannot afford the devices nevertheless pay high prices for their manufacture.)

The South China Morning Post recalled Jobs’ own words on death which, he said, “clears out the old to make way for the new”:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said during a Stanford commencement ceremony in 2005.

“Because almost everything − all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure − these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”