Steve Jobs Resignation Has Chinese Netizens All Worked Up

Weibo has become a forum for Jobs adoration and Apple anxiety

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Naturally, Steve Jobs's resignation as Apple's CEO has sparked heated discussion in the U.S. But you might be surprised to learn that China--and particularly users of the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service--is also awash in spirited commentary, according to several recent reports. Millions of messages about Jobs were posted to Weibo within hours of Apple's announcement, making it the top trending topic on the site (the photo on right shows a special discussion page). The Wall Street Journal notes that Weibo's "largely white-collar users" showered Jobs with praise and expressed concern about the future of the company and the gadgets they'd come to love. "Jobs is the god we worship," Lei Jun, the founder of Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi declared, according to AFP. Another user quoted by CNN wrote, "Three apples have changed the world. One seduced Eva, one awakened Newton, the third one is in the hands of Jobs." Internet entrepreneur Wang Lifen took the news very personally:

Every day I use my iPhone 3 to make calls, send posts to Weibo with my iPhone 4, listen to material downloaded from iTunes when I run, listen to music on my iPod, download clients from the AppStore, use my Mac to go online--never has one company’s products been so deeply intertwined with my life.

The Weibo page is also hosting online surveys about whether Jobs's departure will strip Apple of its "soul" and customer base in China. Here's China Daily:

On the question of "how do you think Jobsresignation will affect Apple," more than 2,600 peopleor half of the survey respondentssaid the company would lose its soulwhile 1,789 people, 35 percent of the respondentssaid the impact would be limited as long as Jobs stayed with the company.

While 31 percent of the respondents polled in another survey said they would be "loyal Apple fanswith or without Jobsanother 49 percent said at least they still intended to buy iPhone 5, whereas 20 percent said they would no longer buy Apple products.

The Financial Times adds that the Jobs announcement has also prompted soul-searching in China at a time when the country's been in the news for its fake Apple stores. Zhang Xin, the founder and co-CEO of the real estate developer SOHO China tells CNN, "For China to produce its own Steve Jobs, our education system needs to reform to encourage creativity, to encourage students to challenge the authority, their teachers, and their books." Social commentator Wang Chuantao is equally doubtful about China's ability to produce someone like Jobs:

What's shameful for China is that innovation is like a fairy tale in this country. When Jobs and his colleagues are developing new products one after another, factories in southern China are satisfied with being a copycat phone production line… The "factory of the world" cannot realize its technology dreams.

Why the outpouring of opinions? Apple's products have become increasingly popular in China as disposable incomes rise, and Apple is responding to the trend by investing heavily in the country. The Journal notes that Apple's stores in Beijing and Shanghai attract an average of 40,000 visitors a day--four times the average of its American stores. CNN adds that Apple products have become status symbols in China while Jobs is a "cult figure" among China's "iPad generation" and a preeminent "role model" for its entrepreneurs.

Amid all this ecstatic praise for Jobs, it's worth remembering that the outgoing Apple CEO isn't universally loved in China. Back in May, for example, demonstrators in Hong Kong protested against the alleged abuse of factory workers by Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, which manufactures Apple products in China.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.