Where is China’s Steve Jobs?

Apple is experiencing a booming market for product sales in China: two years ago Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) generated just $1 billion of business in China. Today, revenues are a hair under $5 billion for the first half of 2011 alone. China has already accounted for around 10 percent of Apple’s revenues, and is projected to continue growing at a steady incline. This company has cultivated an “Apple phenomenon” amongst young, urban Chinese consumers, who are Apple’s primary target market, and the passing of Steve Jobs made Chinese people realize how crazy their love affair is with the man and the products of his vision. Within a day of Jobs’ death, over 63 million tribute messages had already been published on China’s Twitter micro-blogging site, Sina Weibo, on which his death ranked as that day’s most popular topic. Steve Jobs embodied an American ideal and had thirst for innovation that few Chinese people recognize and possess today.

Around the same time as Steve Jobs’ Death, another piece of news drew the attention of many Chinese people, and has prompted serious debate among internet users. A 16-year-old child prodigy, the youngest student enrolled in a doctoral program in China, said in a famous Chinese TV interview that he refused to defend his graduate thesis until his parents bought him a house in Beijing (China’s capital). Beijing has the highest prices in homes and it is impossible for his family to afford one.

While Steve Jobs’ death and this young man’s story may seem unrelated, they in fact vividly reflect a fundamental difference between the two geniuses, Steve Jobs and the young Chinese PhD candidate. One’s concept of success was through rapid innovation and endless passion for his work, while the other believes that money is the key to solving problems and unhappiness.

I am not blaming this young genius for his actions, because he is simply the pathetic production made from Chinese society. I am not blaming his parents, for they did not realize their way of imposing adult ambition to the child was harmful. I am also not blaming the Chinese society because social problems often accompany a fast growing economy. However, I could not help but wonder, Chinese are intelligent and have the great potential and motivation to be great, but why doesn’t China have a role model like Steve Jobs? The Chinese need to create a culture where creativity dominates imitation, persistence in our beliefs facilitates long-term profit, and a passion for life that does not revolve around material comfort.

I think it’s the time for China to stop the flying pace and face our educational problem. It is not ideal to focus on memorization and exam techniques instead of ingenuity. We need to encourage and incorporate more critical thinking and creative reasoning into our teaching system. The children should know that knowledge alone is not enough, it is knowledge married with thinking and married with enthusiasm that yields us the result to make our heart sing.

Steve Jobs has been called a visionary, a rebel, a non-conformist, an original, the greatest CEO ever, the even the best innovator of all time. China doesn’t need a second Steve Jobs; he was the only one in history. Now it is only important that the Chinese young adults should not only be crazy about Apple products, but also recognize the talent of Steve Jobs and aspire to follow his teaching and life philosophies.