Xiaomi’s Lei Jun would really like everyone to please stop calling him “China’s Steve Jobs”

Not Steve Jobs.
Not Steve Jobs.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. In the first of our series profiling companies experiencing explosive growth, posted yesterday, Quartz featured Xiaomi, a Chinese mobile-phone maker that has captured the domestic market for cheap phones and the imagination of reporters worldwide. Our first sentence: “Lei Jun walks on to the stage like a young Steve Jobs.”

If only we had read the piece posted on Xiaomi’s official blog (link in Chinese) by Lei the previous day. In sum, Xiaomi’s founder and CEO has had enough of the comparisons with Apple and Steve Jobs, never mind that they helped raise his company’s profile outside China. He’s also had enough of journalists, users and Weibo (and especially journalists and users on Weibo). Here are some of Lei’s complaints, as translated by Tech in Asia.

  • Mr. Jobs was a great man. He did brilliant things, he changed the world, and was a huge inspiration to Xiaomi. But to use him as a point of comparison for myself is completely inappropriate. Xiaomi and Apple are two totally different companies.
  • I don’t mean to blame the media when I say this, but these headlines are written just to attract viewers.
  • The articles themselves don’t say anything negative, but the readers are still misled, and in editorials and on Weibo, I’m taken for a beating.
  • I’m not interested in arguing over semantics, but everyone can see that the Chinese translation of the Wall Street Journal holds a fundamental bias by using the word “baofahu” [nouveau riche].
  • Also, during a lot of interviews, reporters will set up traps that I can’t defend myself against. Often reporters will ask me questions like: “How is Xiaomi better than Apple or Samsung?” How am I supposed to answer this question? There’s no way I can give the right answer to this question.
  • I don’t exactly know when it started, but on social media, putting down Xiaomi somehow became a matter of political correctness.
  • Everyone’s willing to mock Xiaomi, mock Lei Jun - it’s just harmless entertainment, right?
  • When we added illuminated buttons to our phones, users complained they were too bright in the dark. Yet when we removed them, users railed they can’t find their phones at night.
  • Argh!