Lei Jun: ‘We’re All Just Waiting for Steve Jobs to Kick the Bucket’


Lei Jun, standing creepily in someone's basement in front of photos of Steve Jobs.

Lei Jun is an interesting guy. Right now, he’s the man behind the remarkable Xiaomi Android phone, which boasts impressive specs for its remarkably low price. But he’s been accused of being a bit exploitative, and is currently in a feud with Meiju’s CEO J. Wang over who’s copying who as their very similar smartphones prepare to go head-to-head in the market. Both men have also been accused of self-promotion, and we must admit, this article from Entrepreneur doesn’t do much to diffuse that charge.

Because everyone likes Steve Jobs and the rantings of tech CEOs, we’ve translated Lei Jun’s screed on Jobs, philosophy, and China’s tech industry below. If you find it a bit difficult to follow, you’re not the only one. But it’s still an interesting, if sometimes crazy-sounding, read, especially now that we know Mr. Lei is also one of the keynote speakers at TechCrunch’s DISRUPT Beijing event this fall. If this is how he reads with an editor, we can’t wait to see if he goes off script at DISRUPT.


I’ve never met Steve Jobs. I’ve thought through his problems quite thoroughly, and even if we did meet, I’d have nothing to ask him. As to him personally, I’m no longer curious. [After reading] too many biographies and following him for over ten years, it’s like he’s standing right next to you. I will pay attention to what products come out in the next generation, but that’s just following the technology. But I’m not following his personal life or illness as closely as most people anymore.

I believe Jobs is one of the great men of this age. He’s a Hollywood blockbuster. As things changed around him, he remained steady. He experienced leaving Apple for twelve years, from 1985 to 1997. It was twelve years of practice and experience, and when he returned, he shined as bright as ever. Even when Bill Gates became a big star in the early nineties, he said ‘I’m still just number two to Jobs.’

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.

There are no gods in this world; the gods of the new age are still being created […] In China, the next ten golden years will give rise to many heroes. Everyone should cherish this. Our successes will all be depending on China’s golden twenty years.

Every success is just a memory of its age. Only if you understand this clearly can you maintain a composed and moderate outlook; success will not come as a surprise and failure will not come as a tragedy. If you measure by the centuries, all of this is meaningless. Aren’t the changes our industry has experienced in the past twenty years also, ultimately, meaningless? I have already thought this through very thoroughly: what I want, what I want to do. What is the most essential thing [in life]? The most essential thing in life is to understand yourself.

Someday, will the name Lei Jun be deeply associated with a great company? I think that’s meaningless. We all know that G.E. was founded by Thomas Edison, but the people who really created G.E. weren’t Edison, they’ve become meaningless. Who was it that founded Cisco? I forget. I want to tell you: it’s not important.

The fate of a founder may well be forgotten by history. Any part of history may be forgotten, because there are too many new things for people to pay attention to.

Yet people still want things that last forever. What lasts forever is truth, goodness, and beauty. Jobs respected beauty, and made industrial and IT products into beautiful things. That lasts forever. Beautiful things can be eternal, this is what Job’s designs can show us.

In today’s China, how many companies have fans? [His implication is: not many -Ed.] So in these nothing-can-be-trusted times, respecting things is very difficult. I’ve already been in the business for twenty years. All the companies I’ve worked for have been my own; not like these other companies with their monopolistic tendencies. We’re all struggling to survive in the market; we have nothing. I’ve seen so many rise and fall, countless great men rise and countless heroes fall. I’ve seen people raise tall buildings, hold great feasts, and eventually I’ve seen their buildings collapse.

If you’ve seen this countless times, and you don’t believe in something, then all that’s left is nothingness.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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