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Chinese Apple fans say farewell to 'Master Jobs'

Ng Han Guan / AP

A Chinese man takes a photo of flowers and tributes to Steve Jobs placed outside the Apple retail store in Beijing, China on Thursday. Click on the photo to see a slideshow of world reactions to Jobs death.

By NBC News’ Bo Gu

BEIJING – Within a day of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ death, over 63 million tribute messages had already been published on China’s Twitter-like, government-controlled, micro-blogging site Weibo.  

The huge outpouring reflects the mutual admiration between the tech pioneer and China’s 1.3 billion people.

China has become Apple’s fastest growing market, with revenue from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan reaching $3.8 billion in the third quarter of 2011 – six times the amount from the same period last year.  In an earnings report speech in July, new Apple CEO Time Cook acknowledged “China was very key” to the company’s bottom line.

Fans of Jobs flocked to the Apple store in Beijing’s Sanlitun neighborhood on Thursday, leaving flowers, cards and a poster-sized photo of the computer titan as customers continued to browse the shop inside.

The popular Sanlitun Apple attracts not just customers, but dozens of illegal vendors trying to hawk Apple-related products outside as well.  The products are so popular and the vendors are so brazen that when iPads were officially launched, some of them went inside the store, bought dozens of iPads, and then tried to sell them right outside the shop for a higher price. 

Kuang Hao, a 21-year-old Beijing student who said he has been saving up to buy an iPod touch, told NBC News that he was sad about Jobs’ death, but didn’t believe the loss would affect Apple’s development. “It’s not one person’s career, but rather teamwork,” said Kuang.
Away from the shop, the tributes flooded in online.

“I’m not being pretentious or showing off here, but I started with a Shuffle three years ago, and now I’m using a Mac Pro,” Apple user “Xu Yanlin” wrote on his Weibo page.  “Apple products keep me company each night when I study or go to the library....Farewell, Qiao Bangzhu!” 

Stringer/china / Reuters

A woman reacts as she mourns the death of Apple co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs, at Sanlitun Apple store in Beijing on Thursday.

“Qiao Bangzhu,” meaning “Master Jobs” in English, is an affectionate nickname Chinese Apple fans bestowed on Jobs. It’s the title of a hero taken from a novel written by China’s most renowned martial arts fiction writer Jin Yong. 
Another user on Weibo, “Xiaoyu-meow,” expressed his admiration by saying, “I miss you, Jobs.  Please also make heaven this cool since we are all going there one day.”
Sina.com.cn, one of China’s leading Web portals, put up a special black-and-white front-page report to remember Jobs.  “[You] lived to change the world,” read the big headline on the site’s front page. The special tribute coverage included stories of his life, mourning and condolence messages from celebrities, reports translated from Western media, a video of Jobs and surveys of Apple users’ expectations for the future of the company.  

Apple just opened its newest store in Shanghai, its fifth in mainland China, on Sept. 23. The store is the largest in Asia and attracted over 100,000 customers in its first week of business. 

Young Chinese are keen to own Apple products – the whole country was shocked in June by the news that a 17-year-old boy from Anhui province sold one of his kidneys for $3,000 to buy an iPad, according to local reports. 
Outside the Apple store, next to the long line of fans waiting to spend some cash, a young man selling anti-scratch plastic covers for iPhones said he learned the news this morning when he “came to work” in front of the store.  The vendor, who preferred to stay anonymous, said his business had not been affected by the death of Master Jobs.