By Floro L. Mercene
Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who is the rightful heir to Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin, visited the United States only once at UC Davis in 2003.
On the other hand, he was in China thrice and has a cult following there.
There are more physicists and like-minded individuals in the US who are his friends, yet his brilliant mind that revealed to us the beginning of the universe is at home in a Communist country rather than a democracy like the US.
The answer is not hard to find.
His visit to China in 2006 was “covered with breathless excitement,” according to state media. He was compared to actor Tom Cruise.
In 2016, he said “hello to my friends in China” and he was met with a rapturous response.
The BBC said Prof. Hawking, who died last week at age 76, was beloved around the world, “but the adulation and respect he has always commanded in China are perhaps in another universe altogether.”
Budding Chinese students were enamored of a genius, strapped to a wheelchair due to a debilitating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, yet would tickle their funny bones with his wit and humanity.
“I like Chinese culture, Chinese food, and above all Chinese women. They are beautiful,” he said before students in Beijing.
Scholars and academics have traditionally been held in high regard in Chinese culture, which also prizes a hard-striving and disciplined work ethic.
Prof. Hawking also came along at a time when modern China began accelerating its scientific and space ambitions, thus making him their ideal role model to champion.
“Hawking has near-superstar status in China, and the Chinese government preaches that scientific prowess is crucial to the country’s future power,” the state media reported in 2006.
On the other hand, Hawking was critical of President Donald Trump.
During an interview with Piers Morgan in “Good Morning Britain,” he said he would asked Trump, if ever they meet, to replace Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, saying “climate change is one of the great dangers the world faces.”
Trump and Pruitt, both religious fundamentalists, do not believe in climate change.