Stephen Hawking has taken Chinese social media by storm within hours of joining Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
In his first multilingual post on the site, the legendary cosmologist urged the platform’s massive user base to interact with him. “Greetings to my friends in China! It has been too long,” wrote Hawkins. “Now I can communicate with you through social media – and I hope to tell you more about my life and work through this page and also to learn from you in reply.”
And respond they did. The emoji-filled comments poured in and now stand at 358,000 interactions. Additionally, in less than 24 hours, Hawkins reportedly built up a stellar following of 1.5 million followers. That particular post has now been liked a total of 763,000 times.
It seems that the A Brief History of Time author also has a knack for social media. Perhaps it’s down to what he describes as a “cult following” in China, in particular with the country’s Web-savvy millennials. Hawkins total number of followers (or “fans,” as Weibo terms them) now stands at over 2 million and counting.
He followed up his first post with a status regarding his “Breakthrough Starshot” initiative. The newly announced project intends to develop the capability to launch tiny, light-propelled space probes to the nearest star. The initiative is being backed by Internet investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner, and counts Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (also mentioned in the Weibo post) as a board member.
With a user base of 222 million monthly active users, Weibo is the largest social network in China, as the country’s strict Web censorship laws have blocked the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Consequently, the homegrown platform provides a crucial soapbox for Western personalities looking to interact with China’s Web users.
Among the notable figures that have signed up to the platform in recent years are Bill Gates, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, reports Time.
Late last year, Weibo, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Twitter, beat its American counterpart in abolishing its 140-character limit for posts. Despite its CEO Jack Dorsey shooting down such claims, Twitter has long been rumored as planning to do the same on its platform.