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Nvidia chief executive Jensen Huang finds celebrity status

An enthusiastic female fan seeking an autograph on her chest. Thousands braving torrential rains to catch a glimpse of their idol. Admirers clamoring for selfies the moment he appears in public.

As Nvidia’s market cap hit $3 trillion, CEO Jensen Huang received a hero’s welcome during a visit to his birth land of Taiwan to attend an industry event. His personal star—and his company’s—has never flown higher.

Over the past week, the Taiwanese public and media clung to the leather-jacket-clad Huang’s every move in Taipei, where the 61-year-old is viewed as a homegrown icon.

“He is Taiwan’s pride,” said Ollie Lin, a magazine editor who watched Huang deliver a 90-minute speech at a college auditorium as heavy rains poured down outside. She had hoisted a sign that said “Taiwan hearts you” next to Huang’s photo. “Seeing him under the spotlight, yet so connected to Taiwan,” she said, “just brings him closer to us.”

Taiwan, where most of the world’s advanced semiconductors are made, has played a crucial role in Nvidia’s success. TSMC—short for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.—makes many of the chips that Nvidia designs at its fabrication plants on this island roughly the same geographic size as Maryland. Many Nvidia customers are also based in Taiwan, which has a population of roughly 23 million people.

Some said Huang may be flying too close to the sun, as he attracted online backlash for some of his behavior. In one interview with a local-media outlet, Huang called Taiwan a “country” that sits at the center of the world’s electronics industry. China’s Communist government claims the democratically self-ruled island as its own despite never ruling here. The Nvidia CEO’s comment prompted scathing remarks from social-media users across China, where access to Nvidia chips has been increasingly limited due to U.S. export restrictions.

Nvidia declined to comment on Huang’s description of Taiwan.

Born Jen-Hsun Huang in Taipei in 1963, Huang moved to Thailand at the age of five. He stayed there for roughly four years before heading to Tacoma, Wash. He is an American citizen.

During his two-week stay in Taiwan, Huang received wall-to-wall news coverage, dominating the discourse on social media and on the streets where one could easily hear Huang’s Chinese name mentioned. His dining choices, from beef noodles to pork knuckles, got curated into viral lists online. Even Huang’s wife and adult children got mobbed for fan photos and interviews.

In Taipei, a young woman squeezed through the crowd, first asking Huang to sign her mobile phone. Then, she pulled aside her white cardigan to reveal a low-cut top and requested an autograph on the chest area of her shirt, according to video of the exchange that aired on local media.

“Is that a good idea?” Huang asked, turning to someone standing nearby, before obliging. While some saw this as a testament to his popularity, others said the interaction was inappropriate and disrespectful.

Huang had been in town for Computex, where he delivered a speech on the sidelines of the event. The conference, one of the computer industry’s largest, was also attended by the heads of Intel, AMD and Qualcomm.

On Wednesday, Nvidia’s valuation reached $3 trillion, surpassing Apple. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has been the tech industry’s biggest beneficiary of the artificial-intelligence boom, given the central role its processors play in powering OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other applications.

The widespread public adulation for Huang, locals say, is at a level unseen since “Linsanity” in 2012—a frenzy sparked by Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese-American basketball player who experienced a meteoric rise while playing for the New York Knicks.

Given his roots there, Huang’s global achievements and affinity for Taiwan are viewed by locals as a sign of the island’s “national success and capability,” said Sydney Yueh, who wrote the book “Identity Politics and Popular Culture in Taiwan: A Sajiao Generation.”

Huang has talked glowingly about Taiwan’s night markets, where beef skewers sizzle on the grill and the aroma of peppery meat buns wafts through the air.

The endorsement prompted Taiwan to launch a tourism campaign, a senior official said, highlighting the island’s street-food culture. Livemint

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