Grandpa Wen goes viral

World leaders are becoming ever more internet savvy these days. Obama’s team used the web to create a grassroots presidential campaign and his administration continues to send emails and post youtube videos to disseminate information. Even in some of the most unlikely places, presidents and prime ministers are going to the internet to get in ...

588124_090302_wen_ressized2.jpg
588124_090302_wen_ressized2.jpg

World leaders are becoming ever more internet savvy these days. Obama's team used the web to create a grassroots presidential campaign and his administration continues to send emails and post youtube videos to disseminate information. Even in some of the most unlikely places, presidents and prime ministers are going to the internet to get in touch with the people -- or at least to give that impression -- as even Dmitry Medvedev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have setup their own online fora.

The latest example is China, where Premier Wen Jiabao spent two hours online chatting with netizens on Saturday. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Wen started by saying he'd been looking forward to chatting online with the public. 'I am glad to have this online chat with all of you,' he said. 'I always believe that the public has the right to know what the government is thinking and doing, and criticize and suggestions on government policy.' He also said that he was a bit nervous in his first online chat, but said that he would follow his mother's advice to 'always talk honestly and with heart.'"

World leaders are becoming ever more internet savvy these days. Obama’s team used the web to create a grassroots presidential campaign and his administration continues to send emails and post youtube videos to disseminate information. Even in some of the most unlikely places, presidents and prime ministers are going to the internet to get in touch with the people — or at least to give that impression — as even Dmitry Medvedev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have setup their own online fora.

The latest example is China, where Premier Wen Jiabao spent two hours online chatting with netizens on Saturday. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Wen started by saying he’d been looking forward to chatting online with the public. ‘I am glad to have this online chat with all of you,’ he said. ‘I always believe that the public has the right to know what the government is thinking and doing, and criticize and suggestions on government policy.’ He also said that he was a bit nervous in his first online chat, but said that he would follow his mother’s advice to ‘always talk honestly and with heart.'”

 

While the motives for leaders like “Grandpa Wen” surely involve a bit (if not more) of propaganda, it seems encouraging that participants were allowed to ask straightforward questions and air legitimate concerns:

-‘Affected by the financial crisis, we farmers find it hard to find jobs. I want to start my own small business… I hope we farmers can also get small-scale loans that we can repay in three or five years.’ Wen said the government should encourage them to start their own businesses by offering a tax stimulus and training opportunities.

-‘As a consumer, I feel like I am treated like God in the shops. But when can I feel the same way while in hospitals?’ Wen replied that the government will do more to make the country’s health care system more accessible and affordable.

-‘Premier Wen, what do you think about the power of government officials? And what do you think the power you hold?’ Wen said the government is making active preparations for officials to declare their assets as part of the effort to combat corruption.”

However, the premier did not have time to get to every question:

-Late Premier Zhou Enlai was known of being able to drink a lot, so how much can you drink?”

This chat was undoubtedly an effort to bolster the premier’s already soaring reputation. Still, for the average Chinese person, this type of candid interaction with the a government leader would have been largely unimaginable even ten years ago. 

Feng Li/Getty Images

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