Premier Wen gives online interview at Xinhuanet, Gov't
Premier Wen Jiabao | Premier Wen's
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao holds an
online chat with netizens jointly hosted by the central government website
and Xinhua website in Beijing, China, Feb. 28, 2009. (Xinhua/Li
Xinhua Writers Cheng Yunjie, Li Huizi and Li Jianmin
BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao jumped in his first ever online chat on Saturday afternoon, facing
questions from nearly 300,000 netizens and mobile phone users ranging from
unemployment, wealth gap, social justice to democracy.
"I don't expect myself to answer every question well,
but I am here with a sincere heart and speak honestly," Wen said during the
two-hour-long chat jointly run by the central government web site www.gov.cn and the Xinhua News Agency web site
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao(R2) speaks while visiting staff members of the Xinhua News Agency website, after his
chat with Internet surfers in Beijing, China,
Feb. 28, 2009. Wen Jiabao held an online chat with
netizens jointly hosted by the central government website (www.gov.cn) and
the Xinhua News Agency website (www.xinhuanet.com) on Saturday. (Xinhua
The chat, second of its kind for a high-ranking
Chinese official, came several days before the Premier is to deliver his annual
work report at a meeting of the national legislature on March 5.
President Hu Jintao had a brief Q&A with netizens
at the web site of People's Daily last June.
It seems Wen, who surfs the Internet almost every day
and sometimes spends as long as one hour on the Internet, is aware of the
toughness of the chat. He started the chat speaking of the approximately half
million questions directed to him on local Internet forums, lately opened for
the public to utter their advice ahead of the legislature meeting.
"I am deeply aware of the raft of issues that need to
be addressed in a country as vast as China and I am deeply aware of the
difficulty and heavy responsibility a Chinese Premier has to face," he said.
The first heavy barrage came from the concern over
lingering economic slowdown which has already caused more than 20 million rural
migrant workers jobless and terminated the superiority complex previously
prevalent among the country's millions of college graduates on the job market.
In an obvious effort to elevate public confidence
without giving false hope, Premier Wen used careful wording to evaluate the
effect of the four-trillion-yuan stimulus package he endorsed last November.
"Signs in certain areas and fields pointed to a
turnaround. Some key indicators showed the economic situation has somewhat
turned better. But those were just temporary indices and couldn't be fully
compared with the past figures," he said.
"We must fully realize we are facing a long-term and
arduous task and strengthen confidence in the face of the crisis and be ready to
take firmer and stronger actions when necessary."
Wen gave his personal appreciation to the "brothers"
of rural migrant workers for their contribution to China's prosperity and their
understanding in times of difficulty.
"You have born the first brunt of the financial
crisis, but you didn't hold much grudge against the government but instead
showed your understanding, with some going back home silently for farming and
others dashing around for jobs," Wen said. "I thank you!"
The government would offer vocational training and
tax privileges for rural migrant workers to start their own business, he said.
Wen didn't use the occasion for a national
consumption pitch, although many economists agreed that raising consumption
would be the only way to rebalance and sustain the economy.
"Of course we wish the wealthy could spend money
boldly, but what we think essential is to increase the income of people from all
walks of life. In that case, consumption would have a much more solid founding,"
Hand-picking a complaint over financing difficulty
from netizen Shen Yuefang who ran a small-scale business in Zhejiang, Wen
harshly blamed commercial banks, urging them to step up the implementation of
state policies and lend more to small and medium-sized companies, especially
"I always said that economists, entrepreneurs and
bankers must have moral blood. That is to say whenever the country is in
trouble, we should help smaller companies and optimize the system. This is real
action to share in the woes of the nation. Every banker should do this," he
GOOD SYSTEM MATTERS
Affectionately named "Baobao" (the Chinese for baby)
by his fans, the 67-year-old has become one of the nation's most popular figures
after making swift appearance at disaster sites when a devastating earthquake
shocked the country last May.
During his visit to Tianjin on Feb. 16 this year, Wen
came cross weeping mother Wang Zhihua who couldn't afford the treatment for his
seriously ill son. Wen personally donated 10,000 yuan and arranged for the
two-year-old suffering leukaemia from the rural area in Zhangjiakou of Hebei
Province to get hospitalized in the Beijing Children's Hospital.
This philanthropic act however triggered public sighs
over the country's inadequate medical system.
"I noticed the harsh criticism which says good system
matters more than good Premier," Wen said, responding to a question on the
treatment of seriously ill children.
"Being the Premier, I need to think about how to
optimize our medical system and have seriously ill children treated....We have
already started to work in this direction. But our efforts is far from enough."
China currently has more than four million leukemic
children. Treatment for each would cost more than 100,000 yuan. But no medical
insurance in China would allow reimbursement for such large medical bills, Wen
He mentioned five steps the government will take,
including expanding the coverage of insurance and establishing a basic medicine
system with price ceilings.
The State Council, or the Cabinet, has lately passed
a medical reform plan involving a government input of 850 billion yuan (123
billion U.S. dollars) by 2011 to provide universal medical service to the
country's 1.3 billion population.
"Health care reform is not easy. Our determination to
push forward the reform shows that the government cares about the health of the
public," Wen said.
"Let me assure you that a good Premier would push
forward the establishment of a good system," he said.
Bombarded by questions over the widening income gap
and government corruption, Wen said that in a society where fairness and justice
prevail, the public should be able to share the fruits of reform.
Citing the Theory of Moral Sentiments by philosopher
Adam Smith, Wen said that society would be unstable if the wealth was long
concentrated in the hands of a small number of people while the majority was
stuck in poverty.
"However, the needy would have no way to shake off
poverty when the society was static. So only through development and progress
can we tackle such difficulty from the root," he said.
"To uphold democracy and have the people truly in
charge, we must rely on no individuals but a sound system to secure
top-to-bottom communications for the government to listen to the voices of the
masses," he said.
Asked why he didn't dodge when German student Martin
Jahnke blew a whistle and hurled a sports shoe at him at the concert hall of
Cambridge University on Feb. 2 during his speech, Wen admitted his eyes had been
blinded by the spotlight.
"I didn't know indeed what has come to me. But I have
a conviction even it was a dangerous article, I wouldn't move a bit because the
first thing that came cross my mind was to safeguard the national dignity," he
Wen asked the moderator to prolong the chat more than
once and addressed 29 more questions.