According to Gov.cn, China's government's official web portal, "Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao jumped in his first ever online chat on Saturday afternoon [February 28, 2009], facing questions from nearly 300,000 netizens and mobile phone users ranging from unemployment, wealth gap, social justice to democracy" (see Premier Wen gives online interview with Xinhuanet, Government Portal). Wen is quoted as saying, "I don't expect myself to answer every question well, but I am here with a sincere heart and speak honestly." (Photo courtesy of Xinhua)
The two-hour chat was jointly organized by http://www.gov.cn and the Xinhua News Agency web site http://www.xinhuanet.com. A few of Wen's chat session topics included the economy, government reform, health care, and public infrastructure development. This is the second time a high-ranking Chinese official has engaged the Internet to communicate directly with the public. President Hu Jintao had a brief chat session at the web site of People's Daily in June 2008.
I encourage leaders of all nations, but especially those from developing nations, to use the Internet to engage and communicate with their respective citizens about important issues. Furthermore, these world leaders should avail themselves to donor agencies, investors, and global citizens in having an open and honest conversation about social and economic development issues. Getting access to the top decision makers is essential in obtaining timely and accurate information, and today's technology has made this communication possible.