Online Chinese premier answers questions from people

March 1st, 2009 - 2:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, March 1 (Xinhua) Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao faced a barrage of questions from nearly 300,000 netizens and mobile phone users during his first ever online chat Saturday.
“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 and the Xinhua news agency website.

President Hu Jintao had a brief question and answer session with netizens at the web site of People’s Daily in June last year.

Wen, who surfs almost every day and sometimes spends as long as one hour on the Internet, said: “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.”

The first questions were over lingering economic slowdown.

In an obvious effort to elevate public confidence without giving false hope, Premier Wen used carefully worded language to evaluate the effect of the four-trillion-yuan stimulus package he endorsed in 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 realise 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.

“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,” he said.

Picking a financing difficulty complaint from netizen Shen Yuefang who runs a small-scale business in Zhejiang, Wen blamed commercial banks and urged them to step up the implementation of state policies and lend more to small and medium-sized companies, especially private ones.

“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 optimise the system. This is real action to share in the woes of the nation. Every banker should do this.

“I noticed the harsh criticism which says good system matters more than good premier,” Wen said while 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 effort 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 said.

“Health care reform is not easy. Our determination to push forward the reform shows that the government cares about the health of the public.

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.

“To uphold democracy and have the people truly in charge, we must rely on no individual 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 Feb 2, 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 said.

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