We usually talk about government communications from the perspective of people who talk to government. However, this time it is government (the Chinese one) that is doing the communicating – online (h/t Sam Flemming )
The Wall Street Journal reports on Wen’s online chat:
“Last year, Chinese President Hu Jintao made headlines when he became the first Chinese leader to engage in an online chat with the public, in which he spent just four minutes answering a few questions. On Saturday, the “people’s premier,” Wen Jiabao, went a step further in his first online chat, answering 29 questions over two hours, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese).
The online chat was hosted by two state-own portals, the central government Web site and the Xinhua Web site. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, the two invited people to write in with their questions. By the time the chat began at 3 p.m., some 50,000 submissions had been sent.
Nicknamed by his fans as “Grandpa Wen” or “Wen Baobao” (baobao is Mandarin for baby), Wen over the last year has become popular on the China’s online forums and even on Facebook.
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 to criticize and make 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.”
Nearly 300,000 people participated in the two-hour discussion. According to the two portals, the top five concerns among the participants were unemployment, educational reform, health care reform, fighting corruption and social justice.
…Unlike Hu Jintao, who last year said “I have to make time to surf the Internet, and I can’t go online everyday due to my busy schedule,” Wen is online regularly, he said. “I surf the Internet almost everyday, sometimes spending as much as an hour online,” he said.”
An interesting trend for the Chinese government (following the consumer?), who are more used to the formal (stifling) atmosphere of the Great Hall Of The People – where a different sort of chat has just started for the National People’s Congress  (NPC). And they will also be chatting online, according to Xinhua .
Whatever next? Twitter ?