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NPC, CPPCC Sessions Highlight Importance of 'Online Politics'
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The ongoing sessions of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have brought to the fore a growing force that is changing the face of China's political ecology: "Online Politics".

The Chinese characters, "Wangshang Lianghui", which mean "online NPC and CPPCC sessions", are currently the most popular on Chinese search engines.

A search for sample questions for Premier Wen Jiabao threw up several results, including this one: "Premier Wen, I was brought up in the countryside. I don't think the poverty problems in rural areas can be solved with the abolition of agricultural tax and provision of subsidies."

CCTV-4, a China Central Television channel, ran a program called, "I Have a Question for the Premier". In the run-up to the opening of the two sessions on March 3, more than 120,000 Chinese netizens had submitted their questions to the program via the Internet.

Chinese nationals overseas have also been actively involved, posting their questions on the websites of Chinese publications such as People's Daily.

After going through all 120,000 questions, the program's production team divided them into three groups. One lot of questions was aired on TV, another was forwarded directly to the relevant government departments for discussion during the ongoing sessions, while the third was posted back on the Internet for interactive discussion.

Another Internet tool being utilized is the blog.

Zhang Aijing, a reporter with People's Daily who has started a blog on the sessions, noted: "More NPC deputies and CPPCC members have started blogs this year."

Ye Qing, whose blog was voted People's Daily Best Social Responsibility Blog of 2006, is the vice director-general of the Statistics Bureau of Hubei Province. He has updated his blog almost daily since he started it on March 2, 2006. He said that communicating with netizens through the blog is very efficient because there are no time and space limitations. He also finds the blog an extremely useful way of conducting research.

Zhang Xiaomei, a beauty industry entrepreneur and CPPCC member, said that her blog has enabled her to communicate more effectively with her fellow citizens. Prior to attending the session in Beijing, she posted her draft resolution on her blog and received more than 300 comments and opinions.

CCTV-4 anchor, Lu Jian, said that all CPPCC members and NPC deputies should have blogs, adding that the government should officially sanction blogging for this purpose.

A request for public opinion and comment posted by NPC Deputy Hong Kezhu on www.people.com.cn on February 28 received about 5,000 hits in just three days.

Hong said: "I am considering netizens' opinions in a comprehensive way. Some have been added to my proposals, while others might be submitted for proposal at another time or require further research."

Yang Jihong, who is in charge of preparing the session reports for CCTV-4, said: "Everyone wants to participate in the administration of state affairs. The question is whether we have the channels or not."

"Whether at home or abroad, the Internet has provided the Chinese people with a platform from which to air their views," said Yu Guoming, vice director of the Journalism School at Renmin University of China.

For Wang Xueping, an NPC deputy, voices never before heard are given their due air-time on the Internet, which is very helpful to a deputy's work.

"These previously neglected voices can cumulate into a force not to be trifled with in society. We should adapt to any change in political ecology caused by this force and employ new methods and working patterns to deal with these changes," Yu Guoming added.

(International Herald Leader, edited and translated by Zhou Jing and Li Shen for China.org.cn, March 9, 2007)

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