Secretary Clinton Engages Chinese "Netizens" in Webchat

Posted by Robert Raines
February 24, 2009
Secretary Clinton Participates in China Daily Webchat

About the Author: Robert Raines serves as the Assistant Information Officer for Electronic Media at U.S. Embassy Beijing.

An intense hush falls over the crowd of technicians, reporters, and embassy staff as the Secretary enters the room. Everyone rushes to their places – pens out, lights on, and cameras focused. I motion to show her the seat. She clips on her own microphone and turns her warm smile to the moderator, a prominent Chinese professor and expert on climate change. The webchat begins.

With nearly 300 million internet users, China just recently surpassed the U.S. as the country with the most internet users – here called “netizens” – in the world. These are the young, professional, educated, rising middle-class of China. They are unflinchingly proud of their country and the tremendous progress it has made over the last thirty years. They are also increasingly anxious – and increasingly able – to learn about and to engage friends and contacts around the world. Despite continued restrictions, the web is their tool to reach beyond boundaries, to network among themselves, and thereby to become the driving force for social, political, and economic development in China.

Engaging audiences like this is what Public Diplomacy (PD) officers live for. We support programs, exchanges, and press events so that we can share and explain, but also so that we can listen, learn and better understand.

Secretary Clinton is the first Secretary of State (in our memory here in the Embassy) to engage Chinese netizens in a webchat. The impact of her doing so – both in terms of substance and form – will be immense. The simple fact that the Secretary took the time to sit down and answer the questions of ordinary Chinese netizens will be seen as a profound gesture of respect and a powerful invitation to further open the doors of engagement between the U.S. and the people of China.

It was a personal – as well as professional – honor to be present for this event. Anyone interested can view the webchat in Chinese or English.



Minnesota, USA
February 24, 2009

Jeff in Minnesota writes:

Hillary Clinton is setting a great example for other government leaders. The tendency for bureaucrats and politicians to fear the public has a warping effect on interaction. By open engagement with the public, the important information is going to get to the right places. It should be obvious, but it takes courageous leadership to put in practice, and teach by example.

New Jersey, USA
February 25, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

Wow, Robert! Thank you so much, not just for the blog post, but also for posting a link to the chat itself. As you point out, this event was probably history. I work with Chinese students, and I know the Chinese people must have been deeply honored.

Hillary always seems to know just what note to hit. She is very engaging and uses all of this technology so well. I am so glad she did the web chat in China, and I am so glad you had the chance to be there. Clearly it meant a lot to you.

California, USA
February 25, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Dear Mr. Raines,

To me your remarks about "Engaging audiences like this is what Public Diplomacy (PD) officers live for. We support programs, exchanges, and press events so that we can share and explain, but also so that we can listen, learn and better understand" are the respectful and mutual quintessence of how the petals of the flower of the future can open so, at last, the world can bloom.

I had no idea until you told us that there are more netizens in China than anywhere else in our global noosphere. What a great event. As a dawn fills with sunlight, my heart fills with hope.

Maryland, USA
February 25, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

I read the Webchat they had some good questions, about climate change. Professor Qi Ye was pretty good at moderator. I didn't know china had so many netizens, 300 million is a lot of people online. I hope they have good IPs over there.:)

I liked the Question about greenhouse gas emissions, being cut by 25-40 percent by the year 2020. Hopefully by 2020 things will be looking greener for all of us. Thanks for posting Robert R. Cya :)

Jay T.
California, USA
February 25, 2009

Jay T. in California writes:

Of course, those netizens in Chinese prisons for criticizing their totalitarian government weren't able to participate.

New York, USA
February 27, 2009

Amy in New York writes:

I've read the transcript of the webcast, and it's fantastic. It's good to know that we're being open, honest, and optimistic. I really felt that Secretary Clinton was doing a good job of portraying American values to ordinary Chinese. She was very aware of the real and legitimate needs on China's side, while being firm in pressing American objectives and interests. Indeed, China absolutely deserves a higher standard of living for its people, but it simply cannot keep emitting greenhouse gases at the same rate (nor can we).

District Of Columbia, USA
March 2, 2009

Bethann in Washington, DC writes:

It is amazing to hear that China has more internet users than the United States ranking as number one. Having the internet enables people to communicate with not only people in their own country but with citizens of other countries. The Chinese citizens have every right to be proud of their countries advancements. I am glad to hear our country is moving forward with different ways of interacting with another country's citizens. There are relatively few high-ranking political U.S. figures that utilize new forms of communication to prove the continuing potential the internet has in U.S. diplomacy. I was also impressed with the time Secretary Clinton took to talk and answer questions for the people.


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