Premier Wen Jiabao's online debut won the hearts of those in the cyber community thanks to his soothing and candid answers on Saturday.
Wu Dingping, a blogger on Xinhuanet.com, said Wen's participation in a two-hour discussion on the site, during which he answered 30 questions, had been "the most exciting, encouraging and proudest moment for millions of Internet users".
"The exchange was the best encouragement for those who reflect social conditions and feelings, as well as take part in political and democratic life through the Internet," Wu said.
Zhou Xisheng, who blogs on People.com.cn, wrote: "China's democratic and political development has taken another step forward."
Wen was the second State leader to take his message to cyberspace following President Hu Jintao's short online chat at People.com.cn last June when he said: "I have to make time to go online, although I can't surf every day due to my busy workload."
Yu Guoming, deputy dean of the school of journalism and communications at Renmin University of China, said: "The State leaders' close connection with the Internet has been a testimony to the prosperity of interaction between officials and Internet users."
As the web is so popular, Chinese leaders recognize it as an important platform for listening to the people, he said, adding: "Their moves demonstrate their openness to public opinion in the Internet age and also the Party's increasingly open and confident government style."
The Internet today plays a large role in the country's political, economic and cultural construction, with data from the Ministry of Industry and Information suggesting the number of Chinese Internet users had already surpassed 300 million by the end of January.
Jin Jianbin, assistant to the dean of the school of journalism and communication at Tsinghua University, said the outlook of the online community is fast beginning to reflect that of the nation's population.
"Online exchanges attract real social conditions and sentiments, and such contact with the public through the Internet has special meaning," he said.
The Internet has gained huge power in gauging public feeling, making it "extremely important to manage it so as to secure people's right to know, participate, express and supervise," Jin added.
Bloggers and scholars alike hailed the premier's online exchange as an example to officials at lower levels.
A recent poll of 629 officials at county-level and above showed that a quarter often surf online, while 42 percent use the Internet occasionally.
Source: China Daily