Yearender: Government officials improve mass communication skills

11:31, December 26, 2009      

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When Zhang Zhikui was appointed as the spokesman for Chongqing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau three years ago, he tried to dodge the media.

But after undertaking training and working for three years, Zhang said, "I am now willing to work with the media."

Chongqing, the city he works in, tops the ranking of provincial governments' capacity in dealing with the netizens' opinions for the third quarter of 2009, a survey conducted by People's Daily Online shows.

Zhang attended the 18-day spokesmen training program in the University of Westminster, together with 18 other spokesmen from Chinese government, starting from July 24, 2009.

"The program covers how to act in case of emergences and present a better government image," Zhang said.

Besides overseas training, Chongqing Municipality also conducted two local training programs in March and October respectively, altogether trained over 600 spokesmen.

"We hope through these trainings, spokesmen can understand that avoiding the media won't work. And timely information sharing is the wise thing to do," said Pu Zhihua, deputy director of the NewsCenter of Chongqing Bureau of Civil Affairs.

"Working with the media is, by nature, communicating with the public. It is also conducive to improving the governing capacity of Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government's administrative ability," said Li Junru, former vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

Provincial governments assigned spokesmen since 2004, and their telephone numbers were also available online.

In the following five years, government information is more transparent. After the Urumqi riots in July, 2009, foreign reporters had access to the scene.

"The establishment and development of spokesmen system signal that the government is shifting from governing the media to serving the media," said Li Xiguang, vice dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University.

Communicating with the public online is becoming the new norm, both at the central and local level, given the 300 million Internet users in China.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao answered people's questions online on June 20, 2008 and Feb. 28, 2009 respectively.

"I always believe that our people are entitled to know what the government is thinking and doing, and give their opinions, while the government should also solicit public opinions," said Premier Wen on Feb. 28.

Nanjing Municipal Government set up the Forum on Network Spokesperson on Nov. 23, 2009, after Yunnan Province and Guiyang City, promising to respond to online threads within 24 hours.

Yin Yungong, head of the Institute of Journalism & Communication, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China should beef up the spokesmen's training and explore a spokesman cultivation system that is based on China's conditions.

Source:Xinhua
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