ZAKARIA: You – you speak, in your speeches, about how China is not yet a strong and creative nation in terms of its economy. Can you be a strong and creative nation with so many restrictions on freedom of expression, with the Internet being censored? Don’t you need to open all that up if you want true creativity?
温家宝: I believe freedom of speech is indispensable for any country, a country in the course of development and a country that has become strong. Freedom of speech has been incorporated into the Chinese constitution.
I don’t think you know all about China on this point. In China, there are about 400 million Internet users and 800 million mobile phone subscribers. They can access the Internet to express their views, including critical views. I often log onto the Internet and I have read sharp critical comments on the work of the government, on the Internet and also there are commendable words about the work of the government.
I often say that we should not only let people have the freedom of speech. We, more importantly, must create conditions to let them criticize the work of the government. And it is only when there is the supervision and critical oversight from the people that the government will be in a position to do an even better job and
employees of government departments will be the true public servants of the people.
All these must be conducted within the range allowed by the constitution and the laws. So that the country will have a normal order. And that is all the more necessary for such a large country as China, with 1.3 billion people.
ZAKARIA: Premier Wen — since we are being honest, when I come to China and I try to use the Internet, there are many sites that are blocked. It is difficult to get information. Any opinion that seems to challenge the political primacy of the, of the party is not allowed. Hu Yaobang, for example, was not somebody who could be mentioned in the – in “The China Daily” until your own article appeared. It just feels to me like all these restrictions — this — the vast apparatus that monitors the Internet are — are going to make it difficult for your people to truly be creative and to truly do what it seems you wish them to do.
温家宝: I believe I and all the Chinese people have such a conviction that China will make continuous progress and the people’s wishes for and needs for democracy and freedom are irresistible. I hope that you will be able to gradually see the continuous progress of China.