Kenny: Ireland rejects Tibetan independence

Controversial – but Kenny could not have been clearer.

During yesterday’s visit to Beijing, Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny laid bare his government’s support for China’s position on quashing Tibetan independence in stark terms: “Ireland has always fully followed a one-China policy”.

For those not familiar with China’s “one-China” policy, this is the frame used by the CCP to justify it’s repression of independence movements. As comments like Kenny’s indicate, this framing technique is in many respects much more effective than all-out brute force – at least in terms of
winning legitimacy in the eyes of the West.

I witnessed the power of this argument in 2009 first hand. Travelling with a group of largely American graduate students in Nanjing during the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, many of our group were understandably forceful in condemning the CCP’s treatment of Tibetan monks. Our Chinese host silenced his US critics with strikingly effective phrasing. Instead of trying to convince them of the situation’s ‘complexity’ he suggested its simplicity, stating: “We’ve a one-China policy – just as Lincoln had a one-America policy.”

Take issue with that as you might, but it was an oratorical chess move of admirable sophistication: Know your audience; exploit their values to make your case – don’t deny reality, reframe it.

Perhaps Kenny didn’t realise what “One-China” means, though that’s inconceivable.

Perhaps he figured its endorsement – without, let’s note, any qualifications – is worth the price of Chinese investment?

Someone ought to ask him.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located in Washington, D.C.