This July—a week after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued what John Ciorciari called “a sweeping repudiation of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea,” Ciorciari wrote an op-ed for China-US Focus titled, “Reverberations of the South China Sea Decision.”

In the piece, Ciorciari argued that while the PCA ruling might tempt “political elites to score domestic points by trumpeting victory or ruing an allegedly unjust defeat,” leaders should resist those urges “to protect room for peaceful negotiation.”

“China’s rivals will also be tempted to wave the decisive ruling at Beijing when tensions flare,” he wrote.

“That card will remain on the table, but it should be played sparingly. The positive potential of the decision lies in its capacity to align the incentives of the various claimants and facilitate more genuine multilateral talks on a thoroughly multilateral feud.”


John Ciorciari is associate professor of public policy at the Ford School, co-director of the school’s International Policy Center, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, and pro bono senior legal advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (since 1999). He is author of two books, The Limits of Alignment: Southeast Asia and the Great Powers since 1975 and Hybrid Justice: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia with Anne Heindel.