Dr. Chunjuan Nancy Wei calls for economic and diplomatic solutions in the wake of the Philippines v. China verdict

While the world watches vigilantly for China’s response to Tuesday’s decisive tribunal ruling against China’s claims to the South China Sea (SCS), University of Bridgeport Associate Professor and Chair of the East Asian and Pacific Rim Studies program Dr. Chunjuan Nancy Wei has her eye on her nested-game theory.

Dr. Wei, a Fulbright Scholar, spent 2014-2015 in Taiwan researching the origins and implications of the historic and much-contested eleven-dash map China has been using since 1947 to claim sovereign rights over the 3.5 million km2 of disputed islands and waterways.

On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, handed down its highly anticipated verdict in the Philippines v. China case on the maritime entitlements of the South China Sea in favor of the Philippines, virtually dismissing the nine-dash line as invalid, with no legal basis.

Dr. Wei is available to comment on the ramifications of the landmark ruling.

“This constitutes the first time an international tribunal has passed judgment on East Asia’s messy territorial claims and counter-claims,” says Wei. “Unfortunately, the conflict here is a lot more complicated than simple ownerships of land features that a tribunal could solve. While the verdict sides with the Philippines’ request—rendering all Spratlys Islands, including the Taiwan-controlled Itu Aba Island, as incapable of generating economic zones, it cannot solve the ambiguous maritime boundary problems inherent in the division of the Chinese state, nor dampen the rising emotions in various Asian capitals.”

An avid proponent for economic and diplomatic solutions to the SCS conflict, Wei has called for shelving the disputes for joint development of resources in the SCS. In her article “Economics and Geopolitics: Crafting a joint development in the Spratlys,” Wei called for establishment of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) to deal with both security and economic interests.

“These IGOs could launch multi-lateral institution-building in the SCS region to fill the current institutional deficit. By accumulating mutual trust, these institutions could expand to other parts of disputed territories in East Asia. Most importantly, they could address the vicious cycle experienced in the SCS competition—provocation upon perceived provocation—and help forge a new collaborative spirit.”

Wei’s Fulbright research has led her to let go of the “who is right and who is wrong” approach to the SCS conflict in favor of a game theory approach that she will expound upon in her forthcoming book, tentatively titled Nested Games Among the South China Sea Islands.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu