A Thousand Splendid Guns

US Naval War College Review – In Out of the Mountains, David Kilcullen provides a framework for his “theory of competitive control.” His work focuses on irregular warfare, and in general he addresses nonstate armed groups as one increment along a spectrum of actors competing to control a population. He theorizes that the competitor who can impose predictable norms through persuasive, administrative, and coercive means will succeed. The members of the target audience, for their part, need consistency, and will adhere to this normative system regardless of whether they inherently agree with it or with the competitor’s values.1 What do we learn when we apply Kilcullen’s core principles to China and its conduct in the wider western Pacific as a state-level competitor?