Communist China’s military leadership increasingly believes that war with the United States is inevitable, according to the United States’ most senior military officer.
The Chinese military is fostering destabilizing rhetoric and ideas that could encourage a catastrophic conflict with the United States, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley during an interview with the Government Executive Media Group on March 31.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric in China… that could create the perception that war is right around the corner,” Milley said.
“In my analysis of China, at least their military and perhaps others have come to some sort of conclusion that war with the United States is inevitable. I think that’s a very dangerous thing.”
Milley said that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Marxist ideology was largely responsible for this belief, and that it encouraged deterministic thinking among Chinese leadership, including military officers.
“They come out of a Marxist ideology… they believe in historical determinism, they believe in a linear approach to history,” Milley said.
“That is not how we in the West think.”
To that end, Milley said that war with the CCP regime was not inevitable and could still be deterred, but that the United States would need to “stay strong relative to China” and ensure it was ready to win any war that emerged.
“I don’t believe war is inevitable,” Milley said. “I don’t think it’s imminent. But I do think that we need to be very, very pragmatic and cautious going forward.”
Milley also noted that CCP leader Xi Jinping had set an explicit date of 2027 for the Chinese military to be ready to attack and seize Taiwan. The decision to invade had not been given yet, Milley said, but the regime is nevertheless intentionally building its capacity to do so.
“They’re training and manning equipment to do just that,” Milley said of the CCP’s preparation to invade Taiwan.
“My guess is we’ve got three or four years to get Taiwan in a position where they will create a perception in the minds of the Chinese decision makers that the costs outweigh the benefits.”
Next War Will Be Fought with AI and Robots
Speaking more broadly about the nature of conflict and the United States’ military development, Milley said that the character of war was in a period of profound transition. The next great power war, he said, would look unlike anything seen before.
“I think we’re at a pivotal moment in history from a military standpoint,” Milley said.
Paraphrasing the Prussian general and military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, Milley said that, although the nature of war does not change, its character over the ages does, and that the world was currently in a period of “fundamental change in the very character of war.”
To that end, Milley said, robotics, artificial intelligence, precision munitions, and global communications would all become aligned and interconnected in the next war. Indeed, he said, the major militaries of the world would become predominantly robotic.
“Over the next ten, fifteen years, you’ll see large portions of advanced countries’ militaries become robotic,” Milley said.
“I would submit that the country, the nation state, that takes those technologies and adapts them most effectively for military operations, that country is probably going to have a decisive advantage at the beginning of the next conflict.”
Milley compared the race to deploy such technologies to the emergence of mechanization and airpower between the two world wars.
Much in the way Nazi Germany had harnessed industrialization to conquer Europe, he said, the first nation to unify AI, robotics, and telecommunications in a coherent doctrine of war will become supreme on the world stage.
“[Germany] overran Europe in a very, very short period of time… because they were able to take those technologies and put them together in a doctrine now known as ‘Blitzkrieg’,” Milley said.
The United States, he added, was working to develop its own doctrine of joint warfare in this new technological era, and would deploy automation, robotics, and other technologies accordingly within the next five to seven years.
“That’s coming…” Milley said. “We’re looking at the inside of ten years.”