Great Power Rivalry: A Remarkable Admission by a leading U.S. General


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we are “entering into a tripolar war with the United States, Russia and China”


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 9 December 2021,




A few weeks, the highest-ranking military in the U.S. made a remarkable public statement. Talking at the so-called Aspen Security Forum 2021 in Washington, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the U.S. is no longer the hegemon of the world order. This is, to our knowledge, the first time that a leading representative of U.S. imperialism publicly admits that the period of its hegemony is over.


Here are a most important excerpts of General Milley’s statement as it has been published on the official website of the Pentagon.


"There are a lot of challenges in the national security world ...," the chairman said, primarily citing China. "We've seen a country in four decades … go from the No. 7 economy in the world to the No. 2 economy in the world," he said, adding China invested its riches in a significant military. "Forty years ago, it was a very large infantry that was peasant-based and mostly army. Today, it has capabilities in space, cyber, on land, sea, air, underseas; and they are clearly challenging us regionally."


China's aspiration is to challenge the United States globally, Milley said. "They've been very clear about that. They have a China dream, and they want to challenge the so-called liberal, rules-based order that went into effect in 1945 at the end of World War II. They want to revise it. So, we have a … country that is becoming extraordinarily powerful that wants to revise the international order to their advantage. That's going to be a real challenge over the coming 10 to 20 years, [and it's] going to be really significant."


The world is witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power it has ever seen, the general said, adding that the shift is a fundamental change in the character of war. "The last big [shift] was the introduction of the airplane, mechanization and the radio. Today, you're seeing robotics, artificial intelligence, precision munitions and a wide variety of other technologies that, in combination, are leading to a fundamental change in the character war. And if we, the United States military, don't do a fundamental change ourselves in the coming 10 to 20 years, we're going to be on the wrong side of a conflict."


Calling the Cold War a bipolar war between the Soviet Union and the United States, Milley said the nation is entering into a tripolar war with the United States, Russia and China all as great powers. And adding in all the technologies that are coming at us very quickly, he said, we're entering into a world that is potentially much more strategically unstable than the last 40 to 70 years.[1]


In fact, General Milley’s presentation is mistaken insofar as there are currently no indications of a tripolar conflict. While China and Russia might have different priorities, they are definitely not in conflict with each other. Quiet the opposite, they have formed a strategic alliance which has as its basis the fact that their geostrategic expansion puts them in confrontation not with each other but rather with Washington.




Inter-Imperialist Rivalry as a Key Feature of the Current Period




The RCIT has explained since a number of years that one of the most important features of the historic period which opened in 2008 is the accelerating rivalry between the imperialist powers. [2] Against the background of the decay of capitalism, the U.S. – the ling-time leading hegemon – is declining while new Great Powers are emerging. The most important rivals of Washington are China [3] and Russia. [4]


Shamefully, large sectors of the so-called “left-wing” parties – Stalinists, left-wing social democrats, left-wing populists, pseudo-Trotskyists, etc. – deny the imperialist character of the Great Power rivalry. They claim that China is “socialist” or a “deformed workers state” or that it is – like Russia – a “peripheral”, “semi-colonial” or “sub-imperialist” state. As a consequence, they refuse to take a consistent anti-imperialist position in the inter-imperialist Cold War. Their denial pushes these forces rather towards the policy of social-imperialism – “socialism” in words, support for this or that imperialist power in deeds.


In contrast, the RCIT states that in any confrontation between the imperialist Great Powers (U.S., Western Europe, China, Russia, Japan), revolutionaries must refuse to support either camp. It is necessary to take a revolutionary defeatist position on both sides. This means that socialists must equally oppose all imperialist Great Powers and their proxies. They need to fight against all forms of imperialist chauvinism and militarism, against all forms of sanctions, protectionism and imperialist armament. They must educate the workers vanguard to identify “their” imperialist state (as well as all others) as the “main enemy”. In case of a war between the Great Powers, revolutionaries are obligated to follow the principles of Lenin and Liebknecht expressed in the famous slogans “The main enemy is at home” and “Transform the imperialist war into a civil war against the ruling class“.




[1] Terri Moon Cronk: Milley Addresses Aspen Security Forum on Today's Military Challenges, 3 November 2021,

[2] The RCIT has dealt on numerous occasions with the inter-imperialist rivalry of the Great Powers. See e.g. RCIT: World Perspectives 2021-22: Entering a Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation, 22 August 2021,; see also: Russia Fires Warning Shots against UK Warship in the Black Sea. Down with Cold Warmongering! No support for any imperialist Great Power – neither UK, US nor Russia! 24 June 2021,; see also our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,; see also the following two pamphlets by the same author: “A Really Good Quarrel”. US-China Alaska Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist Cold War Continues, 23 March 2021,; Servants of Two Masters. Stalinism and the New Cold War between Imperialist Great Powers in East and West, 10 July 2021,; for more works on this issue see these sub-pages: and

[3] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in China and its transformation into a Great Power. See on this e.g. the above-mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry; see also by the same author an essay published in the second edition of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism (edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope), Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2020,; China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power (2012), in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4,; How is it possible that some Marxists still Doubt that China has Become Capitalist? (A Critique of the PTS/FT), An analysis of the capitalist character of China’s State-Owned Enterprises and its political consequences, 18 September 2020,; Unable to See the Wood for the Trees (PTS/FT and China). Eclectic empiricism and the failure of the PTS/FT to recognize the imperialist character of China, 13 August 2020, See many more RCIT documents at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website:

[4] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. See on this e.g. several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021,; Russia and China: Neither Capitalist nor Great Powers? A Reply to the PO/CRFI and their Revisionist Whitewashing of Chinese and Russian imperialism, 28 November 2018,; The Catastrophic Failure of the Theory of “Catastrophism”. On the Marxist Theory of Capitalist Breakdown and its Misinterpretation by the Partido Obrero (Argentina) and its “Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International”, 27 May 2018,; Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014,; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: