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Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.

The big picture: In 1957, the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the Sputnik satellite raised alarms that the U.S. was falling behind in a technology race.

  • The Financial Times reported last week that China's test of a hypersonic missile, which could deliver a nuclear weapon that evades U.S. missile defenses, caught intelligence officials by surprise.
  • "I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention," Milley told Bloomberg Television's "The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations."

Between the lines: Weapons experts told Axios that the "Sputnik" comparisons are not appropriate, noting that the technology China employed is similar to what the U.S. developed with the Space Shuttle program in the 1970s.

  • "The point about Sputnik is that the Soviets had beaten us to the punch, they put the first satellite up," said Joshua Pollack, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. "Weapons payload aside, this is old hat for the United States."
  • But the pace of China's progress, in tandem with its military aggression toward Taiwan, expansion of nuclear missile silos, and broader geopolitical tensions with the U.S., has been enough to spark fears of a "new cold war."

What they're saying: "They’re expanding rapidly — in space, in cyber and then in the traditional domains of land, sea and air,” Milley said. "And they have gone from a peasant-based infantry army that was very, very large in 1979 to a very capable military that covers all the domains and has global ambitions."

  • "As we go forward — over the next 10, 20, 25 years — there’s no question in my mind that the biggest geostrategic challenge to the United States is gonna be China," he added. "They’ve developed a military that’s really significant.” 

Go deeper

Dec 2, 2021 - World

U.S. and EU signal "converging" views on China

President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. and the European Union are adopting "increasingly convergent" views on the threat posed by the Chinese government, according to senior Biden administration officials, deepening a trend that could tilt the scales in an era of great power competition.

Why it matters: European leaders were initially wary of President Biden's campaign to rally a coalition of U.S. allies to challenge China, hoping to duck a confrontation between the bloc's two largest trading partners. But the winds in Europe seem to be shifting, in part due to Beijing's growing belligerence.

Abrams’ campaign manager rules out 2024 run if she wins governor's race

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

In her first major interview since the official announcement, Stacey Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo quashed speculation that the Georgia Democrat would interrupt a theoretical gubernatorial term to run for president in 2024.

Why it matters: Abrams' name has come up repeatedly as a top 2024 Democratic contender given President Joe Biden's age and Vice President Kamala Harris's low favorability rating.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump social media group raises $1 billion from undisclosed investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Donald Trump's social media startup on Saturday announced that it secured $1 billion in new investment as part of its ongoing efforts to become publicly traded via a blank check company.

Between the lines: None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction.

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