This paper presents a general space vector modulation (SVM) method for the modular multilevel converter (MMC). Compared with earlier modulation methods, the proposed SVM method not only utilizes the maximum level number (i.e., 2n+1, where n is the number of submodules in the upper or lower arm of each phase) of output phase voltages, but also leads to an optimized control performance in terms of capacitor voltage balancing, circulating current suppression, and common-mode voltage reduction. The maximum level number is achieved by introducing a new equivalent circuit of the MMC, and the optimized control is obtained by selecting the optimal redundant switching states. Since the computational burden of the SVM scheme is independent of the voltage level number, the proposed method is well suited to the MMC with any number of submodules. Simulation and experimental results are presented to validate the proposed method.