China once said it couldn't put a potato in space. Now it's eyeing Mars

Long March-7 Y3 carrier rocket carrying Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, blasts off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang on May 29, 2021. VCGGUANGZHOU (China) In 1957, Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union. This launch sparked a race for space with the U.S. China. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were fighting for supremacy in this new domain. Mao Zedong (founder of the Chinese Communist Party) reportedly stated that China could not even place a potato into space. Now, it's been six decades since Mao Zedong, China's current leader, was seen congratulating three astronauts, who were sent to their own space station earlier in the month. China has sent people to space, launched satellites and now plans to build a base for its own astronauts since Mao's remarks. This is among the achievements and ambitions Beijing highlighted during the centennial celebrations of the founding approaches of the CCP.China's 'Space Dream,' President Xi Jinping declared, is for China to surpass all other nations and be the world's leading space power by 2045. Christopher Newman, Northumbria University professor of space policy and lawSpace is now a battleground for the U.S. and China in a wider technological rivalry for supremacy. This could have implications for Earth's scientific and military future. Christopher Newman, a professor of space policy and law at Northumbria University in the U.K., stated that President Xi Jinping declared that China's Space Dream' is to surpass all nations and be the world's leading space power by 2045. This all feeds into China’s ambition to become the world's only science and technology superpower.Why is space important?China claimed that space is a "frontier technology". It would be focusing on research into the "origin, evolution and history of the universe" in March. There are also other implications. According to Sa'id Mosteshar (director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law) and Christoph Beischl, research fellow, "It's important for China and America because it can advance technological advancement" in areas like "national security and some social economic development,"Experts doubt that it will lead to war in space. However, extraterrestrial activities could support military operations here on Earth. The optics are another important aspect of space achievements. Mosteshar and Beischl stated that space exploration to Mars or the Moon allows "China and the U.S. to display their technological sophistication to domestic audiences and the world, increasing domestic and international prestige, legitimacy, and international influence."China's space ambitionsBeijing now has its sights on Mars. China plans to send its first crewed mission on the Red Planet in 2033, after having landed a spacecraft there in May. China has become more aggressive in filing patents for space technology in recent years as it prepares for future missions. According to data from GreyB, a patent research company, between January 2000 and June 20,21, Chinese entities filed 6,634 space travel patents, including equipment and vehicles. Nearly 90% of these patent requests were filed in the past five-and-a half years. The top three most requested patents were submitted by Chinese entities between January 2016 and June 2021. They were followed by the U.S. planemaker Boeing. This shows how quickly China hopes to develop advanced technologies for space flight."The United States is still the world leader in space capability. But China is quickly closing the gap. Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at Elliott School of International AffairsPatents can be used to define and control standards for next generation technologies. This goal is being pursued by China in many sectors, from telecommunications to AI. Vikas Jha (assistant vice president for intellectual properties solutions at GreyB), stated that these patents are not only a sign of China's innovation in space technology, but also a well-thought strategy to protect those innovations and gain an economic advantage for China's space-related tech. China will own most patents in cosmonautics within the next few years, unless other countries follow their lead. This means that China can be a gatekeeper to space technology for private actors and governments. This is consistent with China's strategy to become a superpower on Earth and in space.Tensions between the U.S. and China in spaceChina and the United States are currently battling for supremacy in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to semiconductor development. While the U.S. has been dominant in this area for a while, space will be another frontier. Scott Pace, director of The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs' Space Policy Institute, stated that the United States is still ahead in all areas of space capability. However, China is quickly closing that gap. He said that the United States has a strong policy in space exploration, a clear direction and capable allies. The challenge for the United States lies not in what China does but rather how the United States executes its plans.