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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Made in China, landed on Mars

17 May 2021

China has come a long way in a few short decades.

From a nation of subsistence farmers to a superpower with economic and technological capacities that rival or even exceed the USA, China's growth and achievements are nothing short of astounding.

Last week it became only the second nation in the world to successfully land a rover on the red planet. The significance of this feat can not be understated or underestimated.

I suspect there are plenty of furrowed brows and worried politicians consulting with anxious bureaucrats within the halls of power in the land of the star-spangled banner right now.

In fact I think we should all be at least a little concerned about China's trajectory in the coming decade or so.

At the rate it is proceeding, China stands to eclipse the economic, technological, scientific and military might of the USA within a fairly short space of time. This would see a significant shift in the balance of power and may become a destabilising influence on the world stage.

I think it would be fair to say that in the event of a military conflict right now, the USA would win hands-down but that edge is rapidly being eroded and it's only a matter of time before military parity is reached and then exceeded by the Chinese.

China is a nuclear power with a growing arsenal of space-based assets that are crucial to modern warfare. It has its own GPS system, is building a new orbiting space station, has tested "killer satellites" and is talking about a moon-base in the not-too distant future.

Even in the field that has traditionally led emerging nations on the path to technological superiority China is excelling. I'm talking about the car industry.

Back in the 1960s, the USA and UK were the kings of automotive manufacturing. We all had smokey Bit-bangers with names like Austin, Triumph, Morris and such or vehicles made by Ford or Chevy. The term "made in Japan" was synomymous with cheap crap back then and Japanese-made cars were little more than a curiosity. It only took a couple of decades however, for Japan to start making cars of extremely high quality and durability. Now Japanese marques are amongst the most reliable, high performance and popular vehicles.

That's exactly what China is about to do with the next generation of automotive tech -- EVs.

They have invested heavily in traditional brands such as Volvo (now owned by China's Geely), MG (now owned by China's SAIC) and a growing number of others, including 100 percent home-grown companies. Given their experience in this field and awareness of the growth that is about to take place, I would not be surprised if China is to the 2020s what Japan was to the 1970s in respect to the automotive marketplace.

Meanwhile of course, unimaginable sums of money are being poured into China's military machinery. They are world-leaders in drone technology and, as is becoming increasingly obvious, future wars will be fought by autonomous flying machines, not by boots on the ground.

At some point, I strongly suspect that Western powers will see China, thanks to its communist leadership and growing might, as a power that must be controlled or mitigated in some way. This will continue to cause tensions to rise and at some point there will be a catalyst that starts what may be an inevitable military conflict.

Meanwhile, we can sit back and marvel at how far that nation has come in such a short time and just hope that the writing is not on the wall after all.

And let's face it, for all their alleged wrong-doings, none of its peers in the West can claim to be as pure as the driven snow or without the flaws for which they criticise China so harshly.

In the words of John Lalberg-Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men".

We should always keep this in the back of our minds and realise that race or nationality has far less to do with the actions of men than does their own personal lust for power and control.

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