We really don't know what China is like in this world. And North Korea does make som sense. China would want to bring people back from Mars and doesn't necessarily need to be as gung ho in the space race to give it national prestige, so might not judge reaching Mars as worth the cost. We also know that China and Canada are directly stated as having abstained from the Mars-7 talks. North Korea though has an explicit reason to to stay relevant on the world stage, and wouldn't care about making it a one way trip. That it turned out as well as it did for North Korea is the exact kind of chance stroke of luck that happens a lot in history.Yes M7 with has north korea but not china (This North Korea thing never made sense to me to be honest) . Honestly, I'm curious if we'll see a new group competing with the M7. Another think is the Coalition of Communist Countries for Spaceflight (CCCS). I am sorry but mexico would be a coup d'état the moment it was part of the communist bloc. We had the mention of the Brazilian space program, but besides that there are other powers, China being the most important. That could compete with the bloc.
And I see people still are hung up on Mexico despite the alternate history of the show having changed so much by the time that happened with respect to Soviet economic policy and American foreign policy, despite the things explicitly mentioned in the show, and despite who Verdugo is (which people still ignore).