Millisphere: a discrete region inhabited by roughly one thousandth of the world population.
Once every 26 months Earth and Mars are at their closest. In July 2020 The United Arab Emirates, the United States and China launched scientific missions to Mars.
The Chinese Long March rocket was launched from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre east of Haikou City (population two million) in the north of Hainan Island (population 9.5 million).
Hainan Province is China's smallest and most southern province and includes the disputed islands of the South China Sea.
During the last ice age the first migrations from the Chinese mainland arrived in the islands of Hainan and Taiwan.
The indigenous Li people make up 15 per cent of the population of Hainan Island and have their own "autonomous" prefecture in the south.
Hainan Island was considered the dangerous wild south by the Han Chinese and in the 18th century, during the Qing dynasty, the Han finally conquered the Li.
The Li suffered cruelly at the hands of the Japanese army during World War II and again under the nationalists during China's civil war.
In 1950, the Chinese Red Army invaded Hainan and the nationalists retreated to Taiwan — behind a fleet of American warships.
After the communist victory Hainan continued to be a backwater where exiles were sent. Once again the Li suffered — this time from the state collectivisation of agriculture during the Great Leap Forward and its subsequent famines.
When former President Deng Xiauping decreed that "it is good to grow rich" a few factories sprang up but much of Hainan is still devoted to agriculture. Hainan is 60 per cent forested and has the highest air quality of any Chinese province for 351 days of the year.
The Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre is one of President Xi Jinping's economic development strategies for Hainan — the other is tourism. In 2008 there were 20 million Chinese tourists and by 2018 there were 76 million tourists, more than a million of them foreign.
Hainan is now China's Hawai'i and Sanya Bay, on the south coast, its Waikiki.
Hainan has the world's largest duty free shopping complex and clusters of elite resorts there act as "China's Riviera", where China's new super wealthy gather to be seen. The world's tallest statue of the Buddha, in concrete, stands in Sanya Bay, facing the land, with the South China Sea as a backdrop.
Just across the bay lies the Hainan Submarine Base — built into a hillside. Submarines, armed with nuclear missiles, come and go undetected — under water.
One-third of all global shipping passes through the South China Sea. China controversially claims the islands of the South China Sea and administers them as the Sansha prefecture of Hainan province.
The United Nations determined in 2008 that China's claim to the islands in the South China Sea, vaguely defined by the "nine dash line", was not lawful.
Occasionally an American fleet steams defiantly through and in 2001 a Chinese and a US jet clipped wings off Hainan Island. On the water today clashes and disputes between Chinese and Southeast Asian fishermen happen and the South China Sea suffers from overfishing and from environmental pollution.
Hainan is one of approximately 30 millispheres surrounding the South China Sea — roughly half of them Chinese. Hainan Island itself is ringed by fish farms, discharging their waste into the sea.
Just across the Gulf of Tonkin, in Vietnam, lies the millisphere of Danang which hosted the 2017 APEC summit. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping were there — as were Jacinda Adern and Winston Peters.
The summit set an aspirational goal of 800 million tourist arrivals in the Asia Pacific region by 2025 and the Chinese were already building hotels along Danang's China Beach. The summit venue looked out over the disputed, polluted South China Sea - but there was no mention of "nine dash line".
Fred Frederikse has a BSc and is a self directed student of geography. NZME premium subscribers can access previous columns by searching Fred Frederikse.