China earlier this month made it to to Mars, becoming only the second country to put a rover to the red planet. It’s a breakthrough — scientifically, economically and politically — for a country increasingly focused on technological self-reliance.

Beijing’s first such attempt, an orbiter launched by piggybacking on a Russian spacecraft in 2011, failed. A decade later, it has done a lot more — and achieved it alone.

The propaganda value of a landing on another planet, as the Communist Party prepares to celebrate its centenary, is not lost on Beijing. Reaping the soft power benefits abroad, though, will require more than headlines.