The first Holodisks are invented and placed on sale. Being vastly superior to existing storage technology of the time, they are quickly adapted by the population and become the biggest selling technological product of the year by a colossal margin.
Realising that their space program had stagnated for a number of years, North America once again attempts to become the spacefaring pioneers of the world by conducting the first manned mission to Mars; a planet which had only previously been surveyed by telescopes and unmanned drones.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) starts work on the Ceres Project; an initiative to place the culmination of the world's scientific, technological and medical knowledge onto holodisk. Upon its announcement, most of the public see it as a simple "time capsule" exercise and ignore it; deeming it to be some sort of marketing stunt.
Buoyed by their successes over the last decade, North America have sent a total of three manned missions to Mars without major incident. However, the fourth mission sows doubt among the community when a malfunction in the rocket's fuel system causes a catastrophic explosion, killing everyone on-board.
Realising that less people are seeing the significance of the Ceres Project than anticipated, Doctor Karmann - the professor in charge - calls a press conference. In it, he details the potential power the holodisks could bestow. According to him, if a primitive civilisation were to find and study the data, they would be able to utilise nuclear power within half a century.
Just one year before the Ceres Project was scheduled to be completed, Doctor Karmann is found dead in his home. In addition to the police being unable to solve the crime due to lack of evidence, the Ceres Project - and all records pertaining to it - is mysteriously withdrawn from MIT and, once it was made a top-secret state affair, nobody hears anything about it ever again.
After considerable delay, the North American space program resumes in earnest. In 2031, the sixth manned mission to Mars is launched and, with it, comes a startling breakthrough in metallurgical science. Finding large deposits of a strange ore while conducting geological surveys, the astronauts quickly send samples back to Earth.
Tests reveal that, unlike terrestrial metals, the metal found on Mars is completely unable to adopt any sort of radioactive properties. Realising the applications for such a material, experimental engineers postulate that using the material in the shielding for nuclear reactors would finally eliminate one of the most worrying barriers to the research of nuclear fusion power.
Unable to believe that the government would willingly destroy such a powerful collection of data, the world's conspiracy theorists have begun to circulate rumours on the internet about the possible fate of the Ceres Project.
The most popular of these rumours toy with the idea that, due to the potential sensitivity of the data, the NSA have taken control of the project, augmenting the holodisks with classified military and scientific information and, in order to prevent them from falling into obsolescence, have assigned agents to keep the information up to date over the coming years. To keep it from the public eye, the holodisks themselves would no doubt be stored in a top-secret facility, not much unlike the fabled Area 51.
Stemming from their discovery fifteen years earlier, the government of the United States finally put their plans to colonise Mars into action. Rather than accommodating families and regular people, however, the "colony" is more of a scientific research facility and mining base, focusing entirely on the still-abundant veins of mysterious ore which still remain on the "Red Planet".
The last of the fossil fuel reserves on the Asian continent are finally expended, casting the billions of residents into varying degrees of poverty and chaos. Seeing no other option to achieve the goal of securing the last of the continent's oil reserves for themselves, China, Russia and Japan descend into war.
American scientists make a significant breakthrough in their quest for widely accessible nuclear fusion power. With the knowledge that they can maintain the necessary reaction for prolonged periods of time - due in no small part to the metal found on Mars - they predict that widespread commercial use of the technology is close at hand.
Japan declares a formal alliance with the United States in exchange for military reinforcements and hardware.
Focusing on their western front, China quickly subjugates the vast majority of what was once the Soviet Union. Using collaborative sabotage to impede Russia's ability to recover from a nuclear airstrike, China eventually force Russia to surrender.
China then becomes the most powerful nation on Earth. Becoming an empire as opposed to a "People's Republic", the influence of the Chinese flag now stretches from Poland to the Pacific Ocean.
China begins to reintroduce communism to the countries they conquered two years earlier.
Singapore, Thailand and South Korea - who had been neutral in the conflict - enter into an alliance with Japan, while the remaining countries in Asia flock under the banner of the Chinese Empire out of fear.
Due to pressure from both sides of the world, the UAE - now one of the biggest holders of oil in the eastern world - enters into a mutual assistance pact with the Chinese Empire in exchange for protection from the United States.
Still managing to maintain their position as technological pioneers despite recent events, Japan and her allies remain unconquered by the comparatively vast Chinese Empire.
Finding themselves at an impasse, the Chinese Empire instead declares a non-aggression treaty with Japan. Diplomatic relations between China and Japan's allies (western Europe and the United States) all but collapse as a result.
While the creation of plasma weaponry continues to elude the paragons of western science, they succeed in creating particle cannons; guns which fire rays of bundled energy as opposed to conventional bullets.
Still using nuclear fission technology, the Chinese Empire have resorted to sheer numbers in order to meet their power demands. The power plant constructed to supply what was once rural Russia with electricity is the 62nd plant to be built in Imperial territory.
While the Chinese Empire possesses rudimentary schematics for fusion power (through sabotage), a combination of logistics and restricting treaties make their own adoption of the technology impossible.
The UAE's once-bountiful supply of oil begins to run low. Measures are quickly put in place to connect the Arabic community to the Empire's nuclear power system in the inevitable event their oil is completely depleted.
The UAE's oil supply completely runs out. With them and the rest of the Arabic community now under the control of the Chinese Empire, who have adopted nuclear fission, and the Federation using nuclear fusion, the use of fossil fuels has all but become a thing of the past.
An Imperial jet fighter crashes into a nuclear fission plant in the city of Xian. The impact destroys the sheathing around the nuclear core, causing the entire facility to go into meltdown.
The populations of Xian and Beijing are decimated by the fallout which results, leading to the deaths of millions from exposure. The fallout is eventually blown eastward towards Japan, but the Federation is largely unaffected by the catastrophe.
Understandably alarmed by the potential for further nuclear disaster from the eastern fringes of the Empire, Japan quickly begin research into the viability of erecting domed shields around cities in order to protect them from radiation.
The Chinese Empire develop the Kerolin Missile; a completely undetectable warhead delivery system. The Federation claims to also be in possession of the technology, but had kept it a secret until the Chinese discovery forced their hand.
The first civil colony is established on Mars. Dubbed Red Terra, the colony is effectively a village, consisting of seven domed settlements capable of housing 3000 people and is the starting point of the Federation's extraterrestrial colonisation efforts. A target is put in place to have Red Terra sustain a population of 400,000 by the end of the 22nd Century.
The gaseous compound Gabanium is discovered. Pioneers immediately put it to use in the atmosphere of Mars, predicting that it will take three hundred years for the entire planet to be completely terraformed.
Despite being technologically inferior to the Federation, the Chinese Empire manages to erect a sea blockade around Australia, completely cutting the island nation off from the rest of the world. Unwilling to risk starting a third World War, the Federation elects not to intervene.
After encasing it within a blockade for nine months, the Chinese Empire attacks Australia. Already demoralised by being cut off for so long and not receiving assistance from the Federation, the Australian government quickly surrenders.
Kong Jieshi, the Chinese Empire's extremist dictator, is found murdered in his private mansion, despite the army of bodyguards and private security protecting him. Political unrest quickly follows.
Federation citizens theorise that their own special forces squads were responsible for the assassination, possibly due to a need to incite regime change. The Federation themselves never officially confirm or deny their involvement.
Whether responsible or not, the death of Kong Jieshi succeeds in dampening the hostile and expansionist nature of the Chinese Empire. This is due to the Empire's new leader, Xu Derui who, unlike his predecessor, is painfully aware of the technological gap between the Empire and the Federation.
Japan invents the Furytec Drive, finally ending the dependency on fossil fuels for personal transportation. The technology is quickly adopted by the rest of the Federation.
Probes sent to the nearby solar system of Irata - situated eighty light years away - discover that the composition of the atmosphere of the system's third planet is almost identical to that of Mars, opening up a possible opportunity for true interstellar colonisation.
The Federation sends a new probe to Irata-3. Equipped with a second-generation fusion drive and a large Gabanium emitter, the probe is effectively a remote terraforming craft. Given the vast distance between Earth and Irata-3 and the amount of time it takes for Gabanium to complete its chemical reaction, scientists predict that Irata-3 would be terraformed and waiting for them in 400 years.
A "generation ship" based on the Federation's fusion-powered terraforming probe is constructed for the sole purpose of ferrying people across the vast distance between Earth and Irata-3. However, the real surprise of Project Starcruiser is that it was built by the Chinese Empire, not the Federation. As well as matching existing Federation technology in some areas, the Starcruiser even exceeds them in others. The inertial dampeners - which were a top-secret and experimental Federation project - allow the Starcruiser to accelerate to a top speed of 148,800 miles per second; 80% the speed of light.
By the end of the year, the Federation's President - Eva Goreman - publicly accuses the Chinese Empire of industrial espionage, asking how a nation still using nuclear fission to power their cities can create a second-generation cold fusion drive core that only the Federation had. Xu Derui rejects the accusation.
The Federation manages to develop long-range nuclear weapons based on their cold fusion technology. These missiles become the most powerful - in terms of pure destructive power - non-experimental weapon on Earth.
Just two days after being launched, the long-range scanners at Imperial Mission Control become unable to detect the Starcruiser. A fighter squadron is immediately dispatched and, after rigorous searching, eventually find fragments of what look like the hull from a large aircraft.
Based on the evidence, Xu Derui assumes that the Starcruiser was attacked and destroyed. With only one real enemy in the world, he publicly accuses the Federation of being responsible for the attack and being unable to contain their jealousy at his Empire's technological advances. While not an expansionist like his predecessor, Derui shows his true colours as a short-tempered imperialist and vows to exact revenge for the deaths of the 3000 colonists.
Proclaiming the Federation's innocence, Eva Goreman announces that there were no plans to either conquer the Chinese Empire or to sabotage their efforts. Expressing her condolences for the deaths of the colonists, she explains that Xu Derui could only make his otherwise baseless claims of technological superiority if he and the Empire had detailed information on classified Federation technology.
An angered Xu Derui once again goes on public record, stating that more evidence of the Federation's treachery has been unearthed surrounding the Starcruiser's destruction, threatening to exact vengeance against them. Eva Goreman responds by saying that the Federation would refuse to accept the Empire's unfounded threats.