I think there's a decent chance that China will get to Mars first. They're huge. They're growing. They're hungry. They don't mind risks.
Going to Mars is going to cost bundles of money. It's also going to require tons of technology, but technological leapfrogging is already happening in China and once you have a 200 mio middle class providing hundreds of thousands of engineers every year you're definitely going places. Going to Mars is still largely a technological pipe dream. The project that will put together the space vehicle that will go to Mars first has still not been started. Leapfrogging means that as long as the other guys haven't actually started to build the damn thing you still have an excellent shot at catching up.