Make no mistake, this is purely about China asserting itself on the world stage; or at least trying to. As Captain Kirk, space is the final frontier. Resource and/or land acquisition has become a zero some game on earth (unless you are a now bankrupt country that decided to build their own Islands). Your gain is my loss, and I do not like to lose. As a late comer to the game China is meeting resistance in their efforts to grow and expand. The colonization of space has the potential to turn into a free for all without the problem of native populations. Who ever can get 'there' first, and stay, will have a huge advantage over everyone else and China wants to get there first.
I think there is a big question if China is technically capable of such a feet at present. The secrecy of the Chinese program; keeping everything intentionally vague, has me leaning towards a no. America, nor Europe, has shown the political will to spend the money necessary to colonies space, and the current economic downturn is certainly not helping. Given that, China has some time. Alternatively, they may just be trying to finagle a seat at the 'big table'. When humanity makes its move toward space, China wants to make sure that it has a say and is not left behind. In that context it is not that China wants to venture out alone (or they think they can not), they just want a phone call from NASA and the European Space Agency (along with India, Russia, Japan, Brazil...) to be part of the voting council.
This competition could also spark a new space race to the benefit of all.
"China is planning to launch their own space station, named Tiangong, by the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011. There have been a few instances where information about the station surfaces briefly over the past few years about the development of the space station. Specific details on the program are not being release in large doses by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), so the development of the station is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Here's what is known about the program: the Tiangong – which means "Heavenly Palace" – station will start out much as the ISS and Mir did, with a small module to house taikonauts. This component, named Tiangong-1, and shown above, is estimated to be an 8.5-ton module that will have life-support and solar energy production facilities. It's a rather small module, with not much more room than the Shenzou spacecraft that will later carry taikonauts to the station.
The CNSA unveiled a model of the station during TV special celebrating the New Year in January 2009, but not much more has been said until the most recent statements regarding its potential launch dates."