As America's space ambitions wane on a national level — NASA is currently being retooled to pursue next generation technology and not manned missions — China is looking to expand its presence in orbit. The country wants to have both crew and lab modules in space by 2020.
While both America and Russia have a long history with manned space stations thanks to Skylab and Mir, respectively, many nations currently have a stake in the International Space Station including America, Russia, Japan, the European Space Agency and Italy, and Canada and Brazil. Both the ESA and Japan have even contributed physical modules.
Other nations, such as South Korea and India, have expressed interest in the ISS, and it was thought that the manned spacecraft China has been producing would one day take that nation's astronauts there as well.
Turns out, those Chinese spacecraft could be headed toward an entirely owned and operated Chinese space station instead. The country has announced its plans for the Manned Space Engineering Project, which will see a lab launched into orbit in 2016, preceding a grander station in 2020.
The initial lab will allow China to research the accompanying technology that goes into having a space station, including what kind of habitat Chinese astronauts will need. Then, in 2020, more advanced orbital laboratories and crew modules will follow, assembled in orbit.
Of course, there's planning, and then there's doing, but China has shown itself to be a serious contender in the space game, being the third nation in history to put a human in space in 2003, and carried out its first space walk in '08. Besides getting a space station in orbit, China wants to be the second country to put an Earthling on the moon.