China was never invited to the ISS party and the government wasn’t too happy about that. China decided that it will build its own space station in the coming years and is in the first stages of doing just that. China shot its Shenzhou 8 into space atop its Long March rocket today with a successful launch from the north Gobi desert. The Shenzhou 8 successfully entered orbit.
Within the next two days Chinese news agency Xinhua says that the Shenzhou 8 module will dock with the Tiangong module that is already in orbit, if all goes well. This will be the first attempt by China to dock with its orbiting module. If this mission is successful, there may be two more docking exercises this year.
The ultimate goal for China is to ensure that they can create living conditions with the correct balance of humidity and atmosphere to support long term manned mission aboard a future space station. One of those two docking exercise next year will likely have astronauts aboard. There is also an experiment aboard the Shenzhou 8 created jointly between Chinese and German researchers to investigate how gravity affects biological processes.