There is nothing currently more prestigious than for a space power to be welcomed aboard the International Space Station (or ISS).
Since its very unlikely that the US will change their position (even with the new administration), China is now planning on eventually constructing their own fortress among the stars.
(People’s Daily Online) According to Zhang, China’s manned space flight program features a three-stage development strategy. The first step is to complete spacecraft tests for Shenzhou I to Shenzhou VI, make breakthroughs in manned spaced technology and carry out some space experiments.
The second step is to establish China’s own space laboratory and the third step is to build China’s own space station, developing large-scale space applications and realizing long-term space residence for taikonauts.
Unlike NASA, China’s space program is allowed to heavily collaborate with its military branch, which means that any space station built could contain more than just scientific instruments.
China could also use the station to host other nations unable to access to the ISS due to being perceived as hostile by the United States and/or Russia.
Unless Bigelow Aerospace decides to rent out their future space stations to the Chinese (with US permission of course), we may end up seeing two rival space stations orbiting our planet, which may not bode well in the long term for China or America.