The Chinese are going it alone because they are prohibited by law (US law, of course) in participating in the ISS. That said, they probably aren't 100% do-it-yourself, they could probably draw on quite extensive Russian experience in space.
Reports of Chinese activities are invariably coloured by the drip-drip of propaganda in our media that shapes people's attitudes. There's an unwritten assumption that they either lack the resources, the know-how or are slapdash in their approach to technology and that everything is a propaganda vehicle. If you're old enough you'll recognize this, its exactly the same line that was taken with the Russians back in the 1950s. This kind of thing might play well with the home audiences but its not really cutting it for the world at large these days.
(PS -- I was horrified by the Shuttle. Its living proof that you can get anything into orbit if you put a big enough rocket motor on it but it always struck me as a lash up, an accident waiting to happen. I was so pleased when they retired the thing.)