"What travel documents do I need to visit China and how do I get them?"
Traveling to most countries requires a valid Passport. For travel to anywhere in China, it is required your passport be valid for at least 6 more months following your application for a Chinese visa. You are also required to have at least one blank page in your passport (for affixing the Chinese visa). If you do not currently have a valid passport, you'll need to obtain one before applying for a visa to enter China. For US citizens, the Department of State provides instructions on where and how to obtain a passport in your state.
To obtain a visa to enter China, you need to either apply at a local visa office in the Embassy or Consular office in your district or hire an authorized travel/visa agent to act on your behalf. Note these offices are typically closed on U.S. national holidays as well as Chinese national holidays.
When applying for a visa, you need to provide your passport, a passport photo to be attached to your application, your visa application and any required supporting documents (like letters of admission or invitation). In some special circumstances additional information may be required.
Here's a list of Consulate and Embassy locations with the regions and states they serve.
Chinese Consulate in New York, NY serves the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Chinese Consulate in Chicago, IL serves the following states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin
Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, CA serves the following states and regions: Alaska, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, CA serves the following states and regions: Arizona, Southern California, Hawai, New Mexico, Pacific Islands
Chinese Consulate in Houston, TX serves the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas
Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. serves the following states: Washington DC, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming
For people living outside the United States, consult the Chinese Embassy in your country for more complete instructions on applying for a visa to enter China.