MUST SEE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_United_States_citizens
US citizens enjoy visa free arrival or visa on arrival in 172 countries. Make sure to refer to time constraints at all destinations that do not require a visa.
US citizens need to apply for a tourist visa to China.
From the time of submitting my paperwork to receiving my passport back with a visa, it took 7 days. I went through Visa Services Northwest in Seattle due to time constraints of travel and expedited process. If applying for a visa independently, I’d recommend giving two to three weeks.