Population: 15 million
Language spoken: Mandarin and other Chinese dialects
Race: 95% Han Chinese with a few Tibetans and Mongolians running around. Beijing is one of the few cities in the world where you can meet North Koreans living abroad. Horror stories abound about how they got to China.
Economy: Booming. Even with the yuan under tight control, rising food prices have become a problem to the poor. Don’t worry though – a full course meal at a restaurant with 12 of your friends is still only going to run $25 total.
Government: Communist in name, socialist in conversation, capitalist in practice. China has sold out to the world’s buck but the decisions still come in mysterious fashion from a select few elite running the nation. There is no free press, internet cafes are not abundant and the Great Firewall censors blogging sites and such biased sources of information as Wikipedia.
Visas: There are two types of visa relevant to visiting travelers. The L visa is the common tourist visa, and standardly is good for a single 30-day entry. Multiple-entry visas are recommended which allow you to leave the country and come back. These cost $130 for Americans and $30 for other nationalities. An F visa is for exchange students and other shorter term business types. These typically last 6 months and can also be multiple entries, usually a letter of invitation from a sponsor is required for this type of visa.