Subject: Re: China - when? how? where?
Books: I just finished reading China Wakes by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a husband and wife team of reporters for the New York Times. I thought it was very lively writing of the country's politics, economy and culture. Take along a good handbook of Chinese expressions with Chinese characters, learn a few basic polite phrases, and point to what you need.

Cities: It's been quite a while since I was in China, but I do recommend Shanghai (lots of students angling to speak English), Suzhou (the little Venice, beautiful rock gardens) and Guilin (river cruise). I haven't made it to Xi'an, but it's the top of my list for when I go back.... Beijing of course offers the Forbidden City and the (in)famous Tian An Men, but it's kind of a grey, Soviet-style city, and if you're short of time you might want to concentrate your travels south and west and focus on smaller towns.

Safety: I lived there for four months and found it safe to travel anywhere. Just use the same common sense you would use in any big city - keep alert, keep valuables hidden, keep in well-lighted areas at night.

Somewhat dry, but comprehensive info from the US govt on China:

Have a wonderful trip! Ann