You want a piece of China. You know that the market has rattled off some heady gains in the past. Wikipedia tells you that there are 1.3 billion people living in the world's most populous nation, more than four times the citizenry of the United States. The Chinese economy is projected to grow at a better than 10% clip, with leading companies growing several times faster than their stateside peers.

You've got a plan. Now it's time to pick a stock. Do you go with NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES)? The leading online gaming company commands a reasonable multiple, trading at just 16 times next year's projected earnings. Do you go with a theme like education? Digging into the recent IPOs of ChinaEDU (NASDAQ:CEDU) and Noah Education (NYSE:NED) are tempting, especially with shares of both companies trading for less than their original IPO prices.   

Strength in numbers
Unless you're super rich, you will likely buy a single Chinese stock. Maybe two. More than that and you would be overweighting yourself in a market where news breaks as you sleep.

Is one stock enough?

If an overseas investor told you that he was playing the U.S. equity market by snapping up shares of only Burger King or Devry, you would suggest a little diversification. Playing a country's fundamentals on the back of a single stock is risky. It's not a proxy. It's a lottery ticket.

Thankfully, there are plenty of funds that specialize in overseas investing. Matthews China (MCHFX) is a no-load fund with $2.4 billion in assets. For as little as $2,500 (or $500 in an IRA), you can buy into the fund. In one purchase, you can grab a piece of several Chinese stocks, including oil and gas titan PetroChina (NYSE:PTR) (at 2.3% of total assets) and coal producer China Shenhua Energy (at 3.7% of assets).

Around the world in 80 seconds
Global diversification through funds is as smart as it is simple. It's no surprise to find that our Champion Funds newsletter has singled out seven different superior international funds to subscribers during the past three years.

Matthews China is not one of those picks, but one of the seven funds is run by the same management company. It doesn't limit itself to China. That particular fund invests in other emerging markets in Asia, granting investors access to companies like banking giants DBS Group in Singapore and HDFC Bank (NYSE:HDB) in India.

The fund has certainly worked out well for newsletter subscribers, soaring 85% higher since being recommended two years ago.

It's a smaller world after all
I'm a growth stock investor. Still, I'm proud to admit that I have always owned no-load funds to provide blanket coverage in exotic overseas markets. Even a do-it-yourself investor like me can relish the merit of having a seasoned team, dedicated to unearthing and maintaining an international portfolio of investments.

So why settle for China's Burger King or Devry? You can even spend the next 30 days reading up on all of the Champion Funds international recommendations with a free trial subscription. No passport stamps required!

There's a world of opportunities out there, literally. Buy the better baskets.

This article was originally published Nov. 5, 2007. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz speaks two languages fluently, neither of them Mandarin. He does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story, though he maintains a healthy overseas exposure with international stock funds. NetEase is a Rule Breakers recommendation. HDFC Bank is a Global Gains pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.