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 number in 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 New Oriental Education (NYSE: EDU)? The fast-growing for-profit educator is making the most of a country retooling for the future. Online entertainment hubs like Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD), Giant Interactive (NYSE: GA), and Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq: SNDA) are also positioned perfectly for China's youth and the disposable income starting to trickle into their pockets.  

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

Is one stock enough?
If a foreign investor told you that he was playing the U.S. equity market by snapping up shares of only CKE Restaurants (NYSE: CKR) or specialty retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF), you would suggest a little diversification. A burger joint and a trendy apparel chain are mere tiles in the greater mosaic. 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, plenty of funds specialize in international investing. Matthews China (MCHFX) is a no-load fund with $1.8 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 producer Sinopec (NYSE: SNP) (at 2.0% of assets), laptop manufacturer Lenovo (at 2.3% of assets), and truck maker Dongfeng Motor (at 2.9% 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 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 Taiwan retailer President Chain Store and India's Sun Pharmaceutical.

The fund has certainly worked out well for newsletter subscribers, rising 131% since being recommended three 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 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 Carl's Jr. or Abercrombie? 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. 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 exposure with international stock funds. New Oriental Education is a Global Gains recommendation and Shanda is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.