How (not) to invest in China.

A series on the China gold rush.
April 15 2005 6:15 AM

The Best China Investment Strategy

Forget about it.

(Continued from Page 1)

In Hong Kong and New York, China stocks may actually be cheap (it's hard to know for sure given the uncertainties surrounding the economy, legal system, accounting system, currency, Taiwan situation, etc.) This said, a China-stock synopsis would not be complete without the caveat that there is absolutely no reason for you to buy them. Buying any stock, even an American one, is far more dangerous than the mainstream media would have you believe (low-cost, diversified funds offer a better risk/reward profile). Buying a single emerging market stock, meanwhile, is akin to playing Russian roulette. Unless you have a massive portfolio—or an unusually high appetite for risk—you can get all the China exposure you'll ever need by owning U.S. companies that do business there, or, if you're aggressive, small helpings of Asian or emerging-market funds.

If you simply can't stand not having some direct China exposure, then toss a few dollars at a low-cost, diversified country fund. But make sure it's only a few dollars. And recognize that, in addition to the possibility of posting impressive gains, you may 1) lose most of your money; and/or 2) sit tight for 20 to 30 years before you break even. Remember Japan, the last great Asian investment opportunity? Its chief stock index, the Nikkei, currently trades at approximately one-quarter of its 1989 peak.

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