The problem with Chinese visa is that they want you to submit a photo according to their specification.
As Americans or non-Chinese citizens interested in visiting China, you have to get a visa.
If you have a long layover in Beijing and you want to visit THE Great Wall? Oh well. You can't. (I am speaking about those from the countries that a Chinese visa is required)
So what you have to do is applying for a Chinese visa.
And guess what.
Actually, that is not it.
There is the whole bunch of other requirement listed underneath.
Also see the photo examples according to the publication of the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of China.
Were you thinking of taking a random picture and cutting it? The problem is that you need a white background. If you bring a traditional gray background photo. Your photo will likely be rejected.
Where are you going to print the visa photo that matches the Chinese government's specification? You probably can't think of anywhere.
If you upload a photo like this below.
So don't worry about the Chinese visa photo requirement and start worrying about what you are going to do in China!
By the way, American citizens should definitely apply for the 10-year tourist visa (multiple entries) because it costs the same as the shorter length visas.