As Mare recently pointed out in an older post about invitation letters (Do I Still Need an Invitation Letter to Visit China? dated August 18, 2009), it seems that invitation letters are indeed required again when applying for a visa to come to China.
My father came for a visit last month and the Chinese Consulate in Chicago not only required an invitation letter from me, but also copies of my residence permit and visa. I can't speak for other Chinese embassies and consulates around the world, but it does seem like they are creating a few more steps for obtaining a visa.
Just be sure to allow yourself plenty of time before your trip to obtain your visas. You may find that they Chinese consulate/embassy in your region requires less or more than others. Simply comply with their process and you should be able to obtain the visa with no trouble.
Thanks for your comment, Mare!
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