I've traveled back and forth between the US and China myself several times, and every time I would always make sure my plane tickets and hotel reservations were finalized before sending in my visa application. I was always under the impression the Chinese consulate would check applicants' travel arrangements (or perhaps randomly spot-check) and deny the visa if they couldn't confirm that you had tickets and accommodations matching your stated plans. But it occurred to me that I don't actually know why I thought this. I guess I was advised to do it this way by my contacts in China, but not by email, so there's no record. Meanwhile, I can't find any official statement on the matter, and looking around this site, the corresponding questions for Russia and Europe (Schengen zone) advise waiting until after the visa is approved to get plane tickets.
So, what is the situation with American citizens traveling to China? Is it necessary to have ticketed flights and confirmed hotel reservations in advance of when your visa application is processed?
In this particular instance I'm asking for someone else who I'm advising about travel planning. The person is applying for a 10-year tourist visa. I do know that once you already have the visa, you don't need to reapply for further travel, but the initial visa application itself does need to be associated with a specific trip, just as a short-term single-entry tourist visa would be.