Last Updated: 04/08/12 6:01pm
Britain's Alex Danson takes on the Chinese defence
Captain Kate Walsh's return from a fractured jaw was the only positive as Great Britain missed the chance to ease themselves into the semi-finals.
A point against China would have put them in the last four with a match to spare but defeat means their qualification now looks more precarious.
A draw against Holland in their final Pool A match may be enough, but a win over the defending champions on Monday would guarantee it.
Second-half penalty corner goals from Fu Baorong and Zhao Yudiao - Crista Cullen pulled back a late set-piece - did the damage as the Chinese took advantage of a lacklustre GB performance to put themselves back into semi-final contention.
Walsh's comeback - six days after breaking her jaw on this pitch when she was hit in the face - should have boosted the side but in fact they never really got going.
The 32-year-old Reading defender, who on Monday had an operation to insert a plate to stabilise the fracture, led the squad out wearing some protective strapping under her chin and slotted in like she had never been away.
She made a couple of low tackles without even flinching and her distribution was as crisp and precise as ever.
Unfortunately for GB they needed their inspiration further up the field as they struggled to reproduce the performances which had seen them score 12 goals in their first three matches.
The closest they came to scoring in the first half was from four late penalty corners in succession, one of which saw Cullen fire a rebound from Laura Bartlett's shot straight at goalkeeper Yimeng Zhang.
Walsh's jaw had been the early focus but it was soon Anne Panter's as she went in low for a tackle she was hit in the mouth by China defender Ma Wei's undercut clearance.
She immediately disappeared down the tunnel with team doctor Graeme Wilkes for treatment.
Panter returned pitch-side five minutes into the second half, just about in time to see her team-mates fall behind when Fu Baorong's penalty corner strike took a deflection to beat goalkeeper Beth Storry.
Another corner cost them a second as Zhao Yudiao deflected in Ma Yibo's pass in a well-executed set-piece.
Defender Sally Walton at least forced a save out of Zhang from Chloe Rogers' cut-back but the China goalkeeper was not tested anywhere near enough by a home side trying to get themselves back in the game.
Cullen flicked home a penalty corner with 80 seconds remaining but it came too late to salvage the draw they so desperately wanted.
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