Chancellor Philip Hammond's trip to China has been called off after reports that a speech the UK defence secretary made has angered the Chinese government.
Hammond was set to hold trade talks with senior officials in Beijing during a brief visit next week, but a spokesperson for the Treasury has said: ""No trip was ever announced or confirmed."
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson indicated that the UK intended to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific in a speech on Monday and unconfirmed newspaper reports claimed that the Chinese government is unhappy about it.
Williamson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth would be deployed to the region, along with the Middle East and Mediterranean, as part of its maiden voyage.
Williamson also said China was "developing its modern military capability and its commercial power".
Former Chancellor George Osborne told BBC Radio 4 that it was difficult ot figure out the UK's policy on China.
"You've got the defence secretary engaging in gunboat diplomacy of a quite old-fashioned kind," he said.
"At the same time, the chancellor of the exchequer and the foreign secretary are going around saying they want a close economic partnership with China.
"Ultimately it's the responsibility of Theresa May to sort this out. At the moment it looks all at sea."
May visited China for three days last year and claimed it would "intensify the golden era in UK-China relations".
Speaking at the time, she said she was "deepening co-operation with China on key global and economic issues" because she felt it would play a "huge role" in future economic development.