The Foreign Secretary was hoping to use the visit to boost trade links and address sensitive issues including the human rights situation in Hong Kong.
He may have hoped that his personal connection to China through his wife Lucia could help forge strong links with the Beijing government, but that was undermined when he got her nationality wrong.
At a meeting with Chinese counterparts, Mr Hunt said: “My wife is Japanese … my wife is Chinese.
“Sorry, that’s a terrible mistake to make.”
Mr Hunt was picked by Theresa May to spearhead foreign policy after his predecessor Boris Johnson resigned on principle over her controversial Chequers plan for Brexit.
Mr Hunt, who is fluent in Japanese, caused furore in 2011 when it emerged that he had claimed £2,500 off the taxpayer to learn Mandarin because his wife if Chinese despite being a millionaire.
Mr Hunt met his wife Lucia Guo in 2008 when he was working at Warwick University. The couple now have three children.
She was born in Xian in central China.
The mistake of calling a Chinese person Japanese is seen as culturally offensive because the two countries have been bitter rivals for centuries.
Japan occupied parts of China during the Second World War where it committed terrible atrocities particularly against women.
More recently they have been locked in a bitter dispute over the ownership of Pacific islands.