For periods, the Green Army made most of the running but China’s half-court defence and greater accuracy in the two circles made the difference.
Chen Yang’s corner goal in the seventh minute broke the deadlock before Zhong Jiaji and Chen Yanhua stretched the scoreline out before Michelle Carey’s sliding touch got one back in the final throes.
The 11th place finish comes with the small consolation of putting Ireland above their pre-tournament ranking and they will hope to use this experience when they face August’s European qualifier tournament in Dublin.
“It took us to be 1-0 down to start to play how we wanted,” said Sean Dancer, reflecting on the result.
“We did enough to get back into it in the third quarter; we had good opportunities and put them under pressure but if you don’t score, it’s always hard.
“Overall, we played a couple of good games against the top teams in Holland and Germany but didn’t get any results. The next step is to get some points.
"Disappointed about not finishing the Chile game which was key for us. Great for the highs of beating South Africa but we didn’t put everything out there today so it is a sour taste in the mouth.”
China were out of the blocks quicker, winning the first of eight penalty corners in the first half in the early stages.
Ireland’s defence in this facet of the game was strong with Sarah Torrans - despite heavy bandaging on her knee - charging down a series of shots.
But they could not keep out a neat move in the seventh minute when Ma Ning turned smartly onto her backhand and slipped the ball across for Chen Yang to deflect home.
The Green Army gave as good as they got in a stop-start first quarter. Hannah McLoughlin’s corner shot did find its way in via Naomi Carroll but illegally so with a free out given and Deirdre Duke’s shot cleared the crossbar in a good phase of attacking waves.
The second quarter was tighter still with chances at a premium outside of corner chances for either side, McFerran up to the challenge.
The scoreline remained the same through Q3 which was far more engaging. China hit the post from their ninth corner but it was brief respite for the Asian side as Ireland piled on the pressure for this 15-minute phase.
Michelle Cary and Duke led the line brilliantly, hassling at every turn to help effect a string of well-placed turnovers while Duke also made work Liu Ping work, as did Róisín Upton with a corner drag-flick.
But they were left with a mountain to climb - with Sarah McAuley in the sin-bin - when Zhong Jiaji’s penalty corner drag made it into the bottom of the backboard.
And the game was out of sight in the 52nd minute when Zhang Xindan slipped the ball into the path of Chen Yanhua who swept home first time.
Ireland kept fighting and did get one back with two minutes to go, a lovely Carey touch to an Upton push at corner time to close out the result.
The match itself was special for Ayeisha McFerran becoming the joint most capped Irish female goalkeeper - alongside Emma Gray on 118 caps - while Siofra O’Brien made her debut, coming in for the injured Caoimhe Perdue.
McFerran paid tribute to Gray and her influence on her career.
“I had no idea about it. Emma was brilliant and I learned a lot from her whenever I was coming in and she set the tone for me as a goalkeeper, an athlete and a goalkeeper coming through," she said.
“To be up there with Emma is a real honour because she was a stalwart of goalkeeping for hockey in Ireland for a long time.”
As for O’Brien, it was a bittersweet start to her capped international career: “Obviously a disappointing result; we wanted to get the win. Personally delighted to get my first cap and what an honour to get to do it at a World Cup with this group of girls.
“This week was tough for Erin [Getty] and I. The girls have been great and rallied together and it was still a squad of 20, never just the 18 plus two [reserves], sticking together.
"You don’t wish an injury on anyone and obviously it was awful for Caoimhe after a great tournament for her but it isn’t an easy place as a reserve.”
The next step is to now regroup and take the experiences from this event into next month’s European Championship qualifiers in Dublin from August 18th to 21st, a key step on the road to Paris 2024.
“We always knew it would be the case - World Cup and then Euro qualifiers which is extremely important. We have do well there and qualify," added O'Brien.
"That sets up the long road to Paris and the long-term goal. We’ll take a few days to recover but we have to be prepared for that one. It will be a fight every game in Dublin and qualification is the only option.”