The hosts opening the scoring on four minutes, when Hao Junmin received a pass inside the area, breezed past defender Robert Huth and fired an angled shot past goalkeeper Robert Enke.
But the euphoria did not last long, Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger playing in the unmarked Lukas Podolski, who slotted home the equaliser two minutes later.
"We wanted to play the strategy laid out by the coaches, we wanted to play hard and build up our confidence," Gao Junmin said after the match. "We came here to learn from the Germans."
With big name stars Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose at home, German coach Joachim Loew had hoped their absences would give one of his newcomers an opportunity to shine. As it was, China played on the break, packing the defence and restricting their opponents to a few chances.
Indeed, the best opportunities went to the home side. Left-back Cao Yang saw his perfect cross to Gao Lin wasted ten minutes before half-time, and Enke saved a long-range drive by Jiang Ning in the 72nd minute before tipping an effort from Zhou Haining over the bar moments later.
Germany's best chance fell to Schweinsteiger, but he failed to capitalise on an open net in the 83rd minute.
Gao Hongbo was appointed earlier this month in the hope he can improve a side that has underperformed in recent years. The former forward, China's seventh head coach since 2000 and youngest ever at the age of 44, took over a team that has fallen to 97th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.