Anti-HS2 campaigners have attacked George Osborne's decision to launch the bidding process to build the high speed rail line.
They believe it is too early - the HS2 Bill is still going through Parliament - and he should not initially encourage China to pitch for the £11.8 billion contracts.
HS2 Action Alliance said the announcement confirmed that it is a "political project rather than a transport project".
The group's spokesman, Richard Houghton, said: "George Osborne has been very astute at using it to support his political ambitions.
"It was going to be part of creating the northern powerhouse ahead of the general election.
"Now he's trying to build his position as a statesman on the international stage in the hope he will be prime minister when David Cameron steps down.
"You shouldn't be issuing contracts when you don't have the money.
"This was meant to be a project that was going to not only build northern economies but also create jobs for British people.
"If the contracts are going to the Chinese it makes a nonsense of that claim."
Another campaign group, Stop HS2, claimed that China's own expansion of high speed rail highlights the potential problems for the UK.
The organisation's campaign manager, Joe Rukin, said the Chinese project's cost overruns, lack of sustainable growth and inability to achieve the predicted passenger numbers should "ring very loud alarm bells" for Mr Osborne.
He added: "Sadly our Chancellor wants to jump into bed with the Chinese on this highly suspect project."
The £43 billion proposed scheme has attracted criticism because of its cost and its impact on the environment and local communities.