Prime Minister David Cameron will attempt to row back on his previous support for the Dalai Lama during a visit to China next week, in order to maintain good trade relations with Beijing.

At meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, the UK prime minister will tread carefully around the issue of the Dalai Lama and avoid mention of China's human rights record.

Cameron is keen to bolster business and restore amicable diplomatic relations with China. Distancing himself from the Dalai Lama is seen as an attempt to manage the fallout from a meeting between the prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, in May 2012.

China has been criticised by the organisation Human Rights Watch for its "highly repressive policies" in Tibet. The meeting with the Dalai Lama is said to have led to a cooling of relations between the UK and China, culminating in the Chinese Government postponing Cameron's invitation to Beijing in April, a month after the new government was installed.

Cameron's trip will be an opportunity to repair the damage from the Dalai Lama meeting. The Guardian reports that the shift in stance comes after significant Whitehall lobbying. A Downing Street source said that the government had now "turned a page" on its relationship with the Dalai Lama, and Cameron has no further plans to meet him. The prime minister is keen to "shift UK-China relations up a gear", the source added.

The UK can ill afford any long-term rift with China - Britain is China's second-largest trading partner and the UK was the only country whose inward and outward investment with China increased in 2012. In October Chancellor George Osborne led a trade mission to China to drum up investment in UK nuclear power plants.