BEIJING • China's exports surged more than twice the expected pace last month, official data showed yesterday, as tensions with its largest trading partners flare.
The healthy trade data is welcome news for the world's No. 2 economy as Beijing looks to tackle industrial overcapacity, winter pollution and a ballooning debt pile.
Exports jumped 12.3 per cent year-on-year to US$217.4 billion (S$294 billion), blowing past the 5.3 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.
"The robust global economy - both the developed and developing economies - has lifted China's exports," economist Yao Shaohua told Bloomberg News.
Imports expanded 17.7 per cent to US$177.2 billion, surpassing expectations of 13 per cent.
But China's trade surplus grew last month to US$40.2 billion, suggesting tensions with key markets such as the United States and the European Union are unlikely to let up in the near future.
Year-on-year increase in China's exports, to US$217.4 billion.
Increase in imports to US$177.2 billion.
Strains in Beijing's relationship with Washington in particular are high - last month's trade data may fuel the fire, with China's trade surplus over the US ballooning 18.8 per cent year-on-year, in yuan terms.
US President Donald Trump has taken an aggressive stance on trade, vowing to reduce bilateral trade deficits - particularly with China.
In Beijing last month, Mr Trump said he did not blame China for taking advantage of past US administrations on trade, but indicated he would level the playing field for American companies.
"After my tour of Asia, all Countries dealing with us on TRADE know that the rules have changed," he tweeted following the visit.
His administration has raised the number of tariffs and trade cases against China. Last month, the Commerce Department launched a probe into some of China's exports on its own initiative, rather than at the behest of companies, for the first time in a quarter-century.
That followed new tariffs on Chinese aluminium foil and plywood imports, among others.
Many of these tariffs are applied under a US determination that China is not a market economy. This approach gives the US greater leeway to levy duties on imports from China by comparing them to the prices of similar goods produced in "surrogate countries", rather than using Chinese data on prices in its own market.
But Beijing has ferociously denounced that policy since late last year, saying other countries are obliged to discontinue use of the "surrogate country" approach.
When asked about the US' refusal to drop the classification on Thursday, a spokesman for China's Commerce Ministry said: "We hope the US does not ignore international rules."