Beijing: Buoyed by good demand from the United States and emerging markets, China's exports jumped by nearly 22 percent to USD 139.37 billion in February, underpinning strong signs of recovery.
The country's imports fell by 15.2 percent to USD 124.12 billion, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said Thursday. Trade surplus expanded to USD 15.2 billion from a deficit of USD 31.98 billion a year earlier, it added.
After taking seasonal factors into account, such as February's Spring Festival holiday, exports rose 20.6 percent and imports climbed 6.5 percent, it said.
Wang Jun, an economist with the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, attributed the better-than-expected exports to the steady recovery of the Chinese, US and emerging economies.
The less-robust imports were due to a stronger US dollar and falling prices for commodity goods.
Importers also replenished inventories before the Spring Festival, he told state-run Xinhua news agency.
China's economic growth eased further to a 13-year low of 7.8 percent in 2012 from 9.3 percent in 2011 and 10.3 percent in 2010. The government is targeting economic growth of 7.5 percent this year to leave room for economic restructuring.
It also hopes to increase its total foreign trade volume by around 8 percent amid a slow global economic recovery and rising trade protectionism.
A string of GAC indexes indicate that exporters and entrepreneurs are more optimistic about future trends than in previous months.
In the first two months, trade with the EU, China's largest trade partner, was up three percent, while that with the United States, its second-largest trade partner, rose by 14.8 percent.
Trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries increased 22 percent. Trade with Russia was up 31.6 percent and that with South Africa surged by 61.4 percent. Trade with Japan, however, dwindled by 8.2 percent.
General imports and exports, which accounted for 52 percent of the total trade, increased by 11.5 percent.
Analysts said a surprising jump in the trade surplus may renew outside pressure for China to appreciate its currency, as the country has long been criticised for keeping the yuan artificially cheap to gain unfair trade advantages.
On the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of China's political advisory body, Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China earlier this week had said the value of the yuan has been close to equilibrium, adding that its exchange rate will continue to be stable this year.
Chen Hufei, a researcher with the Bank of Communications, said that as China's economic recovery takes shape in the following months, imports are expected to grow faster than exports, indicating that the surplus for the whole year will be less than that of 2012.
Zhuang Jian, an economist with the Asian Development Bank, said China has to further optimise its trade structure and boost exports with high added-value.
"Large volumes do not necessarily represent high quality, and a large foreign trade nation is not equal to a trade power," Zhuang said.
China is showing signs of more balanced trade with expanded exports of high-value-added machinery, he added.
Compared with traditional markets, China's steady or even fast-growing exports to some developing countries have also been an important stabiliser of its foreign trade, Zhuang said.