China’s August exports fell by 2.8 percent from a year earlier, less than markets had expected, while imports unexpectedly rose 1.5 percent, official data showed on Thursday.
Imports expanded for the first time in 22 months.
That left the country with a trade surplus of $52.05 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected exports to fall 4.0 percent and imports to drop 4.9 percent, resulting in a trade balance of $58 billion.
China’s exports have struggled for over a year amid stubbornly sluggish global demand, adding to the drag on the world’s second-largest economy, which posted its slowest growth in a quarter of a century in 2015.
Imports have also been mired in a long slump, but declines have been slowly moderating recently thanks to a rebound in global commodity prices.