In December, exports grew by 10.9 percent year-on-year to a record of USD 231.79 billion. The figure came above market estimates of a 9.1 percent gain, due to sustained global demand. Exports of refined fuel hit record high of 6.17 million tonnes, above the previous peak of 5.79 million tonnes registered in November.
Imports increased by 4.5 percent to USD 177.10 billion, much slower than a 17.7 percent increase in the preceding month and below expectations of a 13 percent gain. It was the weakest increase in inbound shipments since December 2016. Crude oil imports came in at 33.7 million tonnes in December, or 7.94 million barrels per day, down from November's 9.01 million barrels per day, which is the second-highest level on record. On the other hand, purchases of gas, including pipeline imports and tanker shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), was at 7.89 million tonnes, above November's prior record of 6.55 million tonnes, largely due to winter weather. Meanwhile, Chinese imports of soybeans came in at 9.55 million tonnes, up from 8.60 million tonnes in the preceding month.
The trade surplus with the US, China's largest export market, came in at USD 25.55 billion, compared to USD 27.87 billion in November.
Considering full 2017, the trade surplus fell 17 percent to USD 422.50 billion. Exports in the period increased by 7.9 percent, the most since 2013. Imports gained 15.9 percent, the most since 2011. Meantime, China's 2017 surplus with the US reached an all-time high of USD 275.81 billion.
In yuan-denominated terms, from the January to December period, exports expanded 10.8 percent, while imports surged 18.7 percent.