Hopes for a sustained recovery in China's international trade performance have been dashed by a greater-than-expected decline in December 2016.
Government data showed that Chinese exports fell by 6.1 per cent year on year in dollar-denominated terms last month, higher than the 3.5 per cent average prediction made by a Reuters poll of economists.
This followed a 0.1 per cent increase in the previous month, which had led to cautious optimism that China's sustained recent downturn in exports may be easing. Imports, meanwhile, rose by 3.1 per cent thanks to strong demand for commodities, which was ahead of estimates.
The parlous state of China's international trade prospects during 2016 can be attributed in part to persistently weak global demand, and fears are now being raised that the imminent Donald Trump presidency in the US will lead to a US-China trade war.
Chinese customs agency spokesman Huang Songping said: "The trend of anti-globalization is becoming increasingly evident, and China is the biggest victim of this trend. We will pay close attention to foreign trade policy after Trump is inaugurated president."