The world's largest trading nation got off to a strong start in 2018, but pressure on the economy started to build later in the year as the United States and China began imposing tariffs on each other's goods and global demand started to cool.
Import growth had been expected to pick up slightly to 5 percent, after cooling to 3 percent in the previous month.
China's global exports rose 7.1 percent to $2.5 trillion, down from the 7.9 percent rate reported earlier for 2017. Imports also saw a shock drop, falling 7.6 per cent in their biggest decline since July 2016.More news: Dillian Whyte fancies his chances of knocking out Tyson Fury
China's exports to the world fell 4.4% in December from a year earlier, while imports dropped 7.6%, reflecting sluggish demand at home and overseas. "We expect both to remain weak in the coming quarters", Capital Economics said in a note.
China's large trade surplus with the United States has always been a sore point with Washington, and is at the centre of a bitter dispute between the world's biggest economies.
In 2018, the U.S. imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products, prompting retaliation from Beijing and a trade war that analysts fear could escalate further and damage the global economy. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.More news: Zimbabwe Faces Fresh Protests Amid Collapsing Economy
However, Beijing's export data had been surprisingly resilient to tariffs for much of 2018, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer USA duties went into effect.
However, in a sign that the White House's measures are having an impact, China's exports to the United States sank last month. He added that cooperation with Belt and Road countries "has become new driving force of China's foreign trade development".
The data raises questions about the success of the trade war and increased tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump against China in an attempt to reduce the US trade deficit. For all of 2018, soybean, the second largest imports from the US, fell for the first time since 2011.More news: Thunder’s Russell Westbrook breaks Marco Belinelli’s ankle with vicious crossover
China's trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up and global consumer demand weakened.