The mainland's exports beat gloomy forecasts to rebound in May though imports sank more than expected as the trade war with the United States heats up, official data showed on Monday.
The spat between the world's top two economies escalated last month, with President Donald Trump increasing tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods.
But Chinese exports to the world bounced back to rise 1.1 percent last month after falling 2.7 percent in April, according to customs data. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News had forecast a 3.9 percent drop.
Imports, however, plummeted 8.5 percent after rising 4.0 percent in April.
The trade surplus surged to US$41.7 billion in May compared with US$13.8 billion the previous month.
Trade talks between the United States and China have stalled while the two countries have threatened to slap more sanctions on each other.
Trump is expected to meet President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a G20 meeting of finance ministers on Saturday that any potential deal with China will wait until the two presidents meet later this month, but Washington was ready to impose new tariffs if talks fail. (AFP)