China's exports fell 17.2%, in the first two months of the year. Photo: iStock
China's exports may take a hit. Photo: iStock

China’s exports expanded more than expected last month as key markets eased virus containment measures, official data showed Monday, but imports unexpectedly shrank despite a push to boost domestic demand.

Overseas shipments have been hit less than feared by the pandemic, thanks to global demand for medical supplies. 

Exports spiked 9.5% on-year in August, the Customs Administration said, much better than the 7.5% predicted on a Bloomberg news poll of analysts.

Economists cautioned, however, that a resurgence in new infections in some regions meant the outlook remained uncertain. 

Imports, which collapsed in May but have since improved, contracted 2.1% – much worse than the 0.5% growth tipped by analysts.

Monday’s data also showed that China’s trade surplus with the US surged by more than a quarter.

Tensions between the US and China have escalated on various fronts, including Beijing’s handling of the pandemic, its policies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and on technology.

But last month, top negotiators from both sides agreed to push ahead with the phase one trade deal signed in January, which obliges China to import an additional US$200 billion in American products over two years.

HSBC economist Chen Jingyang said in a recent report that agricultural imports could lend some support to future readings, given they “are likely to continue to increase on the back of the fulfillment of the phase one deal with the US.”