Imports went up 3.1 percent to USD 168.60 billion, compared to a 4.7 percent increase in November and above consensus of a 2.7 percent growth.
In yuan-denominated terms, exports rose 0.6 percent from a year ago, following a 5.9 percent rise in a month earlier. Inbound shipments jumped 10.0 percent, following a 13.0 percent rise in November.
In November 2016, trade surplus came in at USD 44.61 billion.
Considering the full year of 2016, exports dropped by 7.7 percent, the second straight year of fall and the worst since the depths of the global crisis in 2009. Sales were down to Hong Kong (-12.7 percent), Japan (-4.7 percent), South Korea (-7.7 percent), Taiwan (-10.1 percent), ASEAN countries (-7.8 percent), the EU countries (-4.7 percent), South Africa (-19.0 percent), Brazil (-19.9 percent), the US (-5.9 percent), Australia (-7.8 percent) and New Zealand (-3.3 percent). In contrast, outbound shipments rose to India (+0.2 percent) and Russia (+7.3 percent).
Imports declined by 5.5 percent, mainly due to lower commodity prices. In volume terms, inbound shipments declined for: fresh, dried fruits & nuts (-7.6 percent), grain & cereal flour (-32.8 percent), edible oil (-18.3 percent), refined oil (-6.5 percent), primary shape plastics (-24.1 percent) and mineral fertiliser (-25.4 percent). In contrast, purchases were higher for soybeans (+2.7 percent), iron ore & concentrates (+7.5 percent), copper ore & concentrates (+28.2 percent), coal & ignite (+25.2 percent), crude (+13.6 percent), natural gas (+22.0 percent), pharmaceuticals (+16.9 percent) and natural rubber (+23.1 percent).
For the whole year of 2016, the trade surplus was recorded at USD 509.96 billion, lower than a surplus of USD 594.5 billion in 2015.
For 2017, trade faces more challenges from rising protectionism and uncertainties in U.S. trade policy.