China's exports to the United States rose 11.3% a year ago, while imports from the USA only increased 0.7%.
Exports rose 7.1 per cent, customs data showed Monday, down from the 7.9 per cent reported earlier for 2017.
Asian shares and U.S. stock market futures fell as the surprisingly weak Chinese data added to fears of weaker corporate profits and investment, while the yuan currency gave up some of its early gains.
The dismal December trade readings suggest China's economy may have lost more momentum late in the year than earlier thought, despite a slew of growth boosting measures in recent months ranging from higher infrastructure spending to tax cuts.
China's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States surged to a record $323.3 billion in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington intensified.
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. The levies targeted hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods previous year and forced Beijing to retaliate.More news: Jayme Closs’ aunt shares how teen spent her first day home
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But December's gloomy data seemed to suggest the USA front-loading effect has tapered off, and after several months of falling factory orders a further weakening in China's exports is widely expected in coming months. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.
"The global electronics cycle remains the key driver of Chinese exports".
The country's commerce minister told state media on Friday that China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the USA this year. "We expect both to remain weak in the coming quarters", Capital Economics said in a note.
Washington was threatening even higher tariffs before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a 90-day truce in December.
China's export growth is expected to have eased for a second straight month in December as global demand weakened, raising pressure on Beijing as it tries to reach a trade deal with Washington.