The surplus fell to $US17.8 billion ($17bn) in August from $US31.5bn in July, and was well below expectations for a $US23.4bn surplus in an earlier Dow Jones poll of economists.
Imports grew rapidly, rising 30.2 per cent in August from a year earlier, data from the General Administration of Customs showed today. That was up from the 22.9 per cent rise in July and higher than economists' median forecast for a 21 per cent increase.
Resilient Chinese demand for imports is likely to be a welcome development for international markets, which have come to depend on China as an engine of global growth.
But Goldman Sachs economist Yu Song said the outlook remains highly uncertain, and that China could still be pushed into loosening its policy settings if major economies such as the US and Europe deteriorate rapidly.