China's December exports fell 1.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports slid 7.6 percent, both much less than economists had expected but still likely consigning the economy to its weakest annual growth in 25 years.
That left the country with a trade surplus of $60.09 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said on Wednesday.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected dollar-denominated exports to fall 8.0 percent, and predicted imports would fall 11.5 percent.
China's economy likely grew by around 7 percent in 2015, in line with the government's official target, the top economic planning agency said on Tuesday.
Still, such a level would be the slowest pace of expansion in a quarter of a century, and down from 7.3 percent in 2014 as weak demand at home and abroad, industrial overcapacity and faltering investment drag on the world's second-largest economy.
Some China watchers believe real growth levels are already much weaker than official data suggest, reinforcing expectations that the government will have to roll out more stimulus measures this year to avoid a hard landing for the economy.
(Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao, Sue-Lin Wong and Meng Meng; Editing by Kim Coghill)