China must step up efforts to boost imports and push developed nations to allow more high-tech goods to be exported to the country, an assistant commerce minister said on Friday.

Speaking at a forum, Li Rongcan said even though Chinese exports and imports have recovered to levels seen before the financial crisis, China still faces a number of downside risks including slowing external demand and rising trade protectionism.

The United States restricts exports of high-technology products to China due to concerns that ambitious Chinese firms will steal its intellectual property and because some of the technology has dual applications that could be diverted for military uses.

We should pay more attention to imports to promote trade balance and implement more effective import strategies, Li said.

We must push developed nations to lift their restrictions on export of high-tech products to China, he added.

China has repeatedly pledged to balance its trade account by importing more, in part due to pressure from trade partners to pull more weight as a consumer, and as it seeks to reduce its economic dependence on exports.

Efforts to raise imports are bearing fruit, with China's global trade surplus narrowing in 2010 for the second straight year to $183 billion, from $196 billion in 2009.

Acknowledging China's wish to buy more U.S. high-tech products, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered on Wednesday to give China more access to U.S. technology if China lets the yuan, a lightning rod between China-U.S. ties, rise more quickly.

But Chinese government advisers and economists said Beijing would cast a sceptical eye over the offer and refuse to be drawn into a bargain for a stronger yuan.