The latest readings on the health of China's trade sector follow weeks of tit-for-tat tariff threats by Washington and Beijing, sparked by U.S. frustration with China's massive bilateral trade surplus and intellectual property policies, that have fueled fears of a global trade war.
Its trade surplus with the U.S. in the first quarter grew more than 19 percent from the same period previous year to just over 58 billion dollars.
With the threat of tariffs hanging over almost a third of China's exports to the United States, economists at Nomura say its companies may have front-loaded shipments early this year before any measures kick in. Its imports from the US rose 8.9 percent in the quarter and 3.2 percent in March.
He told regional reporters in Beijing as a part of a China-Latin America and Caribbean press programme, that while some in the region could "feel the punch" from the ongoing dispute, Beijing fully intends to uphold the system and rules of trade as presented by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Now, they hadn't sold it in, what, 14 years or something.
However, for March the surplus fell to $15.4 billion from February's $21 billion, while it was also down from $17.7 billion 12 months ago. The global trade balance often slips into deficit for one month early each year as factories restock following the Lunar New Year holiday.
Imports of commodities continued to lead the way in March as manufacturers replenished inventories ahead of a seasonal pick-up in demand.
But Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming said at the forum on Tuesday (10 April) that China's economic reforms were driven by domestic factors and not due to external pressures.
Trump is demanding Beijing take steps to narrow its trade deficit with the US, which Washington says stood at a record $375.2 billion a year ago.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that talks between Beijing and Washington had been positive: "We're doing really well with China".
A day later, Beijing fired back with a plan to impose import duties on $50bn worth of American products, inclusive of soy beans, cars and airplanes.