China's exports surged ahead in February, in an indication of revived global demand in the wake of the global financial crisis.
According to Chinese customs data released on Wednesday exports were up 45.7 per cent over a year earlier, the fastest growth in three years.
Imports also rose by 44.7 per cent, reflecting a recovery in Chinese domestic demand as consumers' worries over the financial crisis ease.
Chinese export data is being closely watched by analysts looking for clues as to the strength of the world's number three economy third-largest economy and for signs of recovery in crisis-hit export markets such as the US and Europe.
February's exports growth was boosted by comparison with last year's weak trade amid the global downturn and came despite the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, when many factories and offices shut down.
Overall China's global trade surplus for the January-February period narrowed by
50.3 per cent from the same time last year.
The reduction reflects a resurgence in China's demand for imports while the US and other key export markets are still struggling.
The latest data could lead China to relax its peg on the value of the yuan [AFP]
According to government figures China's economy sped up in the final quarter of 2009, growing by 10.9 percent on the strength of massive stimulus spending and bank loans.
That in turn spurred Chinese demand for imported iron ore and other materials used in stimulus-financed construction projects.
The strong export figures could make Beijing more comfortable with letting the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, appreciate.
The value of the yuan, which has effectively been pegged to the US dollar since mid-2008, has been a source of friction with China's Western trading partners, who say Beijing is keeping it artificially low to give an unfair boost to exports.
Beijing has been under intense pressure from Washington in particular in recent months to allow the yuan to rise.
On Saturday the governor of China's central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, said Beijing would will be "very cautious" about easing exchange-rate controls because the global economic outlook is still uncertain.
However, he added that the peg was temporary and would be removed "sooner or later" once the global recovery was on a firmer footing.