China’s trade growth rebounded strongly last month in a positive sign for the recovery of the second-largest economy, official data showed yesterday.

Export growth more than quadrupled from the previous month to 14.1 percent in December while imports rose 6 percent in a sign of increasing domestic demand.

In November, export growth had plunged to 2.9 percent year on year while imports were flat.

The trade figures add to evidence that China is gradually emerging from its worst economic slowdown since the 2008 global crisis.

Factory output and other activity improved in the final quarter of 2012, but analysts say a recovery is still shaky and will be too weak to drive a global rebound without a turnaround in the US and Europe.

The improvement comes as a new generation of Communist Party leaders, who were installed at a congress in October last year, are taking power.

Beijing is pinning its hopes for growth on government-led investment and consumer spending, which is rising but not as fast as authorities want.

Analysts and the World Bank expect full-year economic growth to come in at about 8 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent this year. That is far stronger than the West and Japan but would be China’s weakest performance since the 1990s.

The country’s global trade surplus nearly doubled last month compared with December 2011, rising 90 percent to $31.6 billion (R271bn), the General Administration of Customs reported yesterday. For the year, the global trade surplus rose 49 percent to $231.1bn.

Reliance on trade has declined as domestic consumption has grown but export-driven manufacturing still employs millions of workers and any weakness raises the risk of job losses and unrest.

Import growth has been depressed by government curbs aimed at cooling a boom in construction and industrial investment that have slowed demand for foreign iron ore, copper and other raw materials.

Communist leaders want to shift the basis of economic growth to domestic consumption and services, a strategy that promises smaller but more sustainable gains. That could hurt commodity suppliers such as African economies, where Chinese spending has fuelled an economic boom. – Joe McDonald in Beijing for Sapa-AP