China's exports jumped in May from a year earlier, the government said, although the increase is unlikely to be enough to ease pressure on the country's leaders to reverse a sharp economic slump.
Export growth climbed a robust 15.3 percent compared to May 2011, up from April's 4.9 percent, while imports climbed 12.1 percent year on year compared with the previous month's increase of 0.3 percent, according to customs data released Sunday.
China's global trade surplus widened to $18.7 billion.
The country's economy _ the second-biggest in the world after the United States _ is forecast to grow by its slowest rate in a decade, raising the risk of job losses and unrest. It's a touchy challenge for the ruling Communist Party as it tries to enforce calm ahead of a once-a-decade handover of power to younger leaders.
The government announced Saturday that in May, growth in factory output edged up to 9.6 percent from April's 9.3 percent _ the lowest rate since the 2008 crisis _ but was well below last year's levels. Growth in spending on factories and other fixed assets edged down.
Beijing cut interest rates last week for the first time in nearly four years in a new effort to buoy growth that fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter and is forecast to fall further.
Chinese leaders spent two years tightening lending and investment curbs to cool an overheated economy and inflation before the unexpectedly sharp drop in global demand last year prompted them to reverse course.
The government is now scrambling to reverse the slowdown and help struggling exporters by boosting lending, investment and spending on public works.
China's May exports totaled $181.14 billion while imports were $162.44 billion. The May trade surplus of $18.7 billion was up slightly from $18.42 billion in April, and $13 billion in May 2011.
Economic woes in Europe continue to cast a shadow. Exports in the first five months of the year to the 27-nation European Union, China's biggest trading partner, are down 0.8 percent compared to the same period last year. That includes a drop of 25.1 percent in exports to debt-plagued Italy.
That has been offset by surprisingly strong exports to the United States, which are up 14.4 percent in the first five months compared to the same period a year ago.
Overall trade has risen 7.7 percent this year but some analysts say China's total trade for the full year might shrink. Last year trade grew by 22.5 percent compared to 2010.