China's foreign trade rose 3.4 percent in 2019 to 31.54 trillion yuan (about 4.6 trillion U.S. dollars), customs data showed Tuesday.
Exports grew 5 percent year on year to 17.23 trillion yuan last year while imports climbed 1.6 percent to 14.31 trillion yuan, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.92 trillion yuan, which expanded by 25.4 percent, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said.
"based on our initial analyses, China is expected to remain the largest trading country in the world in 2019," said Zou Zhiwu, deputy head of the GAC.
Zou said China's foreign trade throughout last year scored steady growth and better quality despite mounting domestic and external challenges.
In December alone, the country's foreign trade jumped 12.7 percent from the same period of 2018 to a monthly record of 3.01 trillion yuan, with exports up 9 percent and imports up 17.7 percent to new monthly highs.
The December uptick can be attributed to factors including rising demand for imports from recovering manufacturing activities, rising prices of major commodities worldwide and growing confidence buoyed by the progress relating to trade consultations between China and the United States, said Huang Guohua, an official with the GAC.
Reviewing China's foreign trade in 2019, Zou emphasized a few notable changes.
ASEAN rose to become China's second-largest trading partner in 2019 with 4.43 trillion yuan in trade volume with China.
Private enterprises overtook foreign-funded enterprises as the biggest contributor to China's foreign trade for the first time, posting a record high trade volume of 13.48 trillion yuan.
The country's trade mix continued to improve in 2019, with general trade taking up a larger share. General trade, growing 5.6 percent year on year, accounted for 59 percent of the total trade, 1.2 percentage points higher over one year ago.
Electrical products, electronics and machinery accounted for 58.4 percent of the country's exports in 2019 with 10.06 trillion yuan in trade volume, up 4.4 percent year on year.
Tuesday's data also showed that China's meat imports posted the fastest growth in comparison with other major staple commodities including iron ore, soybeans, crude oil and natural gas in 2019.