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13 January 2018, 05:25 | Darnell Patrick
A worker watches as cargo trucks move through a shipping port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province. – AP
SIA Energy's Tee said the 770,000 bpd increases in last year's imports exceeded his forecasts, suggesting China's domestic fuel demand may be stronger than official data showed.
China's exports and imports both increased for the first time in three years in 2017, official figures showed Friday, but trade tensions with the US and cooling domestic demand are clouding prospects this year.
Analysts at Nomura say continued global growth may offer support, while possible USA protectionism could weigh on exports.
Overall, China's trade balance for 2017 was a surplus of $422.5 billion.
China's exports for the full year rose 7.9 percent, the fastest rate since 2013, while imports gained 15.9 percent, the best since 2011.
The U.S. was China's second-largest trade partner after the European Union, according to customs.
Tackling the trade gap between the US and China - which Washington has said is US$100 billion wider than Beijing has reported - was one of US President Donald Trump's election campaign promises, though his administration did not address the matter directly in his first year in the White House.
ANZ analyst Betty Wang said that even though a broad-based bilateral trade war is "highly unlikely" in 2018, it is possible that the US will take "unilateral actions on Chinese exports in specific sectors".
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Washington has also launched the procedure for a probe into whether Chinese companies are stealing the intellectual property of US companies.
Meanwhile China in December exported a record high 6.17 million tonnes of refined fuel, beating the previous peak of 5.79 million tonnes set in November.
The "continued strength of China's exports to the U.S.is bound to add to U.S".
Huang Songping, a commerce ministry spokesman, said the numbers reflect the "mild recovery of the world economy a year ago". The U.S.is expected to release the findings of the investigation soon.
Compared with a month earlier, exports fell 9.7 percent.
Imports grew an even slower pace of 4.5 percent year-on-year in December, the General Administration of Customs said, which was the weakest since they rose 3.1 percent in December 2016.
Other data from the Chinese government indicate substantial improvement in growth from 2016.
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