China's trade surplus with U.S. widens in 2017

Estimates by the General Administration of Customs has showed that Chinese exports to Russia rose 14.8 percent to $42.9 billion previous year, while Russian exports were up 27.7 percent to $41.2 billion. Also, an investigation is proceeding on whether China is forcing American companies to turn over proprietary technologies and information in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

A massive government push to heat millions of homes and power thousands of factories with natural gas in northern China has led to demand for the fuel outpacing supply, while delivery infrastructure has found it hard to cope.

Huang Songping, a spokesman for the customs agency, said China would find it hard to maintain double-digit foreign trade growth this year. Prices surged 46 percent previous year, while Chinese iron ore prices jumped 16 percent.

December's crude oil imports hit 33.7 million tonnes, or about 7.94 million barrels per day (bpd).

In November, China stopped exporting oil products to North Korea, after the U.N. Security Council that month imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments.

Experts say they fear the situation could deteriorate this year, though.

China benefited from increasing momentum in the wider global economy past year: the country's overall exports increased 11 percent, according to government data.

China's unwrought copper imports fell 4.3 percent in December from a month earlier, but still recorded their second-highest level in 2017 as winter restrictions on production bolstered demand for metal from overseas.

Some economists and market analysts expect that, in the very least, 2018 is likely to bring plenty of trade fiction, and USA penalties on some Chinese imports. Imports soared 15.9% to $1.84 trillion, the strongest increase in six years.

The Chinese data also showed that China's imports from North Korea fell 33% in 2017, a possible indication of Beijing's cooperation with the US over Pyongyang, though China's exports to North Korea increased 8.3%.

Vanessa Coleman