China's exports and imports contracted again in May in a sign of weak global and domestic demand.
Exports fell 4.1 percent from a year earlier to $181.1 billion compared with April's 1.8 percent decline, customs data showed Wednesday. Imports shrank 0.4 percent to $131.1 billion, an improvement over the previous month's 10.9 percent fall.
Trade weakness could complicate Beijing's efforts to pull the world's second-largest economy out of a slump. Weak exports could require more economic stimulus, setting back efforts to reduce reliance on trade and investment to drive growth.
"China's export growth is likely to remain subdued going forward," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. "While we don't anticipate much more of a slowdown in global growth given that the worst is probably over for many emerging markets, we don't foresee a significant pick-up either."
China's global trade surplus widened to $50 billion from April's $45.6 billion.
The surplus with the European Union, China's biggest trading partner, was $10 billion. Its surplus with the United States was $21.1 billion.
Chinese economic growth fell to 6.9 percent in the first quarter, its weakest performance since the 2008 global crisis. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting full-year growth for 2016 could decline to 6.5 percent.
The ruling Communist Party is in the midst of a marathon effort to redirect the economy toward self-sustaining growth and away from reliance on trade and investment. But those plans rely on keeping up exports that support millions of jobs.