China's exports fell 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier, customs data showed on Saturday, ending two consecutive months of rises.
Imports, however, increased 7.4 percent last month from a year ago, accelerating from August's 7-percent rise, the General Administration of Customs said.
This left the country with a trade surplus of 15.2 billion U.S. dollars in September, compared with 28.52 billion U.S. dollars in August and 44.7 percent less than the same month last year.
Taking into account exchange rate fluctuations, the country's foreign trade volume rose 3.3 percent in September, down from August's 7.1-percent increase and July's 7.8-percent rise, said Zheng Yuesheng, administration spokesman.
In the first nine months of the year, exports and imports gained 7.7 percent from a year earlier, with the trade surplus growing 14.4 percent year on year to 169.4 billion U.S. dollars.
Trade with the European Union, the nation's largest trade partner, dipped 0.8 percent year on year during the January-September period, compared with a 3.1-percent decrease registered in the first half of 2013.
Trade with the United States, China's second-largest trade partner, rose 6.7 percent in the first nine months, while that with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members increased 11.6 percent.
Zheng said there were signs of recovery for Sino-Japanese foreign trade in the second half of the year, with the rate of decrease in bilateral trade easing for three straight months since July.
The country's exports to Japan edged up 1.5 percent year on year last month, reversing a declining trend starting from July 2012, he said.