China's trade surplus shrank to an eight month low in December.
Official figures show imports increased by 25.6% on the same month a year earlier, leaving China with a surplus of $US13.1 billion.
Exports were up 17.9%, much slower than November's 34.9% rise.
Analysts said the data may give Beijing grounds to fend off US pressure for faster currency appreciation ahead of a visit to the United States by Chinese President Hu Jintao next week.
Figures showed that the surplus for 2010 as a whole had fallen for a second consecutive year, down 7% on 2009 levels to $US183.1 billion.
The BBC reports many US politicians and economists accuse China of manipulating the value of the yuan in order to boost its net exports at the expense of its trading partners.
China relaxed the yuan's fixed exchange rate against the dollar in June, but since then it has been allowed to appreciate by less than 3%.