Exports to China in January were double those to New Zealand's former largest trading partner, Australia.
Sales to China jumped to a third of total exports, helping push the country to its highest-ever trade surplus for a January month.
Official figures show a surplus of $306 million, the third consecutive month the trade balance has been in the black.
Exports rose 22 percent to $4.1 billion due to increased sales of milk powder, butter and cheese overseas.
Dairy products led the $1.2 billion worth of goods sold to China, while exports to Australia fell by $80 million to $556 million due to lower sales of crude oil and unwrought gold and silver.
Imports rose a modest 3.5 percent to $3.8 billion, and on an annual basis the country posted a surplus of $310 million.
Bank of New Zealand economist Craig Ebert says dairy and forestry are driving the exports. He says there are a lot of positive indicators in these figures and the trade numbers are consistent with ongoing growth at the start of this year and a shrinking current-account deficit.