China's trade surplus with the United States shot up by 17.2 percent in 2018 compared to the year before, according to Chinese data released on Monday, reaching a record-breaking $323.3 billion (€281.9 billion).
In 2017, the trade difference between the two world's largest economies was $275.8 billion in China's favor.
Customs data showed that Chinese exports rose 11.3 percent in 2018 to $478.4 billion, while imports from the US only rose by 0.7 percent.
However, customs' data for December also showed that exports to the US dropped 3.5 percent compared with December of the previous year, possibly due to US tariffs on an array of Chinese goods.
Race against time
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed China's trade surplus with the US and the country's allegedly unfair trade practices.
In 2018, the US imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products, prompting retaliation by Beijing and a trade war that analysts fear could escalate further and damage the global economy.
Representatives of both countries are currently negotiating a truce, with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer setting March 1 as a hard deadline for the talks. If a deal is not reached by that time, Washington is set to raise tariffs on $200 billion (€176 billion) of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent.
'Severe' trade climate
On a global level, China's exports have grown by 9.9 percent last year, but the Asian country also marked a 15.8 percent growth in imports.
"The external environment is still complicated and severe," customs agency spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters on Monday.
Li also warned against potential dangers including rising "protectionism and unilateralism," as well a possible decline in foreign investment.
dj/amp (AFP, Reuters, AP)