Taiwan was China's seventh largest trading partner in 2017, with trade between the two sides growing 14 percent from the previous year, according to Chinese customs data released Friday.
Imports had been forecast to rise 13.0 per cent, softening from an 17.7 per cent gain seen in November, with the trade surplus tipped at US$37.0 billion last month from November's US$40.21 billion.
China's exports for the full year rose 7.9 percent, the fastest rate since 2013, while imports gained 15.9 percent, the best since 2011.
Demand for Chinese products is holding up as growth in major trade partners remains intact, and a feared trade war between China and the U.S. has yet to materialise.
It will be hard to keep up double-digit trade growth this year given global uncertainties and a high comparison base, Huang said. However, imports surged 18.7% over the same period, bringing the trade surplus down to 2.87 trillion yuan ($442.3 billion).
China's exports grew more than expected in December on global recovery but the pace of expansion slowed from November.
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Of note, particularly from a geopolitical perspective, China's trade surplus with the United States fell to $US25.55 billion from $US27.87 billion in November, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
"However, later this year, we believe real effective exchange rate appreciation and an increase in USA protectionism could weigh on Chinese export growth, narrowing the trade surplus further".
Trump will have opportunities to impose tariffs on a range of Chinese goods.
Trump has put tackling the growing trade deficit with China and boosting US firms' access to its markets among his top priorities since coming to power.
A commerce ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, said at a briefing on Thursday that China will "adopt all measures necessary to firmly protect the country's lawful interests and rights, should the US perversely take unilateral protectionist actions". Last month marked the first time since mid-2016 that imports grew slower than exports.
He estimated that imports declined by the biggest margin in nearly two years in volume terms in December as purchases of industrial commodities plummeted.