The government has set a target of 6.5 to 7 percent this year but the International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect growth to fall as low as 6.3 percent.
When measured in the local currency – the renminbi – exports were down by a record 20.6 per cent.
Imports from Hong Kong was up 88.7% year-on-year in February in USA dollar terms, continuing to outperform those from other economies such as Taiwan, Korea and Singapore, all of which saw trade drop with China. Meanwhile, imports fell 8.0% year-on-year, an improvement from a drop of 14.4% previously.
The export drop was the biggest since May 2009, but economists said it may not necessarily point to a significant worsening in conditions due to sharply reduced business activity during the long Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in early February this year.
However, the downward trend paints a disturbingly grim picture of an economy failing to respond to a rash of fiscal and monetary stimulus.
Imports were 24.5% higher than the 25.55 million tons of crude shipped in during the month a year earlier and was up about 19% from 26.69 million tons in January.
That left the country with a trade surplus of $32.59 billion for the month, the General Administration of Customs said on Tuesday.
“Exports were very strong last year in February because the Lunar New Year started so late and much of the usual disruption from the holiday was pushed into March”.
At the annual meeting of China’s national legislature this week, the leadership refrained from announcing a trade growth target after last year’s exports contracted by 2.8 percent, falling embarrassingly short of the official goal of 6 percent growth.