China has overtaken Germany as the world's biggest exporter of goods after exports rose for the first time in 14 months, data has shown.
In the last month of 2009 Chinese exports rose 17.7 per cent on the previous year, the state-run Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, quoting figures from the general administration of customs.
That made total exports for the year just over $1.2 trillion, ahead of the $1.17 trillion forecast last month for Germany, according to the BGA foreign trade organisation.
China's new status reflects the ability of its low-cost manufacturers to keep selling abroad despite a collapse in global consumer demand due to the financial crisis.
Huang Guohua, a customs agency economist, said the December rise was an "important turning point".
"We can say that China's export enterprises have completely emerged from their all-time low in exports," Huang said.
The December data broke a long string of contracted export figures stretching back to late 2008.
China's politically sensitive trade surplus shrank by 34.2 per cent in 2009 to $196.07 billion, Xinhua said.
That reflected China's stronger economic growth, driven by a $586bn stimulus package, and demand for imported raw materials and consumer goods at a time when demand in the US and other foreign markets was weaker.
China's official title of world's biggest exporter is expected to be confirmed when Germany releases full-year trade figures on February 9.
Experts have said a resurgence in Chinese trade will likely bring renewed pressure on China to let its yuan currency appreciate.
The value of the yuan, which has effectively been pegged to the US dollar since mid-2008, has been an issue of contention between Beijing and its Western trading partners, who say it keeps the currency low to boost exports.
Wen Jiabao, China's premier, said last month in an interview with state media that China would not yield to foreign pressure on the yuan.