China's trade surplus more than doubled to $31.0 billion in September, official data showed Monday, as exports jumped while imports increased at a slower rate.
Exports from the world's second-biggest economy rose 15.3 percent year-on-year to $213.7 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced, while imports climbed 7.0 percent to $182.7 billion.
The surplus was lower than August's record $49.8 billion, and also came in below expectations of $42 billion in a poll of 15 economists by Dow Jones Newswires.
But the rise in exports accelerated from August's 9.4 percent and was ahead of the median forecast of 12.5 percent.
The survey had predicted a fall of 2.4 percent in imports, matching a surprise decline in August.
Customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng attributed the improvement to major economies recovering and external demand strengthening.
"The good momentum is expected to continue in the fourth quarter," he added.
The positive figures are the latest contradictory indicator for China's economy, a key driver of global growth.
Recent reports have suggested expansion in China -- which stood at 7.7 percent last year, maintaining its slowest in more than a decade -- is weakening even after authorities took limited stimulatory measures.
Industrial production growth slowed sharply in August to its lowest level for more than five years, official data said last month, while house prices have fallen for five consecutive months.
Officials are targeting economic growth of "about 7.5 percent" this year, the same as last year's objective.
The goal is normally exceeded, but senior officials have repeatedly sought to play down its significance this year.
Last week the World Bank cut its forecast for Chinese growth to 7.4 percent for 2014 and 7.2 percent for 2015, while the International Monetary Fund left its predictions unchanged at 7.4 percent and 7.1 percent but warned of "near-term growth risks", especially in real estate.
Ma Xiaoping, a Beijing based economist with HSBC, told AFP: "The momentum of the mild recovery in external demand continued from previous months." However, Ma added: "The property sector remains the biggest risk area in terms of internal demand."
In the third quarter, exports rose 12.8 percent year-on-year while imports crept up 0.9 percent, Customs said without giving totals.
For the first three quarters, China recorded a total trade surplus of $231.6 billion, the statement said, up 37.8 percent year-on-year.
Exports climbed 5.1 percent over the nine-month period to $1.7 trillion, while imports rose 1.3 percent to $1.46 trillion.
Trade with the European Union was up 10.2 percent at 2.81 trillion yuan ($460 billion), 14.5 percent of the total, and up 5.2 percent with the US to 2.48 trillion yuan, 12.8 percent of the total.
But bilateral trade with Hong Kong fell 13 percent year-on-year to 1.61 trillion yuan.
With Japan it crept up 0.4 percent to 1.43 trillion yuan.