China's trade growth exceeded market expectations last month, taking the edge off worries about a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Analysts contend that exports will continue to improve this year. That trend will support moderate economic expansion while leaving room for the leadership to restructure the growth model away from a heavy reliance on investment and exports to one based on domestic demand. Last month, exports rose 10.6 percent to $207.13 billion, much faster than the 4.3 percent rise in December, the General Administration of Customs said on Wednesday. Imports increased 10 percent to $175.27 billion, the fastest pace in six months. Total trade was up 10.3 percent year-on-year to $382.4 billion. The trade surplus widened to $31.86 billion from $25.64 billion in December. "January export growth was much stronger than market expectations, especially given inflated trade flows through over-invoicing involving high technology goods and gold transactions earlier last year (and) the weak Purchasing Managers' Index," Hu Yifan and Zhang Yuan, analysts with Haitong International Research Ltd in Hong Kong, wrote in a research note. "The only explanation can be the positive impact of a gradual recovery of the global economy." China's total trade with the European Union, the country's largest trade partner, surged 14.6 percent in January to $341.19 billion, with exports to the bloc up 18.8 percent, compared with growth of 3.9 percent in December. Trade with the United States rose 8.8 percent to $299.23 billion, with China's exports growing 10.7 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in December. Total trade with Japan expanded 7.8 percent to $170.05 billion, despite strained ties. Trade with Hong Kong declined 20.6 percent to $166.73 billion.