China's monthly trade data has shown exports fell in April from a year ago by 6.2% in yuan terms compared to expectations for a rise of about 1.5%.
Imports also fell for the month by 16.1% in yuan terms, compared with forecasts for a fall of about 12%.
That means the country's trade surplus has risen to 210.2 billion yuan (£21bn; $32.4bn) from 18.6bn yuan in March.
Recent economic data from the mainland has shown further signs that China's slowdown is continuing.
"Imports have slowed on account of the housing slump and reduced demand for commodities, while exports have been softened on account of the uneven global recovery," he said.