The nation's export outlook is dimming on a combination of weak demand in developed countries and rising domestic costs, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
"The export situation in the next period is not optimistic," said Shen Danyang, ministry spokesman. The foreign trade situation is "complex with many uncertainties", Shen told a news conference on Wednesday.
Slow economic growth and high unemployment in the major developed economies are curbing consumption, while developing economies are facing increased inflationary pressure and "hard landing" risks, he said.
These factors are adding to uncertainty over global economic growth, he said, and trade protectionism targeting China and frequent trade disputes are also affecting exports.
Exports rose 15.9 percent to $157.49 billion in October, the lowest growth rate in five months, according to the General Administration of Customs.
The growth rate might drop further in the next few months, as Europe, China's top export market, remains mired in a debt crisis. The outlook for the US, the second-largest market, is uncertain, analysts said.
"We still expect a more drastic weakening of exports," Tao Wang, an economist with UBS, wrote in an e-mailed research report. "We see export growth slowing to low single digits in the next few months."
Some companies in Dongguan, an export hub in the southern province of Guangdong, have closed as a result of shrinking external demand and rising domestic costs.
In other cases, companies have shifted operations to other countries and regions, Shen said.
The government will try to stabilize export growth, he said. The ministry will take some "positive measures" and keep foreign trade policies stable. It will also further adjust the merchandise-export structure by fostering core advantages such as technology, branding, quality and service, according to Shen
The export slowdown contrasts with rapid growth in imports, which are expected to reach $360 billion this year.
The trade surplus for the first 10 months narrowed 15.4 percent year-on-year to $124 billion. Shen estimated the full-year surplus at $150 billion, or $30 billion less than last year.
Although trade with developed economies is slowing, bilateral trade with Africa has been expanding rapidly.
Trade with Africa rose 30 percent to $122.2 billion in the first three quarters of this year, ministry figures show. Shen said that China and Africa are cooperating in sectors such as finance, telecommunications, tourism and aviation.
Many Chinese financial institutions are operating in Africa, and many airlines now offer direct flights, the ministry spokesman added.