Customs figures show that exports rose 2.9 per cent in November compared with a year earlier, much lower than the 9 per cent increase that economist forecasts centred on and the 11.6 per cent growth in October.
Imports were flat in November, below forecasts of a 2 per cent rise, and the 2.4 per cent growth recorded in October.
It is the weakest Chinese trade performance since June, and sits in contrast to figures released over the weekend showing a better than expected rise in retail sales and industrial production.
However, China-based economists cast a positive light on the weak trade data.
"The export slowdown shows external demand faces uncertainty due to concerns over the fiscal cliff in the US," Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong, told Reuters.
"Nonetheless it does not change our view that growth is on track for a strong recovery in Q4 [the fourth quarter], as [growth] is mostly domestically driven."
Iron ore boost
The data also contained positive news for Australia's major miners, with China exports of steel products rising 6 per cent, and its iron ore imports surging 16.6 per cent in November.
China imported 65.78 million tonnes of iron ore last month.
The most recent data from Friday show China's main iron ore spot price at $US121 a tonne - well up on a low of $US86.70 reached in early September.
The news on Chinese imports has pushed shares in Australia's major iron ore miners even higher, building on gains in early trade.
Rio Tinto was up 2.2 per cent by 2:47pm (AEDT), BHP Billiton 0.9 per cent, and Fortescue had jumped 7 per cent to $4.055.
Fortescue also announced it was selling half of its 50 per cent stake in the Nullagine Iron Ore Joint Venture to its partner BC Iron for $190 million.