China's stuttering economy suffered another blow in November as export growth slowed sharply and imports surprisingly contracted, resulting in a record monthly trade surplus. 

Exports from the world's second-largest economy expanded 4.7% year-on-year to $211.66 billion in November, while imports dropped 6.7% to $157.19 billion, the General Administration of Customs said. 

The surplus soared 61.4% to a record $54.47 billion in November, Customs said, beating August's previous record of $49.8 billion. 

Forecasts had been for exports to increase 8% and imports to rise 3.9%, according to a survey of economists. 

The latest figures come as China is assailed by industrial weakness, falling property prices and high corporate and local government debt burdens, prompting the central bank last month to cut benchmark interest rates for the first time in more than two years. 

China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew an annual 7.3% in the third quarter, the slowest since the height of the global financial crisis in early 2009. 

The sharp slowdown in export growth means there is a risk China's growth this year will come in below 7.5% as both domestic and external demand weakened, economists cautioned. 

China's official GDP growth target for 2014 is "about 7.5%", though officials including Premier Li Keqiang have said that the figure is not set in stone and could come in below that number.

Clues as to next year's target from the annual Central Economic Work Conference expected this week will be closely watched, although its conclusions will probably not be formally unveiled until March.

Economists increasingly expect authorities to lower the target to about 7% owing to the downward pressures as well as authorities' commitment to transform China's economic growth model to one driven by consumers rather than state-led investment.

China last lowered the target in 2012 to 7.5% from 8% and a drop to 7% would be the lowest since 2004. 

In the first 11 months of the year, total trade with the European Union increased 8.9% to 3.43 trillion yuan ($556 billion), while that with the US gained 5.2% to 3.09 trillion yuan, Customs said. 

Trade with the ASEAN group of Southeast Asian countries was up 7.1% at 2.66 trillion yuan, but with Japan, the world's third-biggest economy, trade edged down 0.7% to 1.75 trillion yuan.