Chinese exports grew slower than forecast in August, hit by weak global demand, but analysts said that a jump in imports indicated a pick-up domestically and point to a further improvement. 

The figures follow a run of broadly positive readings in recent months, which have provided some optimism in the world's number two economy and key driver of global growth. 

Exports increased 5.5% year-on-year, the customs administration said, down from 7.2% in July and well off the 6% in a Bloomberg News survey.

China's imports climbed 13.3%, beating July's 11% and the 10% forecast in the Bloomberg survey. The trade surplus for the month came in at $42.0 billion.

The figures are likely to be welcomed by the country's leaders who are trying to recalibrate its growth model from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. 

Analysts said that the strong yuan is favourable to China if they want to buy more from the rest of the world.

Earlier this year the yuan sank to almost 7 to the dollar, a level not seen in almost eight years - hit by capital outflows as the economy struggled and traders bet on US rate hikes. 

However, it has enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks and is now at a 16-month high.

This is due to lower expectations the US Federal Reserve will announce fresh interest rate rises this year, tighter controls on capital outflows and improving economic performance. 

The Chinese economy saw better-than-expected growth in the first two quarters of the year thanks to debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure and property although warnings of a potential financial crisis have spurred Beijing to clamp down. 

The long-term outlook remains clouded by geopolitical tensions linked to the North Korea nuclear crisis as well as US President Donald Trump's anti-globalisation rhetoric and threats to slap China with tariffs.

However, today's data data show an 8.4% increase in exports to the US last month, liftings its controversial trade surplus with the country to $26.2 billion.