China's trade surplus with the US surged 19.4% on-year in the first quarter, as trade tensions between the world's two largest economies simmer. 

The surplus reached $58 billion in January-March, customs bureau spokesman Huang Songping said at a briefing in Beijing. 

Chinese exports to the US rose 14.8% on a yearly basis, while imports grew 8.9%. 

"We don't strive for a favourable balance of trade (for China), the current state of trade affairs are shaped by the market," said Huang. 

"We hope that the US will listen patiently to rational and pragmatic voices on the trade balance issue."

He reiterated that China does not want a trade war with the US. "We believe that this trade friction is not conducive to China's interests, nor is it conducive to the interests of the US."

Total trade between the two nations rose 13% during the quarter, China's data showed, but the first shots in the latest trade spat were not likely to be felt in the recording period.

Each side has slapped tariffs of $3 billion in goods so far, but the US has threatened to impose duties on more products and China has vowed to retaliate.

The US targeted steel and aluminium while China took aim at pork and wine among a slew of other products from the US.