Chinese imports fell at a 6.7% year-on-year clip in November, versus a rise of 4.7% in the month before, while exports slowed to a 4.7% rate of growth, down from 10.6% in the month before.
Analysts had penciled in positive rates of expansion for both of the above magnitudes, of 3.8% and 8%, respectively.
The decline in the rate of import growth would have been even larger were it not for the weak base of comparison. Purchases abroad dropped by 1.8% month-on-month in November of 2013.
Both the import and export data were likely to still be seeing distortions from over-invoicing by firms, as they attempted to side-step capital controls, Capital Economics pointed out in a research note sent to clients.
The foreign trade deficit worsened to $54.5bn last month from $45.5bn in October.