China's trade surplus plunged to 6.87 billion U.S. dollars in March, to less than a third of what it was in February, figures released by the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.
The growth rate of exports in March compared to the same period last year was 6.9 percent, a five-year low.
"We don't need to be panic over the sharp decline since China is stepping up efforts to reduce trade surplus," said Zhang Yansheng, an economist with the National Development and Reform Commission.
"However, we do need to watch closely the long-term effects of the policies," he said.
Meanwhile, some economists believe the sharp rise in February and deep slump in March were caused by exporters delivering March orders in February in order to avoid losing out on export tax rebates.
China has cut export tax rebates on some basic metals and textiles to discourage firms from selling overseas.
China's exports in March grew 6.9 percent to 83.4 billion U.S. dollars while imports grew by 14.5 percent year on year to reach 76.6 billion U.S dollars.
The country's trade volume in March reached 160 billion U.S. dollars, up 10.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the administration.
China's first-quarter trade volume came to 457.74 billion U.S. dollars, up 23.3 percent year on year. Exports reached 252.09 billion U.S. dollars, up 27.8 percent year on year, while imports amounted to 205.65 billion U.S. dollars, up 18.2 percent year on year.
China's trade volume with the Europe Union, its largest trade partner, reached 75.39 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter, up 30.3 percent year on year. Total trade with the U.S. hit 66.72 billion dollars, up 20.1 percent year on year. Trade volume with Japan reached 52.91 billion dollars, up 15.2 percent year on year.