"The robust global economy - both the developed and developing economies - has lifted China's exports", ABCI Securities economist Yao Shaohua told Bloomberg News.
Shipments into the world's top coal importer reached 22.05 million tonnes in November, up 3.6 percent from October, but down from 26.97 million tonnes a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.
The healthy trade data, which also showed imports outstripping forecasts, come as Beijing looks to tackle industrial overcapacity, winter pollution and a ballooning debt pile.
Imports had been expected to rise 11.3 per cent, softening from an 17.2 per cent gain seen in October, with the trade surplus forecast at $35.0 billion last month from October's $38.185 billion.
Besides ramped-up efforts to reduce winter pollution, authorities unveiled fresh regulatory measures last month for the financial sector, clamping down on high-risk lending and halting some dubious infrastructure projects that would swell local governments' debt.
While the war on pollution had been expected to reduce raw materials imports, Friday's trade numbers showed commodity imports rebounded last month.
Natural gas imports were driven by Beijing's ambitious push to heat millions of northern homes by the clean fuel this winter, while crude oil imports soared as refineries churned out more fuel to cash in on surging diesel and gasoline prices.
China's iron ore imports rose in November even as steel mills are cutting output as part of a government drive against pollution as some analysts said traders were stockpiling inventory.
Year-to-date imports were up 8.4 percent at 284 million tonnes, according to the data. USA exports decreased while Chinese imports increased.
After several lean years, China's trade performance has rebounded this year thanks to strong demand at home and overseas.