Exports rose 2.7 percent from a year earlier, while imports fell 2.6 percent.
Both figures are disappointing. China's economy is heavily dependent on exports and that category has risen in double digits in the past.
On the other hand, with the economic recovery sluggish in the United States and sliding back in Europe, both of those markets are pinning more of their hopes on increased sales to Chinese customers.
The import and export figures are contributing to an erosion of expectations for the Chinese economy.
Swiss bank UBS on Friday projected the Chinese economy to grow 7.5 percent in 2012, down from a previous forecast of 8 percent. For 2013, UBS expects 7.8 percent growth in China, down from an earlier forecast of 8.3 percent.