Chinese exports rose 5.1% compared with a year earlier while imports gained 10.9%.
The rises were large swings from June’s data, which showed exports had fallen 3.1% and imports had dropped 0.7%.
Last month, the government reiterated its 7.5% economic growth target for this year, after expansion slowed in the second quarter.
The July data meant the trade surplus narrowed to $17.8bn (£11.5bn), down from June’s $27.1bn.
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