However, the data show December exports to US contracted 3.5 percent compared with year ago as Trump tariff hikes hit.
The unexpected downturn for the biggest global exporter of manufactured products came as eurozone industrial output also tumbled in November, with the largest drop in factory activity since February 2016.
Customs data released Monday show exports rose 11.3 percent to $478.4 billion despite President Donald Trump's punitive tariffs in a fight over Chinese technology ambitions.
Analysts had expected export growth to slow to 3 per cent with imports up 5 per cent.
The OECD said its composite leading indicators, gauges of economic activity that are created to anticipate turning points relative to past performance for between six to nine months ahead, also showed easing growth momentum in the US, Germany, Canada, Italy and the euro area as a whole.
Traditionally China imports vast quantities of American soybeans in the second half of the year, long making it the most valuable import from the US.
However, Beijing's export data had been surprisingly resilient to tariffs for much of 2018, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer USA duties went into effect.
China's global trade volume rose past year but its surplus with the world fell 16.2 percent to $351.76 billion in 2018, as imports rose 15.8 percent while exports gained 9.9 percent.
The country's global trade surplus was $352 billion.
The world's largest trading nation got off to a strong start in 2018, but pressure on the economy started to build later in the year as a trade dispute with the United States escalated and global demand began to cool.
The surplus with the United States is a major source of anger within the Trump administration, which imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods past year and has warned of more to come.
But December's gloomy data, along with several months of falling factory orders, suggest a further weakening in its exports in the near term.
But the buying fell off previous year after China imposed a 25% retaliatory tariff on the commodity in the summer.
Many U.S. warehouses are already packed to the rafters with Chinese goods that American retailers rushed in ahead of higher tariffs.
The higher tariffs China levied on US supplies also hit the country's overall import growth.
Even if Washington and Beijing reach a trade deal in their current round of talks, it would be no panacea for China's slowing economy, analysts say.
Sources told Reuters last week that Beijing is planning to lower its economic growth target to 6-6.5 per cent this year after an expected 6.6 per cent in 2018, the slowest pace in 28 years.