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 upswing in global demand has meant nine straight months of rising Chinese exports, a significant factor in the country's higher-than-expected economic growth in the first three quarters - after two years in which weak exports were a drag on growth.
China reported strong growth Friday in both exports and imports in November in a reassuring sign for the world's second-biggest economy.
Economists had forecast exports to grow 2% and imports to rise 12.5%. The surplus was forecast to fall to USD35.0 billion from about USD38.2 billion in October.
Dow Jones - China's exports and imports showed surprising strength in November, underpinned by a recovering global economy and resilient domestic demand.
China's natural gas imports in November rose to a record as domestic demand surged while crude imports were the second-highest ever, as refiners ramped up output to cash in on strong profits as fuel prices soar. China's trade surplus with the United States widened to $27.87bn in November from $26.62bn in October.More news: Soul Calibur 6 Announced At The Game Awards
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"Steel mills have been restocking more iron ore since October as prices hit as low as $50 (a tonne)", said Yu Yang, an analyst with Shenyin & Wanguo Futures in Shanghai.
Iron ore imports "were not necessarily just by steel mills but could have been also purchased by traders", said Helen Lau at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.
The rebound in imports come as China's yuan has fallen 2.8 percent against the dollar since hitting its 2017 peak on September 8.
China's commodity imports roared back in November as supply worries due to winter factory cuts stoked buying for copper, while traders scooped up iron ore on expectations of resurgent demand from steel mills next year.
Despite the overall strength of the November data, imports could come under pressure as China's economy cools, analysts say.