China said its trade surplus with the US grew to about US$53.2 billion in the first 11 months of last year – less than half the size of the gap predicted by Washington.
US officials said the American trade deficit with China is expected to surpass US$120 billion for 2003.
The American figures include Chinese exports shipped to the US via Hong Kong – goods that are excluded from Beijing's own calculations. Hong Kong is Chinese territory, but Beijing treats it as a foreign region for trade and customs.
The US is China's second-largest trading partner after Japan, and Beijing has sent two multibillion-dollar buying missions to buy jetliners, soybeans and other goods in the US in recent months in hopes of easing growing political tensions.
China said it ran a US$14.4 billion deficit with Japan during the first 11 months of 2003.