"Looking ahead, export growth will cool in the coming months as U.S. tariffs start to bite alongside a broader softening in global demand", Julian Evans-Pritchard, the senior China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, said.
China's Commerce Ministry said that Beijing had no choice but to fight back after the U.S. "launched the largest trade war in economic history", accusing Washington of violating the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That leaves about $80 billion for penalty tariffs after Beijing's previous increases either imposed or threatened on a total of $50 billion of US goods are counted.
The June figures may have received a boost from U.S. and Chinese traders who rushed to fill orders for soybeans, ball bearings and other goods in both directions before threatened tariff hikes took effect.
Trump's latest tariffs threat hammered global markets, while there are worries that his decision to pick fights with other key allies including Canada and the European Union could fuel an all-out global trade war.
Imports grew 14.1% in June from a year ago, well below the 26% increase in May and economists' forecast of a 23.5% gain.
China's exports to the United States rose 13.6 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, while its imports from the US rose 11.8 percent in the same period.
"Still, we do not expect a plunge because those tariffs only targeted $34bn worth of goods which is fairly small compared to China's total trade", she said. Its trade surplus with the USA over the same period was $133.76bn, up from $117.51bn past year.
China imported American goods worth $13.6 billion in June while exporting $42.6 billion to the United States.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, warned on Thursday that components and materials used in home appliances, computers and communications devices could be caught in the crossfire of the trade war.
Analysts also pointed out that Chinese export growth slowed to 11.3% year on year in June, from 12.2% in May, illustrating that exporters, faced with the threat of further trade barriers, were becoming more circumspect in sending goods overseas.
However, analysts said the June figures were a sign that exporters rushed to beat the initial tranche of tariffs, which came into effect in the first week of July.
The data could renew longstanding criticism from the United States and Europe that the world's top metal producer is selling its surplus product overseas, hurting foreign rivals.
Analysts expect to see the impact of the tariffs in the coming months, warning of a less favorable trade balance for China.