Jia Shi Da Robot Technology, a robot manufacturer and exporter based in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, has shown that resilience and diligence do pay off.

In 2022, the company's sales hit almost 200 million yuan, with exports accounting for only 10 million yuan. Yet, during the first two months of the year, its shipments to overseas markets surged 200 percent year-on-year, and the company predicts its total exports this year will exceed 30 million yuan.

Jia Shi Da Robot said the surge in new orders is a result of its sharpened focus on research and development of new products, marketing innovation, and utilization of cross-border e-commerce channels, apart from the optimization of China's COVID-19 measures that has led to improvement in logistics and a revival of customer confidence.

Safewell's Wang said the company has sent its employees to Europe for market research to weather the difficulties arising from weakening global demand.

"I plan to visit the first-tier companies in the industry in the months to come to better understand the product needs of customers," he said. "We do not solely pursue quantity now, but constantly seek advances in technology, which will eventually help us gain a greater market share."

Experts said they expect Chinese enterprises to make better use of the benefits from the free trade agreements China has signed, especially the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, to offset impacts from the weakening global economy and demand.

Gao Lingyun, director of the international investment division at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China serves as a core link on the industrial chain in East Asia and Southeast Asia, which makes the country better positioned to pool resources of all kinds together and maximize output.

Xu of the Economic Policy Commission said the diversification of international markets effectively reduces the dependence of foreign-trade enterprises on traditional markets and cushions the blow dealt by weakening external demand in the European and American markets.

For now, though the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' contribution to China's trade surplus is still limited, there is great potential for future growth that can be further unlocked, he said.

Jia Shi Da Robot said the tariff reductions under the RCEP, which took effect in January last year, have boosted its price competence in the Southeast Asian markets.

Customs data showed that during the first quarter, China's imports and exports with economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative surged 16.8 percent year-on-year to account for 34.6 percent of its foreign trade, while trade with other participating countries of the RCEP rose 7.3 percent from a year earlier.

Yet, some labor-intensive industries like apparel and footwear still face huge downward pressure on exports, due to factors like the additional US tariffs and a decline in demand from developed economies facing high inflation and interest rate hikes, said Wu Dazhi, president of the Guangzhou Leather & Footwear Association.

The consumption slump in the Western countries has nearly halved their consumers' purchasing power for imported products in the apparel and footwear industry, he said, predicting China's exports of apparel and footwear will likely decline in the first half of the year.