A survey of purchasing managers by HSBC shows China's manufacturing contracted in April for the sixth straight month.
HSBC said that its purchasing managers index for April was 49.3, up from 48.3 in April.
The index has remained below 50 - the level indicating expansion, since October.
Companies also reduced jobs, at the sharpest rate in 37 months.
The HSBC survey tends to reflect private and export-sector activity more strongly than an official index released that showed manufacturing gaining last month.