Chinese trade has been unexpectedly strong, contrary to forecasts that economic growth will cool as Beijing tightens controls on credit to slow a rise in debt. But historically, Beijing has responded to new USA tariffs with tit-for-tat measures and it is unclear how long its leaders will restrain themselves.
However, over the year, that still saw China's trade surplus with the United States swell to $US275.81 billion, the largest on record.
China's natural gas imports soared to a record in December as the country battled a winter supply crunch, while crude oil imports eased sharply from near-record highs a month earlier, customs data showed on Friday.
Foreign trade has become one of China's most dynamic and fastest-growing sectors, placing the country among the world's leading traders during the past decade.
"China's foreign trade continued to build on a solid foundation for steady growth, its potential being gradually unleashed", said customs spokesman Huang Songping.
But the figures indicated a slowdown in trade activity at the end of 2017. An imports boom is being driven by the economy's unexpectedly robust expansion in 2017, with the nation's gross domestic product expanding by about 6.9 per cent previous year, the official Xinhua News Agency cited Premier Li Keqiang as saying this week. Last month marked the first time since mid-2016 that imports grew slower than exports.
They are "a sign that domestic demand may have weakened at the end of past year", he said.
In 2016, China exported US$40.37 billion worth of goods to Taiwan while it imported US$139.2 billion, an annual decrease of 10.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, the data showed.
"LNG imports last month reached new highs according to our cargo monitoring and pipeline imports from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also ramped from previous month", said Diao Zhouwei, analyst of IHS Markit. "Import growth will slow too as China's economic expansion slows amid weaker investment in manufacturing and property".
Fuel imports a year ago rose 6.4% to 29.64 million tonnes.