Since it began preparing for the winter early in 2018, total natural gas imports for previous year soared by nearly 32 percent from 2017 to 90.39 million tons, solidifying China's position as the world's biggest importer of the fuel.
Exports rose 7.1 per cent, customs data showed Monday, down from the 7.9 per cent reported earlier for 2017. In 2017, mutual trade amounted to $84.07 billion demonstrating a growth of 20.8 percent.
But the trade surplus for the world's second largest economy fell 16.2 percent to $351.76 billion, as imports rose 15.8 percent while exports gained 9.9 percent. China's surplus is the U.S.'s trade deficit.
However, the data show December exports to US contracted 3.5 percent compared with year ago as Trump tariff hikes hit.
The customs administration will work to "improve the country's business environment and expand foreign trade.in order to keep employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign investment" stable, Li said.
Chinese exporters also face pressure from cooling consumer demand in other global markets.
In December alone, China's trade surplus with the US was $29.87 billion.
Analysts said that with global growth set to cool further this year, exports will remain weak even if China can clinch a trade deal that rows back Trump's tariffs.
Official data also showed the manufacturing sector contracted in December for the first time in more than two years.