Yuan-denominated imports rose 18.7 percent past year, which produced a trade surplus of 2.87 trillion yuan.
The trade data also showed China's goods surplus with the US, a sore spot in relations between the two nations, hit a record high previous year.
As North Korea's biggest trading partner and main source of aid, China holds influence over the pariah state. Indeed, China became the world's biggest global trader in 2013, but lost its position at the summit to the United States in 2016 following two hard years of difficulties.
The U.S. government hasn't announced its own trade figures for the whole of 2017, but experts say they are also likely to show a massive deficit with China.
Total Chinese exports were up 10.9 percent year-on-year in December 2017 and 12.3 percent in November.
The trade deficit with China is the U.S.'s largest with any trading partner and 2017's is the biggest with China in the almost five decades for which records exist. His administration has slapped anti-dumping tariffs on a range of Chinese imports, such as aluminum and steel, and toughened its stance on Chinese investment in the U.S.
"We have...long expected China's domestic demand and imports to slow in 2018 on gradually tighter monetary and financial policies and slower real estate activity momentum", Louis Kuijs, an economist with research firm Oxford Economics, said in a note.
"The next stage is an open economy that focuses on a balance of trade", he said.
Washington has also launched the procedure for a probe into whether Chinese companies are stealing the intellectual property of US companies.
A commerce ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, said at a briefing on Thursday that China will "adopt all measures necessary to firmly protect the country's lawful interests and rights, should the USA perversely take unilateral protectionist actions".
The "continued strength of China's exports to the U.S.is bound to add to U.S". Imports missed analysts' forecast of 13.0 percent growth and were a sharp decrease from the 17.7 percent rise in the previous month.
Other data from the Chinese government indicate substantial improvement in growth from 2016.
Arrivals for December came in at about 84.3 million tonnes, versus 94.54 million tonnes in November, according to Reuters' calculations based on annual data from the General Administration of Customs showed.