Chinese crude imports hit a record in December, according to customs data. Overall Chinese exports and imports fell by less than expected in December, leaving a trade surplus of over $60 billion for the month, the data showed.
While the Shanghai composite stock index erased early gains to close 2.4 percent lower, Asian markets mostly closed higher on Wednesday, while European markets extended gains.
"China may take a back seat for a day or two, but oil prices remain a threat to markets, as oil-producing countries and companies rethink the medium-term outlook," Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale, said in a research note on Wednesday.
"Weak oil prices will be a major factor behind default rates in 2016 and even if the latest rush of forecasts of oil reaching $25/20/10 (a barrel) aren't proven right, the damage has already been done," he added.
The strength of the U.S. dollar also remains a concern for traders and will likely feature heavily in this quarter's earnings reports. No major U.S. companies are due to post results on Wednesday, but Infosys, a major employer in the states, will report after the market closes.