The Shanghai composite bucked a generally downward trend in Asia on Wednesday as major indexes in Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong all fell.
Analysts pointed to a combination of factors that kept investors skittish, including low oil prices, wavering confidence in the ability of central banks to spur growth, weak data, and renewed concerns over China's renminbi.
The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 index retraced losses over 1.7 percent early on to close down 136.26 points, or 0.85 percent, at 15,915.79. The broader Topix also pared losses of over 1 percent but finished lower 6.64 points, or 0.51 percent, to 1,284.53.
Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 extended losses from Tuesday by closing down 104.56 points, or 2.10 percent, at 4,875.01, with most sectors finishing in the red. The heavily weighted financials sector was down 2.54 percent, energy fell 3.44 percent, and the materials sector sold off 3.62 percent.
Overnight comments from Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, dashed hopes for a possible production cut to tackle the global supply glut and sent already low oil prices lower still.
"Oil is obviously one of the big swing factors out there," said Andrew Sullivan, managing director for sales trading at Haitong International Securities.
But, Sullivan told CNBC's "Squawk Box", "the other major thing is people are just watching the central banks and fast coming to the conclusion that there's not an awful lot that central banks can do."
"And this move to negative interest rates for a lot of people is actually a bad thing," he added.