But the Asian superpower's recent penalties appeared to be significant. Last month, Beijing said it would ban textile and seafood imports in addition to exports of certain petroleum products, iron ore and coal in compliance with the UN's latest resolution — moves that are increasingly weighing on the North Korean economy.
It's unclear, however, just how long Xi's government will maintain those stinging policies.
"China usually enforces sanctions only for temporary periods of time, when global attention is focused on North Korea, and reverts to normal trade with the country when tensions have blown over," Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, associate scholar at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said in a recent note.
The mainland essentially wants to ensure Pyongyang's survival in the long run, he added, referring to fears over a North Korean refugee crisis in the case of regime collapse. Beijing is also worried about any unification on the Korean Peninsula, which would likely result in greater U.S. influence in the region.
'Concessions for Trump'
Current penalties against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime are mostly just a show to appease President Donald Trump, said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Tokyo-based Temple University. "Xi seeks improved relations with the U.S. to such an extent that he's making a huge concession here to pave way for a successful Trump visit to Asia next month."
The White House has long criticized the mainland for failing to sufficiently coerce Pyongyang, but it's since changed its tune. After Chinese lenders were ordered to halt dealings with North Korean clients, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC the news was "a gigantic step," describing it as "very important pressure."