The imports were up 26.7 percent from 6.33 million tonnes in March, according to customs, despite worries that China-U.S. trade tensions might spill into their soybean trade.
"Growth in inbound shipments will continue to face headwinds, however".
But economists question how much further Chinese exports can expand given evidence of weaker demand in developed countries.
While the April trade growth fell short of expectations, customs data reflected improved trade structure.
The total volume of the bilateral trade in April amounted to $6.59 billion against $5.59 billion year-on-year, an increase of 15 percent.
China's surplus with the United States widened in April, meaning pressure from the US for action on the trade imbalance is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Last year, China met 64.4 percent of its crude oil demand with imports because of high production costs at home and favorable worldwide prices resulting from the global glut.
Imports expanded 11.9% compared with forecast for a 18% jump, data from the General Administration of Customs said.
Its surplus with the USA, a favourite target of President Donald Trump, climbed to $21.34 billion in April from $17.74 billion the previous month.
The April decline from March was the result of both seasonal maintenance and independent refiners-the so-called teapots-buying less because they had reached their import quotas, Bloomberg quoted Jean Zou, an analyst at Shanghai-based commodities researcher ICIS-China, as saying.
Buying by China, which overtook the US during the first quarter as the world's biggest importer, averaged 8.4 million barrels a day in April, down 8.8 percent from a record the previous month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data Monday from the General Administration of Customs.
China's large trade surplus with the United States has drawn attention from U.S. President Donald Trump.
In U.S. dollar terms, exports went up 8 percent in April, nearly on par with the 8.2-percent gain registered in the first quarter.
While trade friction between China and some key trading partners remains, an overall improvement in global growth means shipments from the world's largest exporter will likely remain strong this year. According to an estimate by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce released last week, imports and exports are expected to stabilize and improve in the near future.