China is willing to play a constructive role in seeking a political resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Ukrainian counterpart on January 17.
The first-time Chinese offer of aid to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of the Davos economic summit came in Switzerland comes at a time when the United States' role in mediating the Ukraine conflict appears set to diminish under a Donald Trump presidency that seeks to mend fences with Russia.
China has previously shown little interest in getting involved in diplomatic efforts to end the crisis spawned by Russia's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backing for militant separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Beijing has avoided taking sides in the conflict, saying it respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty but that Western powers should take into consideration Russia's legitimate security concerns.
Beijing in the past has avoided alienating Moscow, its ally on many international matters, by getting drawn into the struggle between Russia and the West over Ukraine's future.
But those concerns appeared to be set aside, at least temporarily, in Davos when Xi told Poroshenko that China would like to deepen cooperation with Ukraine under a long tradition of friendship between the countries.
"We genuinely hope that Ukraine maintains social stability and economic development and are willing to play a constructive role in promoting a political resolution to the crisis," Xi said, according to China's Foreign Ministry.
Poroshenko told Xi that Ukraine welcomed Chinese investment and that there was great potential for cooperation in areas like logistics, ports, steel, and agriculture, the ministry said.
Also at the Davos summit, Xi met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who has been the Obama administration's point man on Ukraine and a strong supporter of Kyiv in its struggle with Russia.
Xi released a statement after the Biden meeting that did not address Ukraine but noted the record level of trade between the United States and China achieved under the Obama administration and called for a continuation of that trend.
"The basic interests of the people of both countries and the world need China and the United States to work hard, to form a long-term, stable cooperative relationship," Xi said.
Trump has vowed to aggressively confront China over trade and economic issues, even threatening to withdraw support for the decades-old "One China" policy, in a development that has been deeply unsettling to Beijing.
With reporting by Reuters and Xinhua