China is taking diplomatic steps to strenghten its ties with the rebel Libyan government, motivated by a desire to protect its sizeable investments in the North African country, the Financial Times reported. Beijing has sent a small team to maintain communications with the rebel government, headquartered in Benghazi, a city in the country’s east. “This is a very important shift from the previous attitude,” said one Chinese foreign ministry official. “They have big investments in Libya and know that they won’t be able to protect them once Gaddafi has gone.” The investments include a cross-country freight and passenger railway and a US$6 billion housing project contracted to China State Construction and Engineering. China is also preparing to send humanitarian supplies to Benghazi. The country officially encourages a negotiated end to Libya’s ongoing civil war, but abstained from a UN vote for a NATO-led mission to oust the ruling colonel, Muammar Gaddafi.