The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has opened a regional mission for East Asia in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
The ICRC delegation posted there is also covering North and South Korea as well as Mongolia in an effort to boost its presence in the region.
The aid organisation said its main activities would be aimed at promoting and implementing international humanitarian law.
It also hopes to increase cooperation with national Red Cross societies, notably on the Korean peninsula to improve the situation of families separated since the Korean War in the early 1950s.
"We would also like to step up cooperation with the Chinese army and local security forces," ICRC spokesman Ian Piper told swissinfo.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger and the Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, signed the agreement in Beijing on Wednesday.
Some ICRC officials have already been working from Beijing, but more personnel will join them in the next few weeks.
The establishment of an ICRC presence in the Chinese capital comes after extended consultations.
"The choice of Beijing is justified by the growing importance of China in the world," said Piper.
He added that the aid organisation aimed to promote dialogue with all major actors, including the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
"You have to bear in mind that the Chinese government and the local Red Cross organisations were among the main donors for the victims of the devastating tsunami in southeast Asia at the end of last year," Piper added.
"China itself is in the process of looking outwards to assume a greater role and more responsibility both at the regional and global level," said Reto Meister, the ICRC’s delegate-general for Asia and the Pacific.
China was previously covered from the ICRC’s office in the Thai capital, Bangkok. But the aid organisation has already been running limb-fitting centres in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and in North Korea.
In the past China has often been criticised for its human-rights abuses and the role of its security forces.
But for the first time in many years the United States did not call for a resolution against China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Washington said China had given the green light for a visit by the UN human rights commissioner and the planned opening of an office by the ICRC.
The Geneva-based ICRC was founded in 1863.
It assists victims of war and armed violence.
In 2003 Switzerland gave around SFr90 million to the ICRC, while the US contributed SFr221 million.
The ICRC is currently developing its Chinese-language website (www.icrc.org/chi) and publications.