Apple has struck deals with China's four main state-run banks in an effort to bring Apple Pay to the country, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Apple is said to be hoping for a launch before the Chinese New Year is celebrated on February 8th. The bank deals follow a move Apple made back in September to register in the Shanghai free-trade zone as a business entity in the field of payments.
The WSJ notes that Apple could still face regulatory tangles as well as entrenched competition. Tencent's WeChat and Alibaba's Alipay are significant players in the electronic payments space, while China UnionPay has a near-monopoly on bank cards. But China remains one of Apple's fastest-growing and most important markets, and with local demand for iPhones staying strong, enabling each handset's NFC-powered payment capability will be a priority for the company.