Citing sources close to Apple Pay, The Wall Street Journal says Apple has taken the first step in bringing its mobile wallet to China by registering it as a business entity.

Apple Pay's move into China was considered inevitable, even before Apple Pay made its debut in the U.S. a year ago. The Apple Pay entity is registered to operate in the country's Shanghai free-trade zone, the Journal reported.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has long viewed China as a potential gold mine for his company's products and the Apple Pay system. He told the Xinhua news agency in China in May that he wanted to secure cooperation from banks in the country and possibly with e-commerce giant Alibaba prior to bringing Apple Pay to Chinese consumers.

Colorado-based market research firm Tractica last month added validation to Apple's business potential for China when indicating that China demonstrates a strong demand for the Apple Watch.  

Among other features, the Apple Watch links with the newer iPhones to allow users to make Near Field Communication-based contactless payments through Apple Pay.

Apple launched Apple Pay in the U.K. in July, marking the first major market entry since the U.S. launch.

Samsung Pay, which is scheduled to launch in the U.S. next week, is also expected to compete in the Chinese market, where Samsung's new Galaxy S6 phone models went on sale last April.

Chinese consumers currently make mobile payments through the Alipay and WeChat apps, which operate on most smartphones.

Alipay began working with Walmart in May to allow mobile payments in the retailer's stores in China. In the U.S., Walmart is among the biggest brands behind the Merchant Customer Exchange and its venture to build its own CurrentC mobile wallet.

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