Apple and China UnionPay announced a deal Friday (Thursday, Stateside) to launch Apple Pay in China in "early 2016." The deal will allow credit cards issued by China UnionPay—a Chinese bank card clearing house and services company—to use Apple Pay in that country.
In a statement, Apple said, "Apple Pay will roll out to China UnionPay cardholders as soon as early 2016 after relevant tests and certification required by Chinese regulators, with the service itself in compliance with the applicable national mobile payment and financial industry standards in China."
China is a plumb for Apple. It's the world's largest market with a growing middle class, and much of its connected citizenry is connected through mobile devices rather than computers. Western companies have been competing with Chinese companies to make mobile payments mainstream in that country, and many have looked for Apple to announce a deal.
Though even in Apple's own press release, China UnionPay made it clear that Apple Pay was just one of many services it supports. Chai Hongfeng, executive vice president of China UnionPay, offered a lukewarm endorsement for Apple Pay, said:
China UnionPay is dedicated to promoting payment innovations and providing secure, convenient mobile payment experiences for its hundreds of millions of cardholders, aligning multiple parties in the industry. We're very excited to offer Apple Pay among a diverse set of innovative payment options that work with China UnionPay QuickPass.