Apple Inc said on Thursday it had partnered with China UnionPay to launch payment service Apple Pay in China for China UnionPay cardholders by early 2016.

China UnionPay is a state-controlled consortium that has a monopoly on all yuan payment cards issued and used in the country.

“China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services in a statement.

Apple Pay will mainly compete with Alipay, the online payment platform run by Alibaba Holding Group Ltd affiliate Ant Financial.

In July, Apple brought its mobile payments service to Britain to capitalize on the increasing mobile online transactions.

(Reporting by Kshitiz Goliya in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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