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China Says 你好 to American Express

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s Central Bank, announced it has accepted an application from American Express (AmEx) that expressed the company’s intention to operate in China.

Reuters reported that the PBOC announced the receipt of AmEx’s application via a WeChat post on Wednesday. The bank, however, did not disclose information about the approval timeline.

This follows the PBOC’s approval in November of 2018 for AmEx to clear card payments in partnership with China’s LianLian Pay to process payments in Yuan. This week’s announcement also makes AmEx the first U.S. card network company to gain access into the China market. In order to commence operations, however, AmEx still needs final approval from the PBOC.

China is beginning to open up its credit card payments market to foreign players after restricting access. For the past ten years, foreign payment card companies could only tap into China’s credit card market via partnership with state-run UnionPay.

Visa and Mastercard are expected to follow suit to claim their stake in China’s $27 trillion market.

Traditional players aren’t the only ones eyeing the China opportunity. Last October PayPal gained controlling interest in China-based GoPay. The move granted PayPal a license to offer online payment services in China, making it the first foreign company to be granted such license.