How Apple v. FBI Plays in China

February 18, 2016, 4:47 PM UTC

On Wednesday, the day after Apple CEO Tim Cook challenged a U.S. federal court order to hack into a terrorist’s iPhone, longtime reader Jake_in_Soul posted this note in my comment stream:

“Tim Cook’s action (which I support completely) is garnering much interest and approbation in the South Korean and Chinese press, and redounds greatly to Apple’s credit given the generally craven position of hi-tech companies here in East Asia. Coincidentally, this is the day that Apple Pay launches in China (where I currently am) with great press fanfare. Tim Cook’s stand in favor of customers’ privacy should give Apple Pay a boost, although it starts far behind rival AliPay.”

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Jake knows this stuff first-hand. Most of what I know I learned yesterday from reading WestEnd511’s Apple Pay In China: Dead On Arrival at Seeking Alpha. I learned that Alipay and WePay, with more than 600 million users and 80% of the market between them, have spread their tendrils deep and wide. WePay, for example, is accepted at…

“30,000 supermarkets, 1,500 department stores, 50,000 convenient stores and 500 shopping malls for typical retail spending. There are an additional 80,000 restaurants, cafes and QSRs, 400,000 parking lots, 3,000 gas stations, 440,000 automated air ticketing machine, 1,000 transit ticket sellers, hospitals, 20,000 pharmacies and 26 postal carriers where WePay is accepted.”

For more on Apple, watch:

Apple’s only chance, WestEnd511 concludes, is to team up with UnionPay, which has issued 4.5 billion bank and credit cards, and controls every cash machine in China.

Which, as Fortune‘s Leena Rao reports, is what Apple (AAPL) did today.

UPDATE from Mashable: “According to local reports, by 5 p.m. [Thursday], 38 million bank cards had been linked to Apple Pay. The Beijing Morning News said on its Weibo account that within an hour of the service going live at 5 a.m., 10 million people had already linked their bank cards to their accounts.”

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