In every other market around the world, AmEx processes transactions through its own network, whose hub is in Phoenix, Arizona. But in China, they have been handled by state-controlled payments giant China UnionPay.
Once AmEx has built its own network in China, it will be able to use it to process payments on AmEx branded cards and collect fees on far more transactions.
AmEx now has a shot at taking some of UnionPay’s business inside China.
Mastercard and Visa are also seeking permission to build their own networks after Beijing last year started letting foreign card companies apply for licenses.
Mastercard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The Chinese government dragged its feet for years on opening up its credit card payments market to foreign companies, even after the World Trade Organization ruled in 2012 that China UnionPay wasoperating a monopoly.
Although Beijing is now letting at least one American company into the market, that may not satisfy itscritics.
Joint ventures have been criticized by the Trump administration. It claims that China makes companies form joint ventures in certain sectors, then forces them to transfer valuable technology.
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