The new Apple retail store in the heart of Beijing’s shopping district on Wangfujing Street is more than just a flashy showcase for Apple’s latest products. It also is a major diplomatic victory for China, which had long criticized the U.S. tech giant for not opening any stores in the country.
For Apple, the store is a big step toward penetrating the lucrative Chinese market, which is expected to reach $400 billion by 2020. For the U.S. tech giant, it’s a chance to rekindle its once-close relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.
China, which is the biggest smartphone market in the world, has long viewed the U.S. tech giant as a competitor. It had demanded that Apple open stores in the country. The company agreed to open three stores in the world’s second-largest economy, including two in Shanghai and one in Beijing.
But the store in the capital was seen as a significant step forward because it is located in a high-end shopping area where most of the shoppers come from China, which is a huge market for Apple. The company has struggled to break into the Chinese market and has sold far fewer smartphones there than it has in other markets.
The opening of the Beijing store has been met with a flurry of online commentary. Many Chinese are excited about the store’s grand opening.
Some Chinese consumers are concerned that the store’s location near the Forbidden City could hurt Apple’s brand image.
The store has attracted a large crowd of visitors since its opening Tuesday. The crowds were similar to the ones seen at the company’s flagship store in the U.S.
More than 20 Apple products are available for sale at the Beijing store, including the iPhone X, the Apple Watch Series 2, and the Apple AirPods. The Beijing store is the first of the planned three Chinese stores, along with the ones in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Apple plans to spend billions of dollars to build the stores, and the company has said that it will spend nearly $10 billion over the next five years.
In the short term, however, the store is likely to draw only a small portion of the company’s annual revenue, said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson. The store is also expected to generate sales of only a few million dollars a month.
“It is going to be a very small part of the overall business,” said Dawson, who covers Apple.
Even with the limited sales potential, the store is important for Apple as it seeks to break into the Chinese market, he said.
“This is a huge opportunity for Apple, and it is the first of many stores that they are going to open in China,” he said.
Apple is not the only tech company that has been criticized for not opening stores in China. In 2015, Google pulled out of a plan to build a search engine in the country after government officials expressed concerns about how the company might use the data it collected.
Facebook, which is trying to win over Chinese users, opened a social network called WeChat in 2010, and it is now the most popular messaging app in the country. Facebook is planning to launch a version of its WhatsApp service in China next year.
For Apple, the store also is a major diplomatic victory. It is the first U.S. company to open a retail store in China, a country that is considered to be a key market for the tech giant.
The store is the result of an agreement between Apple and the local government in Beijing, which was reached more than a year ago.
While the store will be operated by the government-owned company Baidu, Apple will have a substantial role. The company will train store staff and will help select the merchandise.
Apple is also helping to expand the use of the Chinese language on its products. It recently launched a special emoji set designed for the Chinese market, and it will soon release a keyboard that supports the Chinese language.
“China is a very important market for us, and we’ve worked closely with the local authorities