China’s central bank said on Saturday it has given American Express approval to set up a bank card clearance business in the country.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said the move reflected China’s further opening up and reforms of its financial industry, according to a statement on its website.
The approval comes against a backdrop of high Sino-U.S. tensions, with disagreements over trade and Beijing’s imposition of a national security law for Hong Kong.
In a statement, American Express said it expects to begin processing transactions later this year.
“This approval represents an important step forward in our long-term growth strategy and is an historic moment, not only for American Express but for the continued growth and development of the payments industry in mainland China,” Stephen J. Squeri, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express, said.
The PBOC has also approved an application by Mastercard’s China joint venture to conduct bank card clearing operations in the country, but the company has not yet received a network clearing license.
China is opening its local currency payments market to foreign companies after a decade of lobbying by foreign players seeking direct access to what is expected to soon become the world’s biggest bank card market.