The announcement comes as chief executive Tim Cook undertakes his latest trip to a country that ranks as Apple’s single biggest overseas market.
Apple said it planned to build new research facilities in the eastern Chinese cities of Shanghai and Suzhou, on top of centres slated for Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen.
It also pledged to spend at least 3.5 billion yuan (R6.5 billion) on research institutions.
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All four centres were due to open later this year, the company said. They would help Apple co-operate with partners and attract talent from its suppliers and top educational institutes.
The announcement came a day before Cook was scheduled to address an economic forum in Beijing, where senior government officials would confer with the heads of some of the world’s biggest corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Arabian Oil.
Foreign companies have a long-established tradition of building research bases in China to signal their commitment to the country and curry favour with the government. Apple’s announcement comes after iPhone shipments fell for the first time in China last year.
China had for years driven Apple’s spectacular growth, even as smartphone demand elsewhere faltered. But vendors like Huawei Technologies, Oppo and Vivo are eroding its market share with increasingly high-end devices. The US company is counting on the release of the 10th anniversary iPhone later this year to supercharge growth.