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Apple opening five new China stores over five weeks

The company, which started its retail-store foray in China in 2008, plans to build up the number of locations there over the next two years.

More Chinese locations will soon join this Apple retail store in Beijing. Apple

Apple's growth plans in China are heating up.

The tech giant plans to open five new stores across the country over the coming five weeks, Xinhua, the Chinese government's news agency, reported Thursday. Those will be on top of the 15 Apple stores already there.

"We are opening five new stores before the Chinese New Year this year," Angela Ahrendts, Apple's head of retail and online stores, told the news service in a phone interview. The Chinese New Year this year is February 19. "Four of the stores are in brand new cities for us."

Xinhua also noted that amid the expansion effort, Apple's China website lists job openings in 15 different Chinese stores.

Apple opened its first store in China in 2008. The country has quickly become one of Apple's most important retail markets, thanks to a growing middle class eager to own the company's high-end iPhone smartphones. However, Apple needs to battle against a growing set of local handset makers -- such as Xiaomi, ZTE and Huawei -- offering cheaper phones with premium features.

In October, CEO Tim Cook told Chinese media outlet Sina that Apple plans to open 25 new shops in China in the next two years.

The first of the five new stores opened in Zhengzhou this month. Another is set to open in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, next week, Xinhua reported.

An Apple representative confirmed the Xinhua story is accurate, though didn't provide further comments.

The expansion into China comes as Apple has been riding a wave of recent successes, benefiting mostly by continuing demand for its iPhone, the company's biggest moneymaker.