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Uber plans to expand service to 100 more Chinese cities

CEO Travis Kalanick announces he's turning up the dial in the ride-hailing service's fastest-growing market.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has his eye on expansion in China. James Martin/CNET

Ride-hailing service Uber is doubling down on its Chinese expansion.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced Tuesday that the company plans to spread its service to 100 additional cities in China within the next 12 months, according to Reuters. This is twice the number of cities Uber previously said it would enter.

"When we started this year, we were about 1 percent market share," Kalanick said during a speech in Beijing, according to Reuters. "Today, nine months later, we're looking at about 30 to 35 percent market share."

Kalanick's comments underscore China's vast importance in the technology world. The country's massive population of 1.35 billion and growing middle class have created a lucrative market for companies to capitalize on. Apple, for instance, has made significant inroads in China, expanding its retail stores and pushing iPhone sales in the country. In its April earnings report, Apple revealed that China is now its largest market in the world by revenue, topping the US for the first time.

Like Apple, Uber has also put a heavy emphasis on expanding and growing its presence in China. But it hasn't necessarily been a smooth ride. The company, which pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, has faced resistance from regulators and competitors.

While Uber has grown at a fast clip in China, it's overshadowed by local taxi-hailing company Didi Kuaidi, which is estimated to control the vast majority of the local ride-hailing market share. Uber is currently in 20 Chinese cities, according to Reuters, while Didi Kuaidi is in more than 300.

To catch up, Uber has been drumming up funding from local investors. The company announced Monday that it had raised $1.2 billion from Chinese investors, which was led by Internet giant Baidu. This rounds out Uber's total funding to $8.2 billion -- making it the highest-valued venture-backed company in the world with a valuation of more than $50 billion.

In June, Kalanick reportedly sent a letter to investors that said the company planned to invest more than $1 billion for its China expansion during 2015. He called the company's growth there "remarkable and unprecedented."

"Since our launch in February 2014, we have found a public that is embracing Uber far beyond our most bullish expectations," Kalanick wrote to investors.

Kalanick noted in his letter that during Uber's first six months in the Chinese city of Chengdu, usage was 46 times greater than during the company's first six months in New York. However, to gain a foothold in China, Uber has been reportedly heavily subsidizing rides for passengers, according to Reuters.

Uber didn't respond to request for comment.