As most US-based companies have learned by now, it's very difficult to penetrate the Chinese market (just ask Microsoft), with the country's government being at the crux of the issue more so than cultural differences. Apple in particular has had a rough go at feeling comfortable in China, and recently, things have been made more difficult with sliding sales.
In the past year, Apple had to mold its products to better-suit the Chinese market, which included getting rid of iTunes Movies and iBooks, and crippling its popular news app. Since then, Apple has invested more in the Chinese market, which included a staggering $1 billion investment in "Chinese Uber" Didi Chuxing. Next up? The opening up of a research center, and employing 500 eager folks.
The research and development center is costing Apple $45 million and will be located in Beijing, inside of the Zhongguancun Science Park, or what's being touted as "Beijing's Silicon Valley". A major focus here will be the development of both hardware and software, telecommunications, video and audio equipment, consumer electronics, information technologies - and others. That's a pretty broad palette, to say the least.
This move is part of a major cuddling up to China by Apple to help increase trust and simply build up stronger relations since the Cupertino company is obviously very eager to do business there. Apple CEO Tim Cook has already visited China twice this year, and we're sure that there are more visits planned in the future. It's going to be interesting to see what evolves out of this R&D center going forward.