After Google co-founder Sergey Brin announced last month that some of parent company Alphabet's various units may do business in China, a new report from the Wall Street Journal claims that Apple will be well ahead of its rival in the race to introduce the companies' mobile payments services into the Asian country.

Insider sources claim that Apple has already struck deals with four of China's largest state-run banks and that Apple Pay will be live in the country early next year. The report added that the Cupertino-based company has to pass through several regulatory hurdles, but Apple still aims to launch the service before the start of China's Spring Festival holiday, February 8th.

Contactless payment systems are very popular in China; Apple will enter a market dominated by Tencent's Tenpay (used on the country's popular WeChat messaging service) and Alibaba's Alipay. Apple will be seeking to team up with UnionPay, the country's state-run credit-and-debit-card company, so users can make in-store payments with UnionPay's point-of-sale machines. The iPhone maker has also been in talks with Alipay, but it's unclear if a partnership is on the cards.

China is a massive market for Apple; the company has seen its profits shoot up 99 percent year-on-year to reach $12.51 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. Tim Cook has made it clear that he wants Apple to expand its services in the country. "We very much want to get Apple Pay in China," the CEO told state news company Xinhua back in May.

It was reported by Quartz in early October that Apple is ramping up hiring in preparation for Apple Pay entering the Chinese market, and the company registered an entity in the Shanghai free-trade zone in September.