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China's Quality Certification Center granted iPad model number A1416 last week, as first discovered by Engadget China. That's a sign that the Wi-Fi iPad could head to retail in China "soon."
Additional approvals are needed for the 3G-capable iPad model to go on sale in China. There has been no indication as to when any version of the new iPad will become available to customers in mainland China.
China has become a very important part of Apple's business in recent years, as one report last week highlighted in noting that the nation now leads the world in iOS device activations. Last year, the region was the second-largest market for Apple, behind only the U.S.
Approval of the new iPad comes as Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was spotted in China this week. Cook was there to meet with government officials to discuss plans to further expand operations in the country.
Apple did not reveal the specifics of what Cook and officials spoke about, but the company did say in a statement that "China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth there."
But the impending launch of the new iPad in China also comes as Apple has been engaged in a series of courtroom battles with a local company over ownership of the "iPad" name. Proview has asserted that it is the rightful owner of the "iPad" brand, and that Apple's purchase of the rights in 2009 through a Taiwanese affiliate of Proview was not a legal transaction.
Outside of mainland China, Hong Kong was one of ten places the new iPad went on sale when it launched on March 16. It joined the U.S, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.K, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.