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Apple Kicks Off China Surge with Massive Store in Hangzhou

Last week Apple pulled the wrapping off a two-story retail space in Hangzhou, China, the first of five new stores the company plans to unveil in the country before the Chinese New Year, on February 19. Last fall, when it was announced that Apple planned to open 25 new Chinese stores over the next two years, CEO Tim Cook said Apple was "investing like crazy in the market. When I look at China, I see an enormous market where there are more people graduating into the middle class than any nation on Earth in history." Here's what the first of those crazy investments looks like.

It's been said that the glass-fronted metal diorama was designed by Foster + Partners, which would make sense, given its strong resemblance to Apple's upcoming San Francisco flagship. Last May, when the first Norman Foster-designed Apple Store was unveiled in Istanbul, it was reported that the architect's practice would be taking over the design of Apple's retail spaces. The firm also designed Apple's massive upcoming Cupertino HQ.

Apple's contract manufacturers in China, most famously Foxconn, have been plagued for years by scandals involving inhumane labor conditions. In the days leading up to the opening, Apple draped the storefront in a banner by calligrapher Wang Dongling:

· Apple Inc. Just Pulled The Wraps Off Its Second Retail Store In China In Hangzhou [IBT]