Thick streams of bicycles that were once a fixture along Chinese streets are quickly giving way to long lines of traffic as more urban consumers...

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Thick streams of bicycles that were once a fixture along Chinese streets are quickly giving way to long lines of traffic as more urban consumers crave the convenience of private cars.

Demand in China for big-ticket purchases like cars, and the means to finance them, created a business opportunity for Bellevue-based Apollo Technology.

The company provides software services for processing loan applications and signed its first major deal in China last week during a trade mission led by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

At a news conference yesterday, Gregoire called the 11-day trip “very successful” and said Washington companies that participated are expecting sales worth $1 million as a result.

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Such deals illustrate the importance of China as a trade partner, not only for airplanes, apples and other established products, but also high-level technology and professional services, the participants said.

Apollo signed an agreement to deploy its technology at Shenzhen Development Bank’s branch in Shanghai.

Matthew Maa, Apollo’s chief technology officer, said the signing ceremony attended by Gregoire was “instrumental as a way to solidify our relationship with the bank and escalate our exposure to the banking industry.”

“We are taking on a bigger charter, taking the lead in bringing mature technology from the state of Washington to China,” he said.

China’s admission to the World Trade Organization means it must open the banking market by the end of 2006, so banks are under pressure to upgrade practices and systems to compete when foreign banks enter the market.

Yet as commerce moves into those information-based industries, intellectual-property protection remains an obstacle in China. Pirated DVDs are hitting the streets in China within 24 hours of a new movie showing in the United States.

Officials with Seattle-area online game companies visiting China for the first time recently found that pirated copies of their games had already become popular in China’s Internet cafes.

Starbucks has filed a trademark lawsuit in Shanghai against a Chinese competitor that is using the same Chinese name that Starbucks chose.

Gregoire said she brought up concerns of state companies on IP issues during a meeting with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng.

“Shanghai has tried to take some steps forward with protection of IP,” she said. “Right now I think it is one of the major challenges.”

In spite of those hurdles, the visitors also saw huge advances being made in the country. In Shanghai, they rode a magnetic levitation rail line from the airport to the downtown area. Traveling at 310 mph, the trip took just seven minutes.

The group visited a semiconductor industrial park under development in Shanghai that was designed by Bellevue-based MulvannyG2 architects. The campus includes 80 buildings, and city officials expect it will employ 4,000 doctoral graduates within the next eight years.

The rapid advances in China and throughout Asia were further proof that Washington needs a strong education system to compete in the future, Gregoire said.

“I tell my children if you do not excel in academics,” she said, “the job you want will go to that student in China or India.”

Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or kheim@seattletimes.com