Beijing: Apple Inc. has appointed one of its top wireless software engineers the new head of its Chinese operations, as it tries to reverse a persistent sales decline in its largest market after the US.

Isabel Ge Mahe, currently vice president of wireless technologies, will assume the newly created position of managing director for greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Chinese-born Ge Mahe, who as a leader of mobile engineering teams helped develop Apple Pay and HomeKit, will answer directly to chief executive officer Tim Cook and chief operating officer Jeff Williams when she takes up the post in Shanghai this summer.

The appointment comes at a critical time for Apple in China, where the government is ramping up restrictions on foreign businesses and their management of data. Apple’s iTunes Movies and iBooks services were shut down last year by regulators after less than seven months of operations, and revenue there has fallen five consecutive quarters. The US company is now preparing to launch a much-anticipated new iPhone on the 10th anniversary of the device, which could help it regain market share taken by local rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co.

Ge Mahe, who was born in the northeastern province of Liaoning, will likely play a pivotal role in managing relations with the Chinese government, a prerequisite for any major foreign business operating in the county. Cook himself has visited the country frequently, attending forums and opening research centres while meeting with local media. Apple unveiled plans to build its first data centre in China just last week to comply with laws that mandate in-country storage of user data.

Ge Mahe has also worked closely to develop Chinese-specific features for the iPhone and iPad, including support for QR code scanning in the latest version of iOS.

“Apple is strongly committed to invest and grow in China," Cook said in a statement. “She has dedicated a great deal of her time in recent years to delivering innovation for the benefit of Apple customers in China." Bloomberg