The world’s largest fast food chain McDonald’s announced plans on Tuesday to double the number of its stores in China within five years, targeting the country’s less-developed urban areas.

The company will increase the number of Chinese outlets from 2,500 to 4,500 by 2022.

Steve Easterbrook, chief executive of McDonald’s, proudly boasted:

China will soon become our largest market outside the US.

There are currently about 37,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide and more than 14,000 in the US.

McDonald’s decision to shift its focus away from big cities means 45 per cent of the new restaurants will be located in China’s smaller, less economically developed areas.

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Seventy-five percent of the 4,500 stores will offer take-out and delivery services.

McDonald’s new owners are bankrolling a risky approach to revive declining global sales and revamp the company’s perception as a cheap alternative to rival fast-food brands.

The company’s announcement about its expansion in China is part of McDonald’s strategic partnership with state-backed conglomerate Citic and Carlyle Group.

Earlier in the year, the US fast food chain agreed to sell most of its China and Hong Kong-based operations to Citic and Carlyle for $2.1bn.

McDonald’s will retain a 20 percent stake of its China business.

Last year, Starbucks announced plans to open more than one new store a day in China for the next five years, with 5,000 stores across the country by 2021.