Smartphones on display at Xiaomi's new store in Barcelona, Spain

Just four years ago, a Xiaomi executive was asked whether the company needed to sell phones in the US. The answer? “Frankly, we don’t.”

How things have changed. Now Xiaomi says it’s ready to sell smartphones in the US late this year or in early 2019, according to the South China Morning Post. (And that executive has since jumped ship to another company.)

Xiaomi already sells a number of products in the US -- like cameras and fitness trackers -- through its own online stores, as well as Amazon and Walmart. But selling smartphones will present a whole new set of challenges.

The main one? Finding a carrier to partner with, in a country where 90% of all smartphones are sold through carriers.

Huawei stumbled earlier this year when both AT&T and Verizon scrapped plans to sell its phones, forcing them to sell smartphones without a contract -- meaning that even with discounts, Huawei’s handsets cost vastly more to consumers than their competitors.

On the other hand, ZTE -- which has partnered with AT&T and Sprint -- is currently the fourth biggest smartphone brand in the US.

Another potential roadblock for Xiaomi: Scrutiny from government officials. US spy chiefs have recently expressed their doubts about letting Americans buy smartphones made by Chinese companies.

Xiaomi, which made its name focusing on emerging markets, is rapidly expanding overseas. It’s pushing into Western Europe starting in Spain, with plans to open 2,000 stores worldwide in three years -- that’s almost two a day.