Microsoft encourages China-based AI and cloud computing staff to consider relocation amidst escalating US-China tech tensions

  • Microsoft urges China-based AI and cloud computing staff to consider relocating amid escalating US-China tech tensions.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that approximately 700 to 800 employees, mostly Chinese engineers, have been offered transfer options to countries like the US, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • CNBC could not independently verify the report.
  • Microsoft confirms the internal transfer opportunity but does not disclose specific details.
  • The potential transfers are not expected to impact Microsoft’s operations.
  • Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific research-and-development division, housing around 7,000 engineers, is significantly based in China.
  • The US aims to curb China’s advancement in AI technology, imposing restrictions on semiconductor access crucial for AI model training.
  • The Biden administration considers further regulations on advanced AI model exports.
  • Concerns persist regarding potential misuse of AI technologies by foreign entities.
  • Microsoft maintains its commitment to China despite regulatory challenges, viewing it as a vital R&D hub.

Main AI News:

In the wake of escalating tensions between the United States and China over technological dominance, Microsoft has taken a significant step, urging its cloud computing and artificial intelligence personnel based in China to contemplate relocating outside the country. This development was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which revealed that the majority of these employees, primarily Chinese engineers, have been presented with relocation options in countries such as the United States, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as per undisclosed sources.

Sources suggest that Microsoft extended this opportunity to approximately 700 to 800 individuals engaged in various aspects of cloud computing, including machine learning. CNBC, however, was unable to independently corroborate these claims.

A spokesperson from Microsoft, in a statement to CNBC, acknowledged the existence of an internal transfer offer to certain employees but refrained from divulging specific details regarding the affected workforce. Emphasizing Microsoft’s commitment to the region, the spokesperson assured that these potential transfers would not impede the company’s operations.

With its Asia-Pacific research-and-development division staffed by around 7,000 engineers, a significant portion of whom are based in China, Microsoft’s decision underscores its adaptability in navigating geopolitical challenges.

This move coincides with the United States’ concerted efforts to curtail China’s advancements in cutting-edge AI technology, amid concerns about potential military applications. Over the past couple of years, the US has imposed successive restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductor technology, crucial for training AI models.

The Biden administration is reportedly considering further measures to regulate the export of advanced AI models, including large language models like ChatGPT, supported by Microsoft. Amidst limited governmental oversight, concerns persist regarding the potential misuse of AI technologies by foreign entities, prompting calls for stricter regulations.

Microsoft’s deep-rooted presence in China, spanning over three decades, underscores its enduring commitment to the region despite regulatory challenges that have deterred other Western tech giants. The company views China as a key hub for research and development, boasting the largest R&D center outside the United States.


Microsoft’s initiative to relocate China-based AI and cloud computing personnel underscores the company’s adaptability amid geopolitical tensions. This move reflects broader efforts by the US to limit China’s technological advancements and highlights concerns about the potential misuse of AI technologies. Despite regulatory challenges, Microsoft remains committed to the Chinese market, emphasizing its significance as a crucial hub for research and development activities.