Why is Microsoft reportedly asking hundreds of its Chinese AI workers to move to abroad offices?

US-China tension in AI war is growing

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Key notes

  • Microsoft reportedly plans to relocate 700-800 AI employees from China to other countries.
  • This occurs amid China’s push to replace foreign tech and potential US regulations on AI chip exports.
  • But, Microsoft says the relocation is a routine business move.
Microsoft building

Microsoft reportedly wants to relocate “700 to 800 people” working in its AI department in China, but why?

The rumors first started when The Wall Street Journal first exclusively revealed the massive relocation plan. The employees, mostly Chinese nationals who work in machine learning & cloud, were offered to relocate to the US, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. 

China longs to replace foreign tech that powers government agencies to use domestic products. There’s no secret about that. The government implemented new guidelines for replacement for processors, OS, and software a little while ago. US companies with a massive presence in the Chinese market, like AMD, Microsoft, and Intel, are said to be affected by this.

In the other part of the world, US President Joe Biden seems to restrict. China’s advancement in AI. The Democrat president’s administration is considering new regulations to require US companies to obtain licenses before providing AI chips to Chinese customers.

The tension of the AI war is firing up. But now, it seems like the Redmond tech giant has refuted the rumor. In another statement to the Shanghai Daily, the relocation has nothing to do with Biden’s recent policy. Rather, it’s a regular part of managing their global business and providing internal opportunities to employees.

“As part of this process, we shared an optional internal transfer opportunity with a subset of employees,” the statement reads.

Microsoft’s Beijing lab, which employs about 200 people, has also been facing quite an uncertain future even after over 26 years of operation. The New York Times first revealed that a group of former and current Microsoft employees said that Redmond’s executives have been debating whether it’s possible to continue the operation due to the mounting tension.