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Microsoft asks some China staff to relocate amid Sino-US tensions

Published: May 18, 2024
A sign of Microsoft is pictured on its office building in Beijing, China May 25, 2023. (Image: REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo)

On May 16 (Thursday), Microsoft stated it’s asking some China-based staff to consider transferring outside the country, as Sino-U.S. relations strain amid a race for advanced technology.

Washington has been trying to limit Beijing’s access to advanced chips used in AI applications, given the possibility that it can be used to strengthen the communist country’s military.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, Microsoft is asking about 700 to 800 people who are involved in machine learning and other cloud computing-related roles to consider relocating outside the country.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement, without specifying the number of employees involved in the case, that “providing internal opportunities is a regular part of managing our global business. As part of this process, we shared an optional internal transfer opportunity with a subset of employees.” 

Microsoft is among the U.S. companies that have the largest presence in China. It entered the market in 1992 and operates a large research and development center in the country.

The employees involved are mostly engineers of Chinese nationality. Earlier in the week they received an option to transfer to the U.S., Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. 

Details on this news could not be independently verified.

The move comes days after U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration hiked tariffs on various Chinese imports, including electric vehicle batteries, computer chips and medical products.

Reuters contributed to this report.