Microsoft Offering Relocation to AI Staff Due to U.S.- China Tensions

ODSC - Open Data Science
3 min readMay 23, 2024

Microsoft has reportedly asked employees in its China-based cloud computing and artificial intelligence operations to consider relocating out of the country as the U.S. intensifies efforts to restrict Beijing’s access to advanced technology.

Get your ODSC Europe 2024 pass today!

In-Person and Virtual Conference

September 5th to 6th, 2024 — London

Featuring 200 hours of content, 90 thought leaders and experts, and 40+ workshops and training sessions, Europe 2024 will keep you up-to-date with the latest topics and tools in everything from machine learning to generative AI and more.


The Wall Street Journal revealed the development on Thursday, noting that the affected staff, predominantly Chinese engineers, were offered the chance to transfer to locations including the U.S., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

According to unnamed sources from the report, the move involves approximately 700 to 800 employees specializing in machine learning and other cloud computing-related tasks.

While CNBC has not independently verified the report, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed in a statement to CNBC that the company had “shared an optional internal transfer opportunity with a subset of employees” but did not disclose the number or specific roles of the staff involved.

The spokesperson emphasized, “We remain committed to the region and will continue to operate in this and other markets where we have a presence,” clarifying that the potential transfers would not impact operations.

Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific research and development group employs about 7,000 engineers, with the majority based in China, according to the Wall Street Journal. This significant workforce has been instrumental in driving innovation and technological advancements for the company.

The relocation initiative coincides with U.S. efforts to prevent China from advancing its AI technology, which could potentially be used for military applications. Over the past two years, the U.S. has imposed a series of restrictions on China, limiting its ability to purchase advanced chips and chip-making equipment essential for training AI models.

The Biden administration is now considering new measures to restrict the export of advanced AI models, such as the large language model that powers Microsoft-backed ChatGPT. Despite these measures, there is currently minimal government oversight preventing companies like Microsoft from selling or offering AI model services to foreign entities.

The U.S. government reportedly fears that AI models, capable of mining vast amounts of data to generate content, could be misused for cyber-attacks or the creation of biological weapons. Earlier this year, Microsoft released a report indicating that state-backed hackers from Russia, China, and Iran had been utilizing tools from OpenAI to enhance their hacking capabilities and support their campaigns.

ODSC West 2024 tickets available now!

In-Person & Virtual Data Science Conference

October 29th-31st, 2024 — Burlingame, CA

Join us for 300+ hours of expert-led content, featuring hands-on, immersive training sessions, workshops, tutorials, and talks on cutting-edge AI tools and techniques, including our first-ever track devoted to AI Robotics!


Microsoft’s extensive history in China spans over three decades, maintaining a significant presence even as other Western tech firms faced stringent regulations that pushed them out. The company has highlighted that China houses its largest R&D center outside the U.S., underscoring its deep integration into the Chinese tech landscape.

Originally posted on

Read more data science articles on, including tutorials and guides from beginner to advanced levels! Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here and receive the latest news every Thursday. You can also get data science training on-demand wherever you are with our Ai+ Training platform. Interested in attending an ODSC event? Learn more about our upcoming events here.



ODSC - Open Data Science

Our passion is bringing thousands of the best and brightest data scientists together under one roof for an incredible learning and networking experience.