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

(Reuters) -Microsoft is asking some of its China-based employees to consider transferring outside the country, the company said on Thursday, as relations between U.S. and China grow increasingly strained over technologies like artificial intelligence and semiconductors.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said Microsoft is asking about 700 to 800 people who are involved in machine learning and other work related to cloud computing to consider relocating.

“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,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters in an emailed statement, without specifying the number of employees it sent the request to.

Microsoft remains committed to China and will continue to operate there and other markets, the spokesperson said.

The employees, mostly engineers of Chinese nationality, were earlier in the week offered an option to transfer to the U.S., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The move comes amid spiralling Sino-U.S. relations as President Joe Biden’s administration hiked tariffs on various Chinese imports including electric vehicle (EV) batteries, computer chips, and medical products.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the U.S. Commerce Department is considering a new regulatory push to restrict the export of proprietary or closed-source AI models, whose software and the data it is trained on are kept under wraps.

(Reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh, Surbhi Misra and Fanny Potkin; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee)