Microsoft offers China-based engineers an option to relocate

Office could be decimated with around 800 offers reportedly made

Microsoft is said to have offered up to 800 China-based employees the chance to relocate to the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland.

That's according to the Wall Street Journal, which claims the offer stands until early June, adding that it was extended primarily to Chinese employees with experience in machine learning and the cloud.

The paper says relocation is not compulsory and employees can stay in China if they wish. However, Microsoft has apparently pitched the transfers as an opportunity to send workers familiar with AI and cloud computing to places where such skills are needed.

Relocating 700 to 800 of its China employees to the West would represent a substantial chunk of its Asia-Pacific R&D Group, comprised of 7,000 workers mostly based in China.

"Providing internal opportunities is a regular part of managing our global business," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Register.

"As part of this process, we shared an optional internal transfer opportunity with a subset of employees. We remain committed to the region and will continue to operate in this and other markets where we have a presence."

It's interesting times in the Middle Kingdom. Just yesterday, US President Joe Biden slapped the Middle Kingdom with tariffs on a variety of tech products, including semiconductors, batteries, and especially electric vehicles, which are now taxed at 100 percent, up from 25 percent.

Microsoft itself has been caught up in the rising tensions before, with members of Congress previously criticizing the Redmond-based tech firm for censoring Bing in China to placate the national government. Virginia Senator Mark Warner even suggested Microsoft should pull the plug on the Chinese version of Bing.

Microsoft has a relatively strong presence in China and has decent relations with the government, however, making an exit somewhat difficult to justify financially. The country approved Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard before the US and UK, and just last month the Windows developer brought back several Blizzard games to China after a year-long absence. Clearly, Microsoft isn't leaving any time soon.

An attempt to relocate employees may be a middle of the road option so that Microsoft can continue doing business in both the US and in China without compromising too much on either side.

The relocations likely won't make the Chinese government too happy, but it's probably more ideal for an employee than being laid off; at least then they can accumulate datacenter experience while they're off in the West. ®

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