Microsoft has reportedly asked its China based cloud computing and AI operations staff to consider relocating elsewhere, as the US continues to crack down on China’s access to advanced equipment over national security concerns. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, Microsoft offered around 700 to 800 China based AI and cloud staff to transfer to countries including the US, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The offer comes amid efforts from the US government to slow down China’s development of advanced AI technology, which the government said could be harnessed by foreign actors “for harmful purposes”.

The Biden administration is also looking to enforce curbs on China’s access to the core pre-trained software of AI systems like ChatGPT, in the latest of its continued efforts to block US AI from China and Russia.

AI leaders in the US creating large language models for GenAI services, such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI and Google DeepMind, are not currently under any restrictions from the government.

The US is concerned that this could lead to adversaries using the software for biological weapons or cyberattacks. 

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Microsoft has been working in China for over thirty years and claims its largest R&D centre outside of the US is in the country.

However, speaking on Bloomberg TV in January, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that “China is not a large business for Microsoft”, as most of its revenue came from companies with operations in the country.

The CEO said Chinese engineers hired by the company “contribute to an American company’s intellectual property”.