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Microsoft faces US scrutiny because it nears 10,000 employees in China

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Microsoft is nearing a goal to employ greater than 10,000 employees in China — doubling down on an enormous investment within the country despite rising political tensions with the US.

In a little-noticed, Chinese-language WeChat post last week, Microsoft revealed that it has about 9,000 employees in China and expects that number to top 10,000 over the subsequent yr. Microsoft appears to not have made the announcement in any English-language media.

“Microsoft will proceed to deepen the fertile ground for scientific research, solidly promote the event of computer science and technology applications locally and globally, help to cultivate digital talents and join hands with Chinese innovation to go global,” Microsoft senior vice chairman Wang Yongdong wrote, in response to a translated version of the post.

Microsoft’s recent hires — capping three a long time of expansion within the Chinese market — put the tech giant in stark contrast to rivals Google and Meta, which appear to have largely abandoned the country in recent times as tensions have soared between Washington and Beijing. US lawmakers from each parties have turn out to be increasingly wary of American tech firms doing business in China.

“Any company that expands its business operations in China is either naïve to the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party or just doesn’t care about working with a genocidal, anti-American regime,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told The Post in response to Microsoft’s expansion.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) blasted Microsoft’s expansion in China in an announcement to The Post. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senators including Rubio and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have called for the US to sanction a Chinese state-owned chipmaker that’s reportedly working with Apple. And lawmakers from each parties have railed against TikTok over its Chinese parent company ByteDance — whilst CNBC reported in August that engineers from Microsoft were working with the corporate on a synthetic intelligence project.

Each Meta and Google, meanwhile, have sought to kill federal Big Tech antitrust laws partly by arguing that it could put American corporations at a drawback against China.

Microsoft President Brad Smith, in contrast, has taken a more accommodating stance toward tech laws, arguing that corporations should work with Congress to craft rules fairly than fighting tooth-and-nail against all regulation.

Smith’s tone appears to have helped Microsoft on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers often leave the corporate out of rants against Big Tech.

Microsoft President Brad Smith has helped shield the corporate from lawmakers’ anti-Big Tech rants. Europa Press via Getty Images

Paul Rosenzweig, a former Homeland Security deputy assistant secretary, speculated that Microsoft has faced less scrutiny from lawmakers resulting from its extensive contracts with the US government and military. He said the federal government’s “dependency” on Microsoft could make US regulators less prone to raise concerns about its China operation.

Nevertheless, Microsoft’s continued expansion in China poses risks, he added.

“The greater the investment that Microsoft or for that matter every other American company make in China, the more likely they’re to turn out to be victims of any future economic conflict,” Rosenzweig said. “It can’t be a snug place for an American company to be held up because the pride of cooperation with the Chinese communist regime.”

MicrosoftMicrosoft will upgrade and expand its offices within the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft said in its Chinese-language post it should upgrade and expand its campuses within the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou over the subsequent three to 5 years. Microsoft currently has offices in 13 Chinese cities.

“In celebration of Microsoft’s 30-year presence in China, the local team shared the corporate is on target to succeed in 10,000 employees in China,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Post, saying that the ten,000-employee goal had been set greater than 4 years ago.

“We proceed to grow our worker population in China, consistent with our strategic goals,” the spokesperson added. While we don’t share country specific worker figures as a normal practice… we are able to share we’re already very near achieving that 10,000 worker goal today.”

Microsoft’s expansion was welcomed by Chinese state media outlet the Global Times, which praised the corporate for “defying” American pressure to “decouple” from China.

Microsoft ChinaMicrosoft runs a censored version of its Bing search engine in China. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google pulled its search product from China in 2010 resulting from government demands to censor results. Google later considered re-launching a censored search engine in China but abandoned those plans in 2018 after they were reported by the Intercept, sparking a political backlash within the US. 

Microsoft, meanwhile, has run a version of its Bing search engine that censors results at the federal government’s request since 2009. Microsoft also previously ran a censored version of LinkedIn that repeatedly caught flak for removing posts from academics and journalists who were critical of the Chinese government.

The corporate pulled the plug on LinkedIn China in October 2021, citing “a significantly tougher operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” 

Microsoft later launched a recent job-seeking product in China called InJobs, which doesn’t include a social feed or the flexibility to share posts or articles. The move was seen by critics as an try to dodge negative headlines about censorship.

Across Bing, LinkedIn and other products, Microsoft complied with greater than 1,100 Chinese government requests to remove content in July through December of 2021, in response to the corporate’s most up-to-date transparency report

Microsoft has also hired up in China for a secretive project intended to “revolutionize” the true estate market, The Post reported in May. Job postings appeared to indicate Microsoft can have been working on a rental listings app to compete with the likes of Zillow and Realtor.com, but the corporate didn’t reply to requests for comment on the listings.

Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, meanwhile, doesn’t operate in China — though not for a scarcity of groveling by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As a part of an apparent try to break into the Chinese market within the 2010s, Zuckerberg went so far as to ask Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 to provide his then-unborn child an honorary Chinese name, Page Six reported. Xi reportedly rebuffed his request, which seemed to be a part of a charm offensive to secure permission for Facebook to operate in China.

China’s ban on Facebook and Instagram was never lifted — and Meta has turned in recent times to attacking rival TikTok over its Chinese ownership.

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