microsoft moves Ai experts from China to Canada

Microsoft has moved some AI experts from China to Canada in what’s being dubbed the “Vancouver Plan.” While the company has denied that any such plan exists, the move is nonetheless significant given the brewing AI war between the US and China.

According to a Financial Times report, Beijing-based Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) is seeking visas for between 20-40 AI experts whom it is moving to its lab in Vancouver.

Industry researchers have termed it the “Vancouver plan.” Microsoft has meanwhile countered the report and said that “the number reported is not accurate. There is no ‘so-called Vancouver Plan.’”

It added, “We are establishing a new lab in Vancouver that will be organisationally aligned with MSRA and designed to better engage with the engineering teams in Vancouver. The lab will be staffed with people from other MSR labs around the world, to include China.”

Microsoft Vancouver Pla

Meanwhile, one of the Microsoft researchers that The Financial Times spoke to admitted that there are risks involved in having the best AI talent in China as they may be poached by fellow Chinese AI companies – or worse harassed by the authorities.

They added that these issues were discussed in internal meetings.

To be sure, an apparent tech and AI war is going on between the US and China – the world’s two biggest economies.

Chinese companies are also building AI capabilities and earlier this month Alibaba began rolling out its ChatGPT-like service for public testing.

Notably, Alibaba reorganized the company into six different business units earlier this year and the Cloud Intelligence group houses its AI and cloud operations.

Microsoft Moves Some AI Experts from China to Canada

Fellow Chinese tech company Baidu also launched its AI chatbot in March. While online search accounts for the bulk of Baidu’s current revenues, the company – like Google – sees AI as the next big earnings driver.

Recently Baidu launched a $145 million AI venture fund on the lines of OpenAI.

AI stocks have outperformed in 2023

AI stocks have been on fire this year and listed AI stocks are outperforming the broader markets by a decent margin. Notably, with gains of over 37% Global X Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF has delivered returns that are thrice of what the S&P 500 Index has delivered YTD.

Notably, the AI boom has helped lift tech stocks like Microsoft this year adding over $4 trillion to the Nasdaq 100’s market cap. Nvidia deserves a special mention here as the stock is up 170% this year and last month joined the rank of $1 trillion market cap companies.

China Might be Contemplating AI Regulations

After his visit to China earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that China would introduce AI regulations in the country.

While the country is looking to grow its own AI capabilities, it has banned apps like ChatGPT in the country.

China has domestic alternatives for platforms like Google and Facebook as the country is quite sensitive about the safety of its citizens’ data – which was reflected in the forced delisting of Didi from the US stock markets.

The operating environment for US companies doing business in China has deteriorated over the last couple of years and last month LinkedIn said that it is shutting down InCareer – the job application site that it launched in China in 2021 – citing “fierce competition and a challenging macroeconomic climate.”

All said the AI war between China and US might only escalate in the coming months as Chinese tech companies expand their AI offerings.

Incidentally, last month, the US Department of Justice charged Weibao Wang, a former Apple engineer and current executive at Jidu, an electric vehicle startup owned by Baidu with stealing Apple’s trade secrets.

As the tech war escalates between the world’s two largest economies, it won’t be surprising to come across such stories about AI also – even if there isn’t a “Vancouver Plan” officially.

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