A Microsoft executive has revealed that the company is seeking to expand its headcount in China by more than 20 percent over the next year by hiring 1,000 staff in the country, as noted by Reuters.

Ralph Haupter, CEO of Greater China for Microsoft, said the new hires will join research and development, sales, marketing and services teams. Haupter came on as head of the region in April during a management shuffle.

Microsoft already employs 4,500 workers in China, but an influx of 1,000 new faces would represent a big push for the software giant. Much of the growth could come from an under-construction cloud computing center in Shanghai that could house as many as 600 employees when it is finished.

R&D spending in China, which currently amounts to $500 million per year, will also go up 15 percent during the same period, Reuters reported Microsoft’s chairman of Asia Pacific R&D as saying.

The company has for years struggled against rampant software piracy in the country, but it still views the market as an opportunity. Global CEO Steve Ballmer said in May that he is “super excited” about China’s growth, while noting that weak intellectual property protection has made it hard for software companies to make money. One estimate from the Business Software Alliance claimed China had a legal software market of $3 billion last year and an illegal one nearly three times the size.

Microsoft isn’t just sitting idle, though, as it has taken steps to fight piracy. At the start of this year, Microsoft sued Gome, one of China’s biggest electronics distributors, for selling illegal copies of its software.

The upcoming launch of Windows 8, Windows 8 Phone and the Surface tablet should give Microsoft some momentum, and China is undoubtedly part of the equation. The company has already begun promoting Windows 8 to China with a localized Xbox Live website.

Image: TNW