An increasing number of foreign companies are closing their representative offices in Beijing because of financial problems at home and the headaches of dealing with mainland bureaucrats. Last year, 652 foreign firms opened such offices in Beijing, while 437 closed. In the first two months of this year, 33 more closed their offices. The Market newspaper yesterday blamed several factors for the pull-out. Firms from East and Southeast Asia had to close overseas operations because of their financial crises, or because they found the mainland market too difficult to penetrate, in part because of government policies that protected domestic firms against foreign competition. Another reason was a rising tide of complaints since the second half of 1996 about irrational government policies, local protectionism and the poor quality of Chinese officials. Foreign firms also complained of turf battles between different departments of the governments and increasingly complicated approval procedures. The companies complained about officials' low efficiency and poor quality of service. Further problems included high costs, especially of property, and the difficulty of obtaining qualified local staff with foreign language skills, forcing firms to send expensive expatriates from their home countries.