FOREIGN firms are set to snap up space in a special Beijing office complex. The 18-storey tower is the first in the capital where investors can buy up individual floors - rather than the whole building. Hongkong-based Realty Pacific Sallmans is launching a marketing drive for the Jin Cheng development on Friday. But it sees no problems getting 100 per cent occupancy. The company's director, Mr Don Ho, said seven floors had already been sold to Hongkong and Chinese companies. He said foreign firms were flooding into China. In Beijing, there was a 20 per cent shortage of office space and many firms were based in hotel rooms. ''People pick hotel rooms because they have no choice,'' he said. ''The rents are more expensive than Grade A office buildings. ''A lot of foreign companies are maybe scared by high rents and the fact they are picking up speed. ''By buying an office there the owner can go against the rent escalation.'' The project is the first in Beijing with a strata title, or a long lease period of between 50 and 70 years. Mr Ho said firms no longer had to buy a whole building to become owners. ''It is already happening in other parts of China, but this is the first building of its kind in Beijing.'' Commercial property development was picking up again in Beijing for the first time since the mid-1980s. The market overheated in 1987 resulting in the government calling a halt to some developments. Foreign investors pulled out in droves after the Tiananmen Square incident two years later. The market is beginning to pick up as foreign investors begin to move back into it. China's new open door policy means more foreign companies are opening offices there. But they need offices to work from. The result, Mr Ho predicted, would be a development boom. But now demand was high and supply was scarce, producing sky-high rents in new offices. Rents at Jin Cheng would soon hit the levels of its Hongkong equivalent, according to Mr Ho. He said prices were $24 to $26 per square foot. A similar property here would average just over $30. He added: ''On the one hand, you think, 'Why has it taken so long for Beijing to develop an office building with strata title?' ''On the other, you can see the rental market is advancing very quickly. ''It is approaching the situation in Hongkong and we would be surprised if it doesn't surpass it within a few years.'' Company bosses should, therefore, consider buying the new offices. At Jin Cheng, the space ranged between 100 square metres and 1,000 sq m, an average of HK$1,600 per square foot. Mr Ho added: ''The real estate profession has reached a point where it can sub-divide the lease total to satisfy the need of individual property owners. ''This will gradually speed up the development, or make the owning of a small office a possibility in Beijing.'' The US$55-million office and retail project is expected to be ready for entry by the end of the year. Realty Pacific is also marketing a 33-storey tower in Beijing which is expected to be completed in mid-1994.