The head of the administration's human rights campaign said yesterday the People's Republic of China has serious rights problems but the situation appears to be improving. Patricia Derian, assistant secretary of state for human rights, said the United States has discussed the issue with Peking as part of President Carter's drive against rights violations around the world.

"I would say that it is no secret that there have been serious human rights problems in China and that the present government has spoken about it," Derian said.

But citing recent wall poster calls in Peking for more democracry, she said the United States sees "quite a bit of movements there" and "it is going to be avery interesting thing to watch."

Derian, speaking on "Meeting the Press" (NBC, WRC), said the United States raised the issue of human rights with Chinese officials before the recent announcement of plans to switch diplomatic ties from the Nationalist government on Taiwan to Peking.

"I can only assure you that before the normalization was announced we were discussing these matters with the People's Republic of China and it is a part of our foreign policy which is known to every governement in the world," she said.

Pressed for details of the Sino-American rights talks, Derian would say only tha they have "roughly the same character and flavour as discussions have had in every other country."

Conservative groups and organized labor have brought up the human rights issue in attacking Carter's plans for an about-face in America's China policy.

In comments on Iran, Derian described the increasing unrest against the shah as "an expression of the people's will."

"People long for liberty and certain guarantees and protections everywhere," she said.

She defended the U.S. decision to have ties with such authoritarian nations as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying the administration must consider national security as well as human rights issues.