The Government of China yesterday asked the Civil Aeronautics Board for permission to operate three round-trip charter flights from San Francisco to Shanghai.

Assuming approval by the CAB, the flights would be the first nonstop passenger flights from the United States to China available to anyone who wants to go on them since regular air service was interrupted 30 years ago.

In the recent thaw, the only flights into China have been special-purpose charters for entities such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra or press groups, and most of these flights went through Hong Kong or Japan, according to airline and government officials.

The application was filed by Jerry M. Ryan, a Washington attorney, on behalf of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), an entity that is the equivalent of the CAB, the U.S. State Department's transportation section and the national airline of China all rolled into one.

"The Government of China is interested in promoting tourism from the United States to China and is desirous of becoming familiar with the problems of operating air service between China and the United States," the CAAC told the CAB.

The proposed flights will actually be operated by Pan American World Airways for CAAC under a lease agreement. Pan Am will provide Boeing 747SP aircraft and cockpit crews, although the CAAC will provide cabin crews, Ryan said. The three round trips are part of a series of six, three to be offered by Pan Am and three by CAAC, the application states, with each airline providing ground handling for the other carrier in each carrier's home country.

CAAC has contracted with Boeing to purchase several 747SP aircraft which are to be delivered in early 1980, and the proposed flights will aid CAAC in familiarizing itself with the aircraft, it told the CAB.

The first of the proposed flights would leave San Francisco on Dec. 17 bound for Shanghai and return on Jan. 1. The second flight would leave San Francisco on Jan. 14 and return on Jan. 29. The third flight would leave San Francisco on Feb. 11 and return on Feb. 26. CAAC said it has tentatively agreed to enter into a contract with China Horizons Inc., a tour operator based in New York, to operate the flights under the public charter rules of the CAB. Fares for the proposed flights were not disclosed.

"In addition to being justified on the grounds of reciprocity and comity, (the request) will further develop understanding, good relations, and friendships between the people of the United States and the people of China," the CAAC told the CAB.

In other international aviation developments:

The United States delivered a note to the Canadian government expressing dissatisfaction with Canadian insistence that its airline, Air Canada, be allowed to institute deep discount fares on its U.S. routes at the same time it turns down U.S. airlines' proposals to offer reduced fares on routes to Canada. Five of the last six U.S. airline discount fare proposals were turned down by the Canadian government, a U.S. aviation official said. The notice of dissatisfaction can be a prelude to turning down a proposed fare under the U.s.-Canadian bilateral air agreement.

James R. Atwood, deputy assistant secretary of state for transportation affairs, has been promoted to senior deputy legal adviser in the State Department. Until a successor is found for the transportation post, Atwood will be spending part of his time on international aviation issues.