A major new scientific and technical magazine has been launched which many expect to play a pivotal role in the rapid modernizaton of China.

Unlike a variety of other new publications aimed at leaders of China's one billion people, Science & Technology Review seems to have several unique advantages, including blessings from the highest levels of both the Chinese and U.S. governments.

The inaugural issue, which was published in Berkeley, printed in Hong Kong, and distributed through China in late January and early February, reportedly sold more than 100,000 copies in two weeks. A second print run of about the same size also was sold out quickly. For the first time since the 1949 revolution which established a communist government in China, the Chinese postal system as well as the network of official bookshops have formally undertaken unrestricted distributions and sales of a foreign magazine. They also will receive subscriptions and remit these funds to the American publishers.

American blessings came from White House science adviser Dr. Frank Press who wrote a congratulatory letter and article for Science & Technology Review.

Perhaps even more significantly, the predominantly Chinese-language publication received on its appearance an unprecedented spate of publicity from all news media inside China, including a leading article in Peking's People's Daily. Also, numerous senior Chinese government officials, at the ministerial level sent hand-written congratulatory messages to the magazine's Peking office on its inaugural issue.

Americans and others familiar with the past turmoil of Chinese politics and recent trends indicating long-term stabilization and good relations with the U.S. cite what seem to be several significant aspects to Science & Technology Review.

One of the more remarkable features of the inaugural issue was an article profiling the growth of Sears Roebuck into the world's largest retailer. Favorable comment, indeed any comment, about foreign enterprises, particularly capitalistic ones, was unheard of in the China of Chairman Mao Tse-tung. The magazine plans further articles on western companies and industries.

In fact, it appears that the science and technology aspects of the magazine may be of lesser importance than the goal of accustoming China's top leadership, middle managers and students to the idea of borrowing foreign ideas, particularly management techniques, and adapting them to assist in the rapid modernization of China without too much debate over ideological appropriateness.

A key figure in getting the magazine launched in the U.S. is Dr. Chien Ning, a Chinese national, who along with her husband is doing research work in physics and other subjects at the University of California at Pasadena. According to several people familiar with the genesis of the inaugural issue of Science & Technology Review, it was Chien who assembled the panel of distinguished Chinese-American scientists now serving on the editorial board of the new publication.

In an unofficial translation of the first issue's foreword, Chien said, "The purpose of Science & Technology Review is to study and analyze the present conditions and experiences of different countries of the world from the standpoint of the problems of Chinese modernization. By utilizing other countries' experiences, in the fields of natural science, engineering and technology, management and economics, social science and the humanities, education and research (it will be possible) to find the means of modernization (in China)."