BEIJING, AUG. 19 -- U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III today predicted that China will make major progress over the next two years toward enacting copyright laws to protect American technology and computer software.

"I'm convinced that there is a full understanding on the part of Chinese legal experts that this is a tremendously important issue with American businesses and American lawyers," Meese said at the end of a three-day conference.

U.S. businessmen say they are reluctant to transfer computer software to China because of a fear that it would be reproduced here without compensation.

Meese said that after a meeting with China's premier, Zhao Ziyang, he felt "very reassured" that China will stick to its course of economic reforms and opening to the outside world.

Sources said that Zhao, who is acting chief of the Communist Party, raised with Meese the issue of the forced resignation from the party of several intellectuals because of their political views.

Zhao told Meese that the moves to oust these members were limited in nature and would not affect matters outside the party, including China's economic modernization. Those asked to resign from the party will be allowed to continue working and lead normal lives, Zhao said.

Meese cochaired the first U.S.-China conference on trade, investment and economic law. Some 600 American lawyers attended the meeting, which Meese described as the largest legal gathering in the history of China.

Many of the lawyers apparently came away impressed with China's attempts to introduce more laws to improve the foreign investment climate.

But some of the American participants pointed to major differences between the Chinese and U.S. legal systems as a significant obstacle.

James Feinerman, professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, said that in some committee meetings at the conference, "there was a lot of talking past each other, partly due to the very different nature of the two systems."

Mitchell A. Silk, a former editor and research consultant with the University of Maryland School of Law, said, "This was a wonderful chance for a lot of U.S. lawyers who know little about China to come here and learn a very little about China.

"The Chinese are very effective at painting a rosy picture for people who really don't understand their system," said Silk, who has taught law at Beijing University.

Silk and others point out that many administrative regulations within China remain state secrets, putting foreign lawyers at a disadvantage.

Meese was asked twice at a press conference today about the case of Edward McNally, an American lawyer who taught U.S. law last year at Beijing University. McNally ran into trouble with the Chinese authorities in the course of a motorcycle trip that he took with New York Times correspondent John F. Burns.

Burns was arrested in July 1986 and then expelled from China for entering areas off limits to foreigners.

Last August, Chinese security officials seized papers and other belongings from McNally's apartment. Following protests by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and others, a portion of McNally's property was returned. But some items, including a motorcycle and ungraded examination papers, remain in the hands of the Chinese.

Meese suggested that this issue may have been raised privately with the Chinese.

McNally is currently working as a prosecutor in the office of the U.S. attorney in New York.