Lower level staffers at the liaison office of the People's Republic of China have accepted "non-official" invitations to the homes of "oridinary" American families. Sally Ann Baynard, a Ph. D. candidate at George Washington University, met one diplomat at a dinner party and the conversation turned to crabbing - the diplomat was from the seaport of Shanghai. Baynard invited the Chinese to her parent's summer home on Solomon's Island.

A group of eight showed up in their VW van - once summer before last and once this past summer - crabbed with abandon, played with the Baynards' dogs, went out in the Baynards' boats, and asked how Americans cooked the jellyfish they found.

"Their families were all so far away," says Baynard's mother, Ann. "All of them had pictures of all of their children and showed them at the slightest provocation" They expressed a special interest, she says, in her son Geoffrey, 24, who was badly injured in an automobile accident and who works in the folding room at the Capitol. "They called him a 'worker,'" she says, "and seemed to have an affinity for young Americans who earn their living the hard way."

Paterfamilias Ernest Baynard, the retired staff director of a House committee, has entertained the staffers at Solomon's Island and at home in Alexandria four or five times.

"I've always talked about anything I felt like," says Baynard. "Intellectually, they're all very, very smart, delicately attuned people. I said once, 'I hope that those Northern Koreans don't start anything over there,' and the guy - I can't remember his name - replied, 'I hope you are not under the illusion that the entire problem is with the North Koreans.'

"It's very relaxing for all of us, an escape for them from the stringent diplomatic requirements of their lives. I tell them what I think. I don't tell them that they don't run their country the way I'd like. But hell, I don't like the way this country is run either."