Now that the political veils have been lifted in Washington and Peking, Americans are being bombarded by things Chinese from every quarter, including their television screens.

Given the massive ignorance fostered in part by China's self-selected, relative isolation for so many years, this is not such a bad thing. After all, as NBC reporter Jack Reynolds says in tonight's special report on channel 4 at 10 o'clock, China is already a political and military big power and has set off on a course to become an economic power as well.

What's more, it is simply a fascinating place.

With two months to travel and film this past fall, Reynolds' report, "China: A Class By Itself," offers some revealing glimpses into the lives of a number of Chinese and the forces that are shaping those lives.

After a kaleidoscopic jumble at its beginning, Reynolds settles down to chart the new emphasis in China on education, science and technology as the chosen vehicles for rapid industrialization, and contrasts the policies of Peking today to those of the turbulent cultural revolution.

To underscore his points, he talks to individual Chinese in conversations that evidently are unusually open and candid, a measure of the change that has taken place from just a year or two ago, when such openness with foreigners would have been unthinkable. These conversations and the lengthy film footage of Chinese life are the strong points of the report.

Undercutting its effectiveness, however, is Reynolds' apparent inability to resist the temptation to make simple ideological comparisons between the Chinese and American ways of life. Perhaps it was meant to emphasize to a broad viewing audience how different the Chinese system is, but the effect is a bit of simplistic moralizing.

In another place, he makes the statement, "If China gets its act together and its people together, it can change the world in our lifetime."

Mixed in with the sophistication of other parts of the program, the effect is a very uneven one that makes this something less than a definitive statement on the changes in today's China.

One thing we can be certain of, however, is that there will be more, and this is not an unwelcome start toward understanding China and its people.