A Peking newspaper has published an unsually explicit defense of China's anti-Soviet stance, suggesting an ongoing debate among Chinese leaders over the direction of foreign policy in the post-Mao era.

"We must emphatiaclly point out that, of the two superpowers, the Soviet Union is the more ferocious, the more reckless, the more treacherous and the most dangerous source of world war," said the Nov. 10 article in the Kwangming Daily that has just reached here. "If we do not differentiate between the two superpowers and look on them as equals without acknowledging that the Soviet Union is the more dangerous source of world war, then we will be making a serious mistake."

The article is one more sign of unusual activity and ferment in Chinese foreign policy this year. It suggests that a number of recent Peking actions that seemed to be critical of the United States and conciliatory toward the Soviet Union are not universally approved within China.

The Chinese have indicated many times before that they consider Moscow their number one enemy, but rarely since the death of Mao has the officials Chinese press sought to make the differences between the Soviet Union and the United States so explicit. The article seems to be a response to those arguing for a less tolerant attitude toward the United States, which remains officially committed to defending Taiwan against attacks by China.

The article in the Peking newspaper, considered a journal for Chinese intelectuals, also marks another chapter in Peking's ongoing dialogue with other Communist nations and parties that see no need to be hostile toward Moscow.

The Chinese have been working out their emerging foreign policy in scores of visits by foreign officials to Peking and an unusual number of high-level Chinese visits abroad. In what would be an unprecedented move, Communist Party Chairman Hua Kuo-feng has reportedly accepted an invitation to visit China's old trading partner, Sri Lanka, and the Yugoslav news agency has reported that the Chinse leader may make a world tour next year. CHINA

Such a trip would be a major break with Mao Tse-tung's stay-at-home brand of diplomacy. The late Chinese party chairman only traveled abroad twice, both times to Moscow, before he broke with the Soviets over their domestic policy and their refusal to elp China develop an atomic bomb.

Since Mao's death, the Chinese have held to his view that the Soviet Union poses a greater threat than the United States.

"As compared to the United States, the Soviet Union is a rising imperialist power . . . and is far more eager than the United States to resort to force and imperialist war," the Kwangming Daily said, "It took advantage of the decline in strength of the United States due to its getting bogged down in the Indochina war to go all out in developing its effective strength and to undertake military expansion and war preparations."

Chinese policy toward the United States this year has at times seemed inconsistent. The Chinese gave U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance a relatively warm reception in August, but shortly afterward, Chinese leaders began to make statements sharply critical of U.S. policy toward Peking. This may reflect a Chinese attempt to put the Americans off balance and move them toward full diplomatic relations as well as a difference of opinion within China over how to deal with Washington.

At the same time, the Chinese have signed an agreement on border riveobservers see as conciliatory these again may be designed to worry the Americans more than anything else.

Throughout the year, the Chinese have pursued their favourite tactic of formally announcing one policy while pursuing another that is slightly different. They have recently released a major statement reaffirming their commitment to the revolutionary ideals of the underdeveloped world - what Mao called the Third World. At the same time, their diplomats and trade officials have been carrying on intense discussions with representatives of the developed world - what, Mao called the Second World, of Japan. Europe and Canada to counter Soviet influence and import technologyto build up the Chinese economy.