Peking promised today to ease restrictions on Chinese citizens who want to travel abroad as part of a new campaign apparently designed to soften up Taiwan for an eventual Communist takeover.

The official Peoples Daily published a major statement, transmitted here by the New China News Agency, of plans for relaxation of Peking's policy toward the nearly 40 million Chinese who live outside the Peoples Republic and toward their relatives in China.

The statement, in the form of an article by Communist Party Central Committee member Liao Cheng-chih, said, "We should provide facilities for overseas Chinese, their family members in China and returned overseas Chinese to come to China or go abroad to visit their relatives, for foreign nationals of Chinese descent to visit their relatives in China or make a tour of the country as well as for Chinese citizens to go abroad for reunion with their relatives of foreign nationality and simplify the procedure for getting permission to enter or leave China."

It was believed to be the first time in many years that Peking has suggested publicy that Chinese be allowed to leave the country for family reunions.

Thousands of ethnic Chinese, including many Americans, have been allowed to visit China each year to see relatives, but residents of China with relatives overseas have occasionally been harassed by Communist officials and have rarely been allowed to travel abroad.

The promised policy changes seem to be designed to improve Peking's image among overseas Chinese and in that way increase its ability to influence events in the anti-Communist bastion of Taiwan. Taiwan must keep its doors open to overseas Chinese, since the worldwide communities of ethnic Chinese are important to the island's diplomacy and trade. Overseas Chinese investments in Taiwan exceed those of any foreign country and any marked turn toward Peking among overseas Chinese would seriously affect the island's future, demoralize its residents and open it wider to espionage.

The People's Daily article comes less than a week after a preparatory meeting in Peking for a national conference this year on overseas Chinese affairs. Party Chairman Hua Kuo-feng has called for development of a pro-Peking united front "which embraces patriotic democratic parties, patriotic personages, compatriots in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, and our countrymen overseas."

Liao said in the article that giving overseas Chinese increased contact with China and helping them develop "a deeper love for the country" would further isolate what Peking calls Taiwan's "Chiang Gang," the Nationalist Chinese government led by Premier Chiang Ching-kuo.

On Dec 27, Vice Chairman Yeh Chien-ying, China's No. 2 leader, repeated Peking's longstanding appeal to the 16 million Chinese on Taiwan. "The people of Taiwan are out kith and kin, we lay our hopes on them . . . And it is our hopes that the military and government personnel of the Chiang clique in Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy and Matsu or residing abroad will clearly see the general trend of events and take the road of patriotism."

Liao also appeared to endorse an appeal China has been making in one way or another throughout the year for help from overseas Chinese scientists, particularly those in the United States. The Chinese have been great publicity to Temple University biologist Man-Chiang niu who has done some work at a Chinese laboratory.

"We should welcome and make proper arrangements for these overseas Chinese who wish to return to China to work for the national construction of the motherland," Liao said.