Granting the first U.S. monetary aid to communist China, the American Embassy has awarded $25,000 to help clothe and feed the thousands of victims of disastrous flooding this summer in southwestern Sichuan Province.

"The mark of a true friend is that he does not have to be asked for help when he sees his friend in trouble," said U.S. Charge d'Affaires Charles W. Freeman Jr., who presented the funds yesterday.

Although the grant is small compared to the estimated $1 billion in flood damage, it is the most that can be allotted by an embassy chief from a fund set aside for disaster relief.

The money will be used to help relieve the devastation caused by torrential rains in July and August. Official reports say the floods claimed 920 lives, left 1.5 million homeless and inundated more than 2 million acres of rich farmland.

The gift is being described as both an important token of American friendship and of China's new willingness to accept foreign assistance for disaster relief after more than 30 years of strict self-reliance.

Earlier this year, the United States contributed 10,000 tons of wheat worth $1.9 million and 300 tons of a protein drink supplement to aid homeless and hungry victims of serious flooding and drought in other parts of China.

However, that aid, the first such to be accepted by China, was arranged through the United Nations.