The United States and the People's Republic of China will step up scholarly exchanges and cultural links as part of a two-part accord signed by Chinese President Li Xiannian at the White House yesterday.

The pact, the fourth to put into force a 1979 cultural agreement, is the broadest educational and cultural accord reached between the United States and a communist country. Charles Z. Wick, director of the United States Information Agency, said it would help China modernize, while instilling democratic ideals in Chinese citizens through their participation in American classrooms.

"Education is at the heart of their effort to leap forward," said Wick, who signed the agreements for the United States. "Without educated people at the front, they won't be able to drive forward." He said that by coming here to study, Chinese scholars could see firsthand "a democratic way of life, where citizens are free to pursue the disciplines that they wish."

The educational pact officially encourages and supports private institutions here to pursue their own exchange programs with China, and calls for future exchanges between the U.S. Education Department and China's State Education Commission. The accord also provides for 28 Americans to teach in China next year and an equal number of Chinese scholars to study or teach in this country.

The more detailed cultural-exchange pact calls for exchanges of performing-arts groups, films and art exhibits, new links between the Library of Congress and the Chinese National Library, increased sharing of materials between the National Archives and the Chinese National Archives Bureau, and talks on exchanging television programs for rebroadcast.

Educational links between the countries have always been one-sided, with 12,000 Chinese studying here last year compared with about 300 Americans who went to China.

The Chinese students here are primarily researchers interested in taking science and engineering courses. The American scholars who go to China are primarily interested in the humanities, and most of them teach American culture and history here.

The one-sidedness would continue under the new agreement, and Wick called the arrangement good for this country. "If there were no exchange whatsoever," he said, meaning if no Americans went to China in exchange for the Chinese coming here, "we would gain tremendously. To tell the world about America and promote understanding about America is in our best interest."

Wick said one aim of the educational agreement is to build "human bridges" that will "help China modernize along democratic principles." He added, "One of the pillars of this type of approach is that there is no recorded evidence of a democracy starting a war, at least in this century."