BEIJING, OCT. 23 -- European Community foreign ministers agreed this week to ease economic sanctions against China imposed after last year's army crackdown on demonstrators for democracy.

The move reflects China's improving international standing because of its cooperation with the West in the Persian Gulf crisis and in efforts to end the civil war in Cambodia, according to Western diplomats. Japan has been moving steadily to rebuild relations, and ties with the United States have seen "peaceful, evolutionary change," one Western diplomat said.

At Monday's meeting of EC foreign ministers in Luxembourg, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd told reporters that "no useful purpose is served" by continuing to boycott diplomatic and other contacts with China. The head of China's legislature, Wan Li, is expected to visit London in late November for talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the future of Hong Kong. He would be the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the West since the crackdown in June 1989.

Western countries imposed economic sanctions, suspended high-level ministerial contacts and halted military cooperation and sales to Beijing after the Chinese army crackdown. But in the last several months, China has made efforts to cooperate with the world community.

One of the five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China supported all of the U.S.-led resolutions in the Security Council, including one approving an embargo against Iraq. China also has played a constructive role in pushing for peace talks in Cambodia.

Japan is about to resume a $5.4 billion, five-year loan program with Beijing, with the first installment to begin shortly. The loans are for projects aimed at improving China's industrial infrastructure, including the construction of railways, port centers, telephone lines and fertilizer plants, Japanese officals have said. The EC agreement is expected to lead to more loans.