After the diplomatic tug of war last year between the United States and China over such sensitive issues as US arms sales to Taiwan and Chinese textile exports to the US, it is encouraging that the two nations are starting 1984 by planning mutually beneficial economic agreements. And the economic steps are being made against a backdrop of preparations for major diplomatic exchanges - the visit to Washington next week of Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, and the visit to Peking in April by President Reagan.
Earlier this week, Deere & Co., a major Midwestern manufacturer of farm equipment, announced that it had won contracts from China to supply that nation up to $25 million in farm goods. Deere will also sell China technology so that nation can manufacture tractor models.
Meantime, a new industrial and technology accord is expected to be signed next week during the Zhao visit. The pact, similar to agreements already in place between the US, Brazil, and Egypt, would facilitate economic cooperation between the two nations.
The importance of the new economic agreements, of course, should not be overestimated. Major diplomatic hurdles still remain, not the least of which involves Taiwan. China remains vehemently opposed to continued deliveries of US military equipment to Taiwan. And many top Chinese officials continue to press the case within Peking ruling circles for better ties with the Russians - thus undercutting the so-called ''US-China card.''
Still, the new economic agreements at the least indicate that the two nations remain basically upbeat in their bilateral relations, a sharp contrast with the US and the Soviet Union - where, although economic agreements continue, crucial arms negotiations are now on hold. The US, for its part, should make every effort to firm up its relationship with China - though recognizing that China will continue to steer as independent a course as it can regarding the superpowers.