The Cat in the Hat is going to China ... on television. And CBS is taking him there. Dr. Seuss cartoons (including the Cat), ''60 Minutes,'' and NCAA football will all be coming into Chinese living rooms starting December. And if their current penchant for adventure shows is any indication, the Chinese are likely to welcome the CBS offerings with open arms.
On Sunday evenings last spring, for instance, the streets of China's major cities were reportedly almost empty when Chinese television aired ''Huo Yuan Jia ,'' a popular series about a heroic Kung Fu-style boxer.
The most popular programs on China's two national TV channels, says a spokesman for the central network in Peking, are the news, weekend cultural fare , Chinese operas, sports, and public-service items.
Glancing over the options for the week of July 15 in the Peking area, a TV viewer would find mostly cultural and educational programs on three channels (two national and one local). The main national channel offers 70 hours of mostly evening viewing with a heavy dose of Chinese plays, operas, and music. The 15 hours of educational programs include science lessons and language training - especially the popular English lesson ''Follow Me'' which appears each night for 30 minutes.
On Sunday afternoon, English-speaking viewers could have enjoyed the BBC production of Tolstoy's ''Anna Karenina.''
Dramatizations of Western literature also have been aired with dubbed-in Chinese. Recent feature films have come from Romania, Japan, Hong Kong, North Korea, Mexico, Sweden, and the Soviet Union.
Children's programs include cartoons, some from Japan, and a popular daily puppet show. Soccer matches lead sports coverage this summer, but also basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics are hits with young adult audiences. There will reportedly be several hours of coverage each day of the Olympics in Los Angeles.
China's 10-minute public-service items cover a range of topics from ''how to select a refrigerator'' - an item still too expensive for most households - and ''how to choose appropriate summer clothing,'' to ''what to pay attention to when eating watermelon.''
Notably lacking from Chinese television is strictly political programming. Chinese radio programs, on the other hand, devote considerable time to information and lectures relevant to the weekly political study sessions Chinese workers are required to attend.
China's television audience is mainly in the urban areas, especially the belt of coastal cities - Peking, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou. The State Statistical Bureau says there are some 40 million TV sets in the country, with 83 percent of urban households and 4 percent of rural households owning sets as of 1983.
Arthur Unger reports from New York:
In a formal ceremony staged at CBS headquarters in New York, China Central Television (CCTV) and CBS signed a contract Thursday which will bring CBS programs to China's TV screens.
The CCTV delegation wore the uniform of Madison Avenue - gray business suits - as they signed the agreement which calls for 64 hours of prime-time programming to be broadcast with five minutes of commercial interruptions in each hour.
CBS/Broadcast Group Worldwide Enterprises estimates that advertisers will be multinational companies selling such products as soft drinks, cosmetics, transportation equipment, and computers. Each of the 10 advertisers will pay $ 300,000 a year for 320 minutes, with no choice of programs into which they will be inserted, since all commercials will be rotated.
CCTV is paying no money for the programming; they will share the advertising revenue with CBS. Neither side would reveal the actual percentage split.
The Chinese delegation which selected the programs did not have the option of choosing any of the more violent or sexually oriented programs on CBS since ''The Dukes of Hazzard,'' ''Dallas,'' and ''Falcon Crest'' are not actually the property of CBS.
The Chinese selected NBA basketball, NCAA football, and Rangers ice hockey to help the Chinese people understand Americans better. Other shows chosen by the Chinese include Dr. Seuss, ''60 Minutes,'' selections from ''Charles Kuralt on the Road,'' ''Count Basie in Concert,'' and Walter Cronkite's ''Universe.''