One of the things Kenneth Smith learned in visiting China this summer was that he likes American Chinese food better than Chinese Chinese food.

Even so, the Holladay youth was intrigued with the Oriental country and came back bursting with stories. He was among a group of 200 American high school students who visited the People's Republic of China on a science exchange sponsored by the People to People program.Smith, who graduated last spring from Olympus High School, toured Chinese science-education facilities and found them "pretty equivalent" to those at home, with much of the equipment having been donated by American sources. Some Chinese students spend three to four years studying physics, he said - a much slower pace than he experienced at Olympus.

The Chinese were as fascinated to hear more about America as their guests were to learn more about China, the student said. "They learn English well and could carry on normal conversations. They liked to hear about America - they don't get a lot of information about it."

Free enterprise seems to be taking hold in many areas of China, especially in the south of the country, where many small, private shops are proliferating, he said. But bikes and buses remain the primary sources of transportation for the masses. Private ownership of vehicles is not common.

Smith said those Chinese students who are able to advance beyond eighth grade feel lucky. After that period of compulsory education, the competition for high school and college becomes progressively keen. Those aspiring to college must have a post-university job secured before they start their studies.

Smith enrolled this fall at Brigham Young University, where he will continue his physics studies with an eye to someday being a professor. His father, K.D. Smith, is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Utah, and his grandfather was a chemistry professor at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.