"Little Fatty" dances alone in a Peking bar. Her husband, a restaurateur who made and saved some money under China's capitalist-style reforms, is in Japan, one of tens of thousands of Chinese with the cash or contacts to use their new found freedom to travel abroad.

He paid a Japanese middleman $500 to act as his legally required guarantor and, knowing only the Japanese words for "thank you" and "good-bye," he left for Tokyo.He enrolled in a language school, but like thousands of his compatriots "studying" abroad, he soon found an illegal job as a night watchman. Even though his wages are low, he is able to send money home and plans to stay in Tokyo as long as he can.

"Little Fatty," as she is known to her friends, says she hopes to join her husband in a new life in Japan. But her journey may be more difficult than his.

"New Rule Breaks Up Dreams of 35,000," read the headline in the official China Daily on Saturday. The story said the Japanese government had doubled the amount of guarantee money needed to study in Japan to 400,000 yen, about $3,200.

Several hundred angry Chinese staged protests last week outside the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai, a city of 12 million people that is a gateway to life outside China.

"The consulate has stopped giving visas. The students have resigned their jobs and borrowed money but they cannot get visas," a Shanghai city official said by telephone.

A Japanese Embassy official in Peking denied Tokyo had raised fees or deposits or stopped issuing visas. It had, however, stepped up its scrutiny of documents supplied by so-called language schools and middlemen.

"We know there have been quite a number of false or fake documents made by guarantors in Japan," he explained.

Two years ago 2,126 Chinese went to Japan on "short-term study courses." Last year the numbers swelled to 7,178 and in the first eight months of this year they reached 19,349.

Six thousand Chinese students are taking long-term university courses.

"We have a flood of people going to Japan to earn money. We feel the need to tighten the control," the official added.

The "leaving China wave" is a hot topic among young Chinese, who like to tell the perhaps apocryphal account of a meeting between President Reagan and senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping many years ago.

Reagan, it is said, chided Deng for China's restrictive emigration policy.

"How many million would you like?" came Deng's reply, bringing the subject to an abrupt end.

In the past decade well over half a million Chinese have emerged from 30 years of isolation to take a look at life outside.

Among them are sons and daughters of China's senior officials, much to the anger of ordinary people who do not have the money or contacts to go abroad.

One of Deng's grandsons was born in the United States and has American citizenship and the son of Qiao Shi, a leading Communist Party Politburo member, has been in Australia for several years.

The authorities do not give exact figures, but official newspapers say 250,000 people have been sent abroad to work, mostly to Africa and the Middle East, as cooks, laborers, construction engineers and technicians.

Another quarter million have been allowed to take one-week vacations across the border in the British colony of Hong Kong and, officials say, tours of Japan and Singapore are planned for next year for wealthy Chinese from Guangdong province.

China's northern lands of Inner Mongolia and Liaoning are even sending 200 nurses to work in the United States, where hospital staff are in short supply, according to the New China News Agency.

Students are pouring out of China. More than 22,000 are now in the United States and 14,000 have gone to Australia over the past two years.

Western diplomats say a large proportion will overstay their visas or not come home unless deported. This has prompted Western countries to tighten visa controls.

Despite the political ups and downs in China's ambitious reform program, recent official statements indicate the "new wave" will be allowed to continue.

Premier Li Peng, making his first trip abroad since taking office in April, said in Australia last week that China had achieved great success in educating students abroad and would continue to do so.