WASHINGTON -- The Bush Administration came under strong pressure from congressional leaders Sunday to back up its verbal condemnations of the Chinese government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by imposing tough sanctions--including a halt to arms sales and the export of high technology.

"We have to make it clear that the United States will not continue to conduct business as usual with a government which engages in the wanton slaughter of its own people," said Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House panel that oversees U.S. Chinese affairs.

Helms, Cranston Join in Call

Joining in the call for stepped-up action were Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), who heads the Senate panel concerned with China, and Rep. Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

The calls for sanctions underline the pull-and-tug on the American government over the current crisis in China: For 16 years, as it sought to cultivate Beijing as a counter weight to Moscow, Washington has virtually ignored human rights violations and other problems within China's borders.

Now, while still anxious to avoid a rupture, the Bush Administration is also under pressure not to appear too complacent about senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's violent repression of freedoms that lie at the core of American values. And the pressures here come from an unusual alliance: liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

President Bush, returning to Washington from his weekend retreat in Kennebunkport, Me., kept silent Sunday about the turmoil in China, offering no statement to update his previous denunciation of the use of force there.

An Administration official said the White House and the State Department were paying "a great deal of attention" to the prospect of employing sanctions against China but would not reach a "definitive decision" until today.

U.S. Influence in Beijing

The insistent demands that the Administration punish the Chinese government for its resort to violence also raised anew the vexing question of how much the United States could influence internal affairs in a nation as powerful and as self-reliant as China.

While the advocates of stern action argued that sanctions against China were necessary if only for their symbolic value, others urged caution, saying that precipitous steps would at least be inconsequential, and could at worst be self-defeating.

"Before we all get into a tizzy on the situation, we ought to sort of settle down," Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."

"We are dealing with a huge country that has generally been extremely anti-foreign," added former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in a separate appearance on ABC-TV's "This Week." Said Kissinger: "That is a major factor in international affairs, and we don't want to give the Soviets and everybody else a free ride by going into a diplomatic antagonism to them."

"One can use the harshest words to describe yesterday's behavior of the leaders of China, and those words would be accurate," added Michel Oksenberg, a professor at the University of Michigan.

Affects Billions of People

"And yet these leaders still affect the quality of life of a billion people, and one does not wish to worsen the quality of life of those 1 billion people inadvertently."

Because the decision by China's aged leaders to unleash military force appeared to have been taken without regard for the international opprobrium that would follow, even those who called for punitive sanctions against China held out little hope that such action would force a halt to the crackdown.

Many contended, however, that the blatant and bloody nature of the Chinese action represented a human rights violation too horrific to be addressed with the kind of special treatment that has become typical of U.S. foreign policy toward China.

"Our ability to influence the course of events in China is very limited," said Solarz, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian affairs, "but there is much more at stake."