Last month the magazine Kuo-shih Ping-lun (Voice of China) was banned for 12 months. Its offense: an editorial and an article in the July issue advocating peace talks with Peking.
The Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist) government on Taiwan opposes negotiations of any kind with the mainland government led by the Chinese Communist Party. But how Taiwan should respond to Peking's mailed-fist-in-velvet-glove peace offensive is a subject of intense, growing debate on this prosperous, bustling island of 18 million people.
The velvet glove is Peking's offer of reunification talks on an equal, party-to-party basis between the communists and the Kuomintang. The mailed fist is the communist government's intense pressure on the Reagan administration to stop American arms sales to Taiwan, and its refusal to commit itself explicitly and solely to peaceful means to achieve the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.
Taiwan's opinion leaders are nearly unanimous in their deep suspicion of Peking's motives. But they are divided on how to respond to the peace offensive.
Some agree with the government that there is nothing to talk about. Others say their government has been too passive, that an obstinate refusal to talk will corrode Taiwan's international position, especially in the eyes of American public opinion. And American support is essential to Taiwan's survival.
The Kuomintang government's basic attitude toward reunification was spelled out by Premier Sun Yun-hsuan in a much-noticed speech June 10. He said the communists should give up their ''four principles'' and accept Dr. Sun Yat-sen's ''three principles'' of nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood. (The communists' four principles are socialism, Communist Party leadership, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and Marxism-Leninism-Maoist thought.)
''We should leave the problem of China's future to the decision of the Chinese people as a whole,'' Mr. Sun said. ''If the political, economic, social, and cultural gaps between the Chinese mainland and free China continue to narrow , the conditions for peaceful reunification can gradually mature.''
Although taking a far less confrontational attitude toward the communists than previously, Mr. Sun did not respond directly to the communist proposal for talks, nor did he put forward specific counterproposals.
The banned issue of Kuo-shih Ping-lun criticized this lack of specificity in the government's response. ''If we do not quickly prepare specific proposals for talks,'' wrote the magazine's publisher, Huang Tien-chung, ''it will be difficult to avoid being placed in all respects in a position of passivity.''
An article by Tang Chien-kuo in the banned issue applauds Mr. Sun's stand but criticizes the government for not making this stand a basis for peace talks.
The article suggests disarming all military forces on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and a vote by all Chinese as to which type of government they would prefer. If the communists accept this proposal and a vote is held, Sun Yat-sen's three principles surely would win, the article says. If they reject the proposal, it will be clear the communists are insincere.
In the course of his argument, Mr. Tang attacks the Kuomintang's ''peace talks phobia.'' He accuses the party, which he says has become accustomed to the idea of being permanently in power, of being arrogant, domineering, and filled with parochial pride - a veritable big frog in a small pond.
Another magazine, the weekly China Times, took up the reunification question in an article by its editor, Peng Huai-en, in its issue of May 23-29. The China Times is published by a prominent Kuomintang member, and this issue was not banned.
Mr. Peng called on the government to show more flexibility in its policy of ''no contacts and no negotiations'' with the communists, as well as on the touchy question of sovereignty. Taiwan, as the Republic of China, insists it has full sovereignty over all China.
Therefore, he says, the Republic of China (i.e., Taiwan) must recognize that today's China is a ''multi-systemed country.'' The idea of one country, two governments has not been accepted by Peking or the Kuomintang.
But the fact that such ideas are being openly debated in Taiwan shows the effect Peking's peace proposals have had here and the rethinking that is going on among intellectuals and opinion leaders in their efforts to wrest the peace intiative from Peking.