CHINA yesterday revealed contacts were under way to prepare for a meeting of the Joint Liaison Group's Airport Committee, as Sino-British negotiations on political reform entered their second day in Beijing. It is understood the First Department of the State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office, which is in charge of economic affairs, has been studying a new financing package for the airport at Chek Lap Kok, put to it by the Hongkong Government earlier this month. Vice-Director Mr Chen Ziying said yesterday the Chinese Government was adopting a positive attitude towards the project. ''We hope the airport problem will eventually be resolved according to [the terms of] the Memorandum of Understanding,'' he said. Asked when the Airport Committee - which has not met since autumn - would hold its next formal session, Mr Chen said: ''We need to conduct preparatory work for the meeting.'' The resumption of informal contacts through the Airport Committee preceded the the third round of Sino-British talks on electoral arrangements, which yesterday saw negotiators from the two sides meet for 21/2 hours in Beijing. Speaking to the press later, British chief negotiator and Ambassador to China Sir Robin McLaren said the talks had been held in a ''good atmosphere'', the first time he has described the talks in this manner. Optimism about the progress of the third round - which ends today - was also encouraged by a front-page photograph in yesterday's state-run China's Daily newspaper, which showed all members of the British team, including those Beijing insists are only ''advisers and experts''. Pictures published during previous rounds were cropped to show only the two chief negotiators. Sir Robin refused to comment on whether progress had been made at the talks. ''We are proceeding in a normal way and in a way that international negotiations do go on. It's normal for the atmosphere to be good,'' he said. Asked when the fourth round would be held, Sir Robin said the two sides had yet to discuss that. But British officials in London said it was hoped there would be another working session within 10 days at which real progress might be achieved. ''The aim is to get these talks to crack ahead just as quickly as possible,'' one Whitehall source said. Foreign Office officials repeated there was no timetable for the talks, and described any attempt to force the pace by presenting Governor Mr Chris Patten's political reform proposals to the Legislative Council as a high-risk strategy that should be avoided if possible. However, one official source in London said yesterday Britain and China might reach agreement to split talks on the 1994 district board elections from those on the 1995 Legco polls. He said that would help give an indication of progress to help calm uneasy legislators, and underline China's insistence that the talks are not based on the Patten package. ''There is definitely a worry about restiveness among Legco and other people in Hongkong at the apparent lack of progress in the talks. Splitting the arrangements for the two elections would be one way around this,'' the source said. The Foreign Office will announce on Tuesday that Hongkong Minister Mr Alastair Goodlad will visit the territory next week while Parliament is in recess.