by Jorge and Paola Guajardo
With all the talk in the U.S. about Tiger moms, Sputnik moments, and snowstorm-braving Chinese solving differential equations on their way to the stadium, you would think the Chinese press would enjoy its chance to gloat a little and sing the praises of a Chinese education. Not the China Daily. James Fallows's favorite newspaper is decidedly unimpressed, playing down the PISA scores that put Shanghai teenagers ahead of the rest of the world in reading, science and math and dismissing the view that Chinese-style parenting is superior.
In side-by-side articles this week, the official English-language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party seems to refute the panicked notion that China's star students will soon be taking over the world, citing the usual concerns about the Chinese educational system's focus on rote learning to the detriment of critical and creative thinking. ''Chinese educators are hardly triumphant and say different skills are needed to compete in a global knowledge economy,'' says one of the articles, which does not neglect to mention that cosmopolitan Shanghai is not representative of the rest of China, where most schools don't perform nearly as well.
This kind of coverage is all the more surprising given the increasing confidence (some would say arrogance) with which China presents itself to the world and the surge in national pride since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It would be easy to ride the wave of American skittishness about perceived Chinese superiority with a few feel-good headlines (Shanghai students best in world! U.S. falling behind in math!), but the ones above seem more in tune with Deng Xiaoping's old maxim about ''hiding your strength and biding your time."