The Educated Giant was a Nicholas Kristof op-ed in the NY Times about China's education system. (I'm not sure how long this link will last as they didn't have their normal long-term icon for links.) He brings up some good points like foreign language instruction starts a lot sooner in China (and most European countries) than in the U.S. He also makes a point that bears thinking about in our youth culture of "I want it now", rap music (you may agree with Russell Simmons but he's smiling all the way to the bank whether or not he puts on a public persona of "I care") and the 3 Bimbos of the Apocalypse (Britney, Paris and Lindsey). (Having said that, I do believe that climate change may be extending to hell as Paris is actually going to do jail time.)
"A third reason is that Chinese believe that those who get the best grades are the hardest workers. In contrast, Americans say in polls that the best students are the ones who are innately the smartest. The upshot is that Chinese kids never have an excuse for mediocrity."
So much of youth culture is about not being smart. It's not cool. But kids want learning easy and fast (at least my teen at home does) and no matter how entertaining or relevant you make curriculum, it takes work.
There are plenty of things you can point to as wrong with Chinese teaching starting with its roteness. But as more Chinese students learn English and come to the U.S. for college or grad school (or their universities and grad schools seek to emulate the U.S.), they might not stay in that rut. I saw on ESPN that the Chinese have now brought teams to the world cheerleading championships (stop laughing) who were terrible the first year and then, by their second year of competion, could bring it on. The Chinese may not be great innovators at this point but boy, when they put their mind to something, watch out. And I think that's Mr. Kristof's point.