While she commends the Chinese educational system for its knowledge-based teaching in subjects like math, Junheng Li, citing her classroom experiences as a student growing up in China, explains that children still learn “by rote” and become “willing tools for the state.” From The Daily Beast:
[…]Two decades ago, I studied a very similar lesson as a grade school student in Shanghai, when we had to read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” a story about a poverty-stricken little girl who spends New Year’s Eve trying to sell matches to passersby. Though chilled to the bone, she is afraid to return home where she knows she will face a beating from her father. So she lights the few matches she has left to try to keep warm, and tragically freezes to death during the night.
Although the story was written by a Danish children’s writer in the 1800s, China’s Communist Party taught it as an example of capitalism’s brutality and heartlessness. There was one thing and one thing only we needed to remember about the story for the final exam: it was about the brutality and selfishness of capitalist society such that the protagonist’s very life depended exclusively on her commercial enterprise, and that capitalist class divisions promoted exploitation of poor workers like the little girl. It was a mouthful of a lesson, but after learning it once, you never had to memorize it again. This kind of lesson eventually became intuitive—it was a safe go-to answer on all our tests.[Source]