As more Chinese parents adopt a Western style of parenting that allows children more freedom and encouragement, Amy Chua and her book lauding strict Chinese parenting as superior ignited unprecedented attention among Americans.
Chua made the cover of the latest issue of Time Magazine, continuing to provoke heated discussion among Americans over her alleged Chinese parenting methods including no grades lower than A, no sleepovers, TV or computer games.
As many in the US became furious at her "ruthless" way, asking "where is the love and respect for children," some are wondering whether the Chinese approach creates smarter people who can take the lead in the future global marketplace - especially after teenagers from Shanghai in December posted the top scores in an international test of practical knowledge in reading, mathematics and science.
The US students, in contrast, ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math.
"In fact, the US would benefit more from the Chinese way of parenting as nowadays more top students in well-off urban China choose the US for higher education and future employment," Liu Pengzhi, headmaster of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, one of the top high schools in Beijing said.
Last year, China surpassed India to send the most students to the US. By the end of 2010, students from China accounted for 19 percent of the international students in the US.
In 2009-2010, about 128,000 Chinese students were studying in the US, mainly in undergraduate and graduate programs, up 30 percent over the previous academic year, a study by the US-based Institute of International Education showed.
That the number of students from China is booming is because of a booming Chinese economy and a determination held by Chinese parents to invest money to ensure their children get the best education possible, Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice-president of the institute once told the New York Times.
That sounds true to a rising number of young and well-educated Chinese parents, who have begun to adopt a new parenting method largely inspired by the Western approach.
Allowing children the freedom to explore other possibilities besides academic study, respecting their rights to a happy and playful childhood, and more encouragement are among the key elements, said Sun Hongyan, a division director of the China Youth and Children Research Center.
"It's true children need prodding and discipline but a relaxed environment coupled with quality education will help foster smart, creative, and physically and mentally healthy children rather than the goof only good at academic results," said Yang Jianfen, a Beijing-based mom who holds a master's degree in Chinese literature and works as a civil servant.
In Chinese academic circles, some are also reflecting on the Chinese way of parenting and education, which seems challenged to raise creative minds like Bill Gates - a Harvard dropout.
"In my opinion, compared with highly strict Chinese parenting, the Western way exerts more positive influence on children's mental health," said Cui Yonghua, a leading psychiatrist at Beijing Anding Hospital.
Cui pointed out that many Chinese parents now focus too much on children's IQ development and physical health but little on their mental health. And it's not good for parents to protect their children from every pressure and discomfort.
"Parents should believe that children are able and flexible," he said.