Some commenters point out that Shanghai students routinely score lower than their inland counterparts on the national examinations because the inland counterparts are more motivated. Shanghainese students already tend to be better off financially. It is also not true that students do not participate in any extracurriculars, as many students play instruments and sports. It's just that American students spend almost all their time on extracurriculars. I think people should also note that there has been a "brain drain" from China to Western nations for the past 30 years. This is why people claim that Chinese American students such as myself do better than American students (because our parents were the best and brightest already).
Oh and speaking as someone who reads a lot of comments by Chinese Internet users on Chinese BBS, I think it's safe to say that if the situation is reversed, namely Shanghai trailing the U.S., the Chinese commenters would
1) Bash the Chinese education authorities to no end
2) Try to figure out what's wrong with Chinese education
2) Tell themselves that they should learn more from the U.S.
And that's it.
Seeing how a significant portion of the comments here at the Times have been directed at finding this or that fault with China (human rights), the Chinese culture (lack of critical thinking and authoritarian) and the Chinese people (book-learnin' automatons), you really can tell the difference.
And the thing is, even when Shanghai's students did outperform their American counterparts, the Chinese commenters (yes the news has already been published in China, too) are still
1) Bashing the Chinese education authorities to no end
2) Trying to figure out what's wrong with the Chinese education (they are fully aware of the creativity thing, too)
3) Asking themselves what can be learned from the U.S.
Just based on the comments, you can see who is leaving whom in the dust.