There's a lot to like about "Chinese" mothering. Namely, you assume that your children are strong. They are smart and capable kids. While I don't agree that motivational insults are a good idea (the world is not going to be a supportive place -- why shouldn't parents be kind?) accepting failure as the best the kid can do isn't a good idea either. Chua also has a great point that nothing is fun until you're good at it. You get good at things by working. But kids often don't want to work. This is where a parent steps in to force the early stages (though again, it's hard to know why only piano and violin are considered worthy things to be good at).
Chua's essay has sparked a lot of controversy, and I'm really curious what Gifted Exchange readers think. But one of the most interesting commentaries (of course) is from that gadfly Charles Murray. He blogs that "large numbers of talented children everywhere would profit from Chua’s approach, and instead are frittering away their gifts—they’re nice kids, not brats, but they are also self-indulgent and inclined to make excuses for themselves. There are also large numbers of children who are not especially talented, but would do a lot better in school if their parents applied the same intense home supplements to their classroom work."
That said, Murray notes, here's a point that Chua doesn't necessarily raise. Her kids were going to do pretty well regardless (indeed, Chua's more indulgent husband seems to have been raised in a different fashion, and yet he's incredibly successful too). As Murray calculates Chua's children's genes:
"Mother: able to get into Harvard (a much better indicator of her IQ than the magna cum laude in economics that she got there); Executive Editor of the Law Review at Harvard Law School.
Father: Summa cum laude from Princeton and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, now a chaired professor at Yale Law School.
Guess what. Amy Chua has really smart kids. They would be really smart if she had put them up for adoption at birth with the squishiest postmodern parents. They would not have turned out exactly the same under their softer tutelage, but they would probably be getting into Harvard and Princeton as well. Similarly, if Amy Chua had adopted two children at birth who turned out to have measured childhood IQs at the 20th percentile, she would have struggled to get them through high school, no matter how fiercely she battled for them."
There is probably something to this as well. Parenting and genes both play a role, though since they often come in a package, it's hard to tease out what matters.