This LA Times articles provides the basic details:
But one faculty member, Compton recalled, told him that “we have nothing to learn from Third World education.” Another, renowned education theorist Howard Gardner, took him to task for comparing the U.S. with China.
“His point was: How can you have a great educational system when you don’t have freedom of speech?” Compton said. Compton saw the remark as missing the point: America may not have anything to learn from China’s one-party political system, but it might want to know why Chinese students do better in math and science.
The full story on this situation isn’t quite so simple; there are many in China deeply unsatisfied with the Chinese education system. But the topic is certainly worthy of debate (see earlier thread on 50 years of gaokao).