China Paper Tiger: Communism Explained in 30 Words (And a Lot More)

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The problem with central planning is central planners, and that’s why I’m convinced Communist China is a paper tiger.

Let’s see if I can convince you, too.

As economists much smarter than I’ll ever be — I’m thinking now specifically of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman — have pointed out, even if central planners were perfect angels, they would still lack the information, foresight, and simple wisdom necessary to make central planning work.

But as every single attempt at socialism or communism has proven, central planners are no angels. Planning that high up requires coercion, which is why “centrally planned economy” is basically synonymous with “police state.”

Sometimes, at least from the comfort of an ocean away, the central planners’ follies can bring a smile to your face.

Here’s an example of just that:

“Heh,” as the wise man once said.

Admittedly it’s less funny when you stop to remember that in our global economy, Chinese central planning screw-ups drive up our energy prices, too. But the nearly suicidal folly of letting a Communist-ruled nation into the WTO is a VIP column for another day.

Here’s another example. Just last month, China demolished 15 skyscrapers simultaneously. That’s an impressive display of demolition engineering, but it’s an even more impressive display of how central planners can cause ghost towns of skyscrapers to arise almost out of thin air, only to be demolished.

China is littered with ghost towns like that one, cities that not only aren’t inhabited but were never inhabited.

Given the frightful condition of Communist construction quality, that’s probably for the best:

A sand scandal is brewing in China, with concerns that low-quality concrete has been used in the construction of many of the country’s largest buildings — putting them at risk of collapse.

When the central planners mandate your construction company into building skyscrapers that might never be inhabited, and at a money-losing price, you’ll skimp on the quality.

It’s possible that things are even worse for Communist China on the military side than on the economic one.

If you want to know why China has been baring its teeth so much in recent years, it’s because paper tigers need to trick you into thinking those origami fangs are actually sharp enamel.

Communist China is engaging in a massive naval buildup, but their conventionally powered aircraft carriers don’t have much reach, can’t carry as many munitions or as much aviation fuel as ours and, most importantly, they don’t have the century of experience we do with naval aviation doctrine and operations.

Also for our VIPs: Joe Biden, Milton Friedman, and the Tyranny of Tiny Minds

Plus, the Soviet-derived planes suck:

At the end of the day, the Chinese reverse engineered the J-15 design from an incomplete prototype of the Sukhoi Su-33 that it acquired from Ukraine. While Chinese engineers might have gained considerable insight into the Flanker design from the T-10K-3 and other Su-27 derivatives in Beijing’s possession, because they did not develop the jet or its systems, they do not fully understand the airframe due to some of the traditional limitations inherent to reverse engineering. These gaps in knowledge probably led to the some of the problems the Chinese are now encountering with the J-15 design.

Where China does seem to be excelling is in nuclear delivery systems. Beijing is engaging right now in a buildup of land-based ICBM forces that will very soon far outnumber our own. The recent reveal of a new fractional orbit hypersonic missile is just as worrisome. But unless Beijing is willing to start a civilization-ending global thermonuclear war, those shiny new sabers will have to stay sheathed.

ASIDE: The real problem with China’s nuclear forces is that they could use the threat of them as a shield to hide behind while absorbing Taiwan or Luzon. Other than that, it looks like we’re back to living in a MAD MAD MAD MAD world. I had really hoped that would never happen again.

Chinese military training is notoriously suspect, too, and Chinese military leadership is dangerously politicized.

None of this means that Beijing isn’t capable of causing us tremendous trouble. From sapping our industrial base to unleashing COVID on the world, they most certainly are.

All of this isn’t to say we don’t have problems. We do. Serious problems.

Our own military leadership is also dangerously politicized, and our own training has grown dangerously slack. We’re about to enter a woke-induced recruitment and retention crisis, too — assuming we aren’t in one already.

It was also just determined that we lost a light aircraft carrier in peacetime — the USS Bonhomme Richard — because, in part, the crewmen charged with maintaining it could neither recognize nor properly fight a fire.

Domestically, we’re in the middle of what might properly be called a cultural revolution much like China’s. This homegrown “woke” revolt could tear the country apart, turn it into a police state, or lead to a violent and ugly counterrevolution like America has never seen.

But having never fully embraced either central planning or leftist nihilism, there’s still hope for us.

For Communist China, much less so.


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