At a town hall in Jackson, Miss., on Friday morning, Mitt Romney offered his usual full-throated defense of free enterprise and small government. He criticized the large number of employees and small workload in the Navy purchasing department, said health care needed to operate more like a private market, and told the audience, "I want freedom to reign forever in this country."
But in an answer warning against the dangers of over-regulation, Romney chose a curious example to tout free enterprise: China.
I got the chance after I lost to John McCain last time, to go over to -- that was the good part of losing -- I got to go to the Olympic Games in China. It's pretty impressive over there how quickly they can build things, how productive they are as a society. You should see their airport compared to our airports, their highways, their train systems. They're moving quickly in part because the regulators see their job as encouraging private people. It's amazing. The head of Coca-Cola said the business environment is friendlier in China than in America. And that's because of the regulators. That's because of government.
They're also moving quickly, of course, because China's communist government can seize property by fiat and marshal state-owned industries to build large projects. While much of China's economy is capitalist, Romney's praise of infrastructure projects like roads and airports seemed to be an odd defense of centrally directed economics.
His comments also contrasted sharply with his typically harsh rhetoric on China, which he routinely refers to as a "currency manipulator" and threatens with higher tariffs.
Listen to Romney's comments here: