Few economies, if any, had a better 2020 - or seem better positioned to thrive in 2021 - than Vietnam’s.
As governments from Washington to Tokyo struggle to contain second and third waves of Covid-19 infection, Hanoi is winning accolades for a sage and nimble pandemic response. Though criticized early on for harsh social-distancing dictates, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s government avoided the growth-killing lockdowns seen elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
What’s more, Vietnam’s 97 million people avoided the ghastly body counts, overwhelmed hospitals and national bickering about economic growth tradeoffs. Vietnam’s 35 official deaths on roughly 1,550 cases explain how it managed to expand a China-beating 2.91% last year.
Covid-19 isn’t Vietnam’s only 2020 triumph. It also emerged as a rare winner from Donald Trump’s trade war with China, a brawl that has devastated Asian supply chains. No country in Asia has been more proactive - and successful - in luring factory jobs fleeing the mainland than Vietnam.
Yet does Vietnam have what it takes to make a go of this breakout moment?