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Vietnam secures status as reliable and responsible global member in pandemic era
Linh Pham 17:33, 2020/04/20
International praise for Vietnam is soaring at a time when many part of the world severely impacted by disinformation in the aftermath.

Vietnam’s minimal impact by the new coronavirus and its diplomacy in the crisis have made it a reliable and responsible global actor, a remark by international media, including the Asia Times.

 Vietnam appears to be a reliable global member. Photo: Nhac Nguyen/AFP

Vietnam’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its diplomacy amid crisis, will “enable it to demonstrate its value-added to the world,” the Asia Times cited Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Washington-based think tank.

Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia and a reputable Vietnam expert, says that Hanoi was “quick off the mark” in its version of “coronavirus diplomacy.”

In terms of the pandemic impact, through early and efficient response, Vietnam is believed to be transparent in coronavirus data, appearing as a likely post-pandemic winner.

Responsible global actor

On the other hand, Vietnam has recently ramped up medical equipment production and made related donations to countries hard hit by Covid-19, including to the US, Russia, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and the UK.

The latter five European nations, all grappling to cope with the pandemic, are strategic partners of Vietnam in recent years, Thayer noted.

US President Donald Trump earlier this month thanked “our friends in Vietnam” in a Twitter post after America received 450,000 protective hazmat suits manufactured in Vietnamese factories owned and operated by US chemical company DuPont.

Vietnam has also donated face masks, hand sanitizers, chemicals, and other Covid-19 containing supplies to medical services, and food in neighboring Cambodian and Laos, countries with which Vietnam shares special relations and where China has recently made inroads and gains. Hanoi has also given pandemic aid to Southeast Asian country Myanmar.

“The coronavirus pandemic has been a great opportunity for Vietnam to enhance its soft power, as it helped to broadcast Vietnam’s generous behavior toward the international community,” said Alexander Vuving, professor at the Daniel K Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii.

 A man walking along a street in Hanoi. Photo: Nhac Nguyen/AFP

Reliable member

Indeed, international praise for Vietnam is soaring at a time when China faces considerable criticism for not only for covering up the initial outbreak of the virus in its Hubei province, but also for spreading disinformation and propaganda in its aftermath, including a bogus official accusation that the US planted the virus in China.

Many analysts now expect Vietnam to receive the lion’s share of “second wave” factory relocations driven by the pandemic and growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the West fueled by perceptions China is chiefly responsible for the outbreak.

Politicians in Washington, Tokyo and certain European capitals now speak openly and provocatively about the need for “decoupling” from China’s economy, including to break dependence on a single foreign source for essential imports such as medical supplies.

“Vietnam is a major beneficiary of this diversification as it has proved to be friendly while still cost-effective to firms from the West,” said Vuving. “Vietnam will be, in many cases, their first choice when they look around to find a reliable alternative to the now unreliable Middle Kingdom [China].”

The shift, if indeed on the horizon, couldn’t be better timed for Vietnam. The World Bank forecasts in a worst Covid-19 case scenario that Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) will fall by 1.5 percentage points this year, down dramatically from around 7% in recent years.

While this would mark Vietnam’s lowest growth in decades, it will still be much higher than most of its Southeast Asian neighbors, including manufacturing rival Thailand, which is now officially projected to see a 5.3% contraction in GDP growth in 2020.

Investors clearly see the difference as Vietnam’s bourse has emerged as the region’s best performer this year while several of the region’s other stock markets have tanked in anticipation of Covid-19’s economic damage.

Indeed, some pundits suggest that Vietnam’s economy could bounce back faster than other Southeast Asian states in 2021, especially if the likes of the US, Japan and EU states move en masse to relocate their post-pandemic supply chains out of China and into Vietnam.

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