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Three-Decade Economic Boom Comes to a Sudden Halt in Vietnam

  • Pandemic exposes Vietnam to globalization risks for first time
  • Consumer confidence hits decades low on export, tourism slide
People wear protective masks while shopping at a wet market in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Aug. 15.
People wear protective masks while shopping at a wet market in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Aug. 15.Photographer: Linh Pham/Bloomberg
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For the past three decades, Vietnam has known only good -- or great -- economic news. The nation’s consistent growth as an exporter, propelled by Communist leaders who began embracing market-oriented policies in the late 1980s, pushed many into the middle class.

The coronavirus pandemic changed all that. With garment companies seeing orders slashed and other sectors hit with sudden export declines, Vietnam’s workers are enduring the downside of being tethered to the global economy. The economic slowdown in the U.S. and other markets Vietnam depends on for growth is being felt on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as in villages and tourist centers.