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Opinion
Shuli Ren

Can Xi’s China Correct Course on Covid — Like Vietnam?

Saigon’s economy came back to life while lockdown threats still stalk Xi’s.

Life amid Covid returned to normal more quickly in Vietnam than in China.

Life amid Covid returned to normal more quickly in Vietnam than in China.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

The world’s two largest Communist countries have a lot in common. Just over a year ago, Vietnam’s party leaders gave General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong an unprecedented third five-year term as the top leader, crediting him with successfully containing the Covid-19 pandemic. China’s President Xi Jinping is poised to win a third term as well later this year. Both countries waived politicians’ age limits for their supreme leaders. 

Keen to retain the legitimacy of one-party rule, Trong and Xi are also both anti-corruption crusaders. In China, the scope is so wide and the punishments so severe that any bureaucrat in charge of a bank, brokerage, or insurance unit could reasonably worry about possible jail time for potential missteps. Corporate loan approvals have slowed as a result. In Vietnam, Trong has likened his anti-graft drive to a “blazing furnace,” burning so hot that officials are frozen with fear. In the first seven months of 2022, Vietnam disbursed only 34.5% of what the government had planned for public investments.