WHEN Jonathan Moreno’s company was looking for a location for a new factory in 2009 to make its medical devices, it ruled out much of the world. Europe and the Americas were too expensive, India was too complex and intellectual-property rights in China too patchy. In the end, Vietnam was the one candidate left standing. It still seemed risky as the country was just emerging as a destination for foreign investors. Seven years on, Mr Moreno surveys the scene—employees assemble delicate diagnostic probes in a room that resembles a laboratory—and has no doubt about where his company, Diversatek, will expand next. “To the back, there and there,” he says, pointing to either side. 

It is far from alone. Foreign direct investment in Vietnam hit a record in 2015 and has surged again this year. Deals reached $11.3 billion in the first half of 2016, up by 105% from the same period last year, despite a sluggish global economy. Big free-trade agreements explain some of the appeal. But something deeper is happening. Like South Korea, Taiwan and China before it, Vietnam is piecing together the right mix of ingredients for rapid, sustained...Continue reading