Vietnam’s COVID-19 response had been one of the most effective in the world. Its comparatively record low number of cases and deaths and its impressive economic performance during the global pandemic boosted the country’s reputation internationally. A good economic performance boosted the confidence of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) just as it was undergoing a leadership change. A study conducted among 23 countries in May 2020 revealed that Vietnamese respondents recorded the second-highest level of satisfaction after China, with 77% rating positively their government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. 2020 was also a critical year for Vietnam’s politics, both because of the country’s important diplomatic roles as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and because of the once-every-five years Party Congress in early 2021. Moreover, the 13th Party Congress was one of the most important since 1986, when the country embarked on the transformative Doi Moi reforms of renovation, happening amidst political infighting and generational change within the party.