Many of Asia’s developing countries have long relied on factories producing T-shirts, trousers and shoes that employ millions of people and help them climb the income ladder. This is how Bangladesh slashed poverty, Vietnam began its manufacturing dream and Myanmar set out to grow after years of crippling sanctions.

When the coronavirus struck, stores closed across North America and Europe. Western brands canceled orders worth billions of dollars, leaving shipments of sweaters and jeans with no takers. Hundreds of factories…



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