The northern and western sections of Vietnam are dominated by the mountains of the Annamese Cordillera, continuations of the mountains of the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi to the north. The mountains reach elevations of more than 8,000 ft (2,440 m), and contain a notable plateau known as the Central Highlands (alt. 600-1,600 ft/180-490 m), which, although sparsely populated, contains rubber, coffee, and tea plantations. East of the Annamese Cordillera in the north is an alluvial plain drained by the Red River and other streams that empty into the Gulf of Tonkin. South of the Red River delta are the Central Lowlands, a narrow, coastal strip where short, often torrential rivers, flowing from west to east, form fertile deltas. The alluvial plain of the Mekong River delta forms the southern portion of the country. The country has a tropical monsoon climate, modified by local conditions.
The population is concentrated in the two main river deltas. The Vietnamese account for more than 85% of the population. They speak an Annamese-Muong language (see Southeast Asian languages). The approximately 50 minority groups in the highlands include the Muong, Tai, Hmong, Dao, Sedong, Jarai, Bahnar, Rhade, Cham, and smaller groups. There is a significant population of Cambodians (Khmers) near the Cambodian border and at the mouth of the Mekong River. There are large numbers of Chinese in the urban centers, although many fled after South Vietnam was defeated by the North and after a border clash with China in 1979.
A mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, and traditional local beliefs and Roman Catholicism are the most widely practiced religions. Although the Communist government has discouraged religious practice, it is tolerated within the context of government-regulated Buddhist and Catholic groups, and since the 1990s traditional worship at Buddhist temples has been encouraged. Protestant evangelical churches (found mainly among ethnic minorities) and other unregulated groups are actively suppressed. Vietnamese is the official language, and English is increasingly favored as a second language. French, Chinese, Khmer, and languages of the various minority groups are also spoken.
Agriculture still employs a majority of the population (though it produces a smaller share of the GDP than industry and services), and rice is by far the leading crop. The Mekong and Red river deltas are among the world's greatest rice-growing regions, the former benefiting from heavy rainfall and rich alluvial soil and the latter notable for its elaborate network (c.2,700 mi/4,350 km) of dikes, dams, canals, and locks that provide irrigation and flood control. Soybeans, peanuts, bananas, corn, and sweet potatoes are secondary food crops, and coffee, cotton, tea, pepper, cashews, and sugarcane are among the cash crops. Fishing and aquaculture comprise an important industry, and marine products are a major export, especially shrimp. Rubber is also important. Timber resources are still substantial, particularly in the north, but deforestation resulting from highland resettlement, shifting cultivation, and commercial cutting is an increasingly serious problem.
Most of the country's mineral resources are in the north. Vietnam produces large amounts of coal as well as having sizable deposits of phosphates, manganese, bauxite, chromate, and other metal ores. Substantial offshore oil and gas deposits exist in southern waters, and crude oil is an important export. Vietnam's industrial development was hampered by more than three decades of war, but as a result of economic reforms that began in the late 20th cent. and accelerated in the early 21st cent., there has been considerable industrial development. Important industries include food processing; machine building; mining; and the manufacture of clothing, steel, chemical fertilizers, glass, tires, and paper. The tourism industry is also significant. The major exports are crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, and shoes. The main imports are machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel, cotton, grain, and motorcycles. Vietnam's main trading partners are China, Singapore, the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
Vietnam is governed under the constitution of 1992. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the legislature for a five-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 500-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 59 provinces and five municipalities. Vietnam's Communist party is the only legal political party.
The early history of Vietnam is that of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China. The first Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese in 1535. Dutch, French, and English traders came in the 17th cent., at which time missionaries entered the area, winning many converts to Roman Catholicism. The persecution of missionaries and of their Vietnamese converts by the ruler of Vietnam was a factor prompting French conquest in the 19th cent. The French captured Saigon in 1859, and after a period of warfare, organized (1867) the colony of Cochin China. In 1884, France declared protectorates over Tonkin and Annam; in 1887 it merged Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China with Cambodia to form a union of Indochina, to which Laos was added in 1893.Nationalism and Foreign Occupation
A nationalist movement arose in Vietnam in the early 20th cent. and gained momentum during the Japanese occupation in World War II. The Japanese allowed the French Vichy administration to continue as a figurehead power until Mar., 1945, when they ousted it and established the autonomous state of Vietnam (comprising Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China) under the rule of Bao Dai, the emperor of Annam. The Bao Dai government quickly collapsed, and at the end of World War II, the Viet Minh party (the League for the Independence of Vietnam, a coalition of nationalist and Communist groups), headed by Ho Chi Minh, established a republic with its capital at Hanoi.
The Chinese Nationalists, who occupied N Vietnam for seven months after the war (in accordance with a decision made at the Potsdam Conference), did not challenge Ho's power. The French attempted to reassert their authority in Vietnam following the war, and the British, who occupied S Vietnam, permitted French troops to land and assisted them in suppressing native resistance. In Mar., 1946, France signed an agreement with Ho Chi Minh, recognizing Vietnam as a free state within the Indochina federation and the French Union. French troops were then permitted to replace the Chinese in the north. However, differences immediately arose over whether Cochin China was included in the independent state of Vietnam; in June, 1946, France supported the establishment of a separate republic of Cochin China.War with France
Fighting broke out (Nov., 1946) between Vietnamese and French troops in Haiphong, and French ships shelled the city, killing some 6,000 civilians. The next month the Viet Minh attacked the French at Hanoi, ushering in the prolonged and bloody guerrilla conflict that became known as the French Indochina War (1946-54). In an attempt to win popular support, the French in 1949 reinstalled Bao Dai as the ruler of Vietnam, of which Cochin China was then recognized to be a part.
Spurred by the Communist takeover of mainland China, which brought Chinese Communist forces to the northern border of Indochina by Dec., 1949, France concluded a treaty (ratified Feb., 1950) granting Vietnam independence within the French Union. The new state was promptly recognized by the United States, Great Britain, and other states; meanwhile the Ho regime was recognized by the USSR, Communist China, and other Soviet allies. Except for Thailand (which recognized Bao Dai), the states of Southeast Asia held aloof from both regimes.
Bao Dai failed to win the general support of the Vietnamese, many of whom saw him as a French puppet. Thousands of non-Communists joined the Viet Minh, and the war reached an eventual stalemate, with the French controlling the cities and a few isolated outposts and the Viet Minh occupying most of the countryside. France formally asked U.S. aid for the Bao Dai regime in Feb., 1950. By 1954, the United States was paying about 80% of the French war costs in Vietnam. The French military situation deteriorated rapidly in early 1954 as Viet Minh forces closed in on Dienbienphu, upon which the French had staked the defense of the Red River delta. Dienbienphu fell in May, and at the Geneva Conference of 1954, France had to accept disadvantageous terms for an armistice. The truce agreement was signed by representatives of the French Union and of the Viet Minh forces.Two Vietnams
As a temporary expedient after the Vietnamese defeat of French forces, Vietnam was divided into two parts along a line approximating the 17th parallel (lat. 17°N). North Vietnam, where the Viet Minh were the strongest, went to the Communist government of Ho Chi Minh, while South Vietnam was placed under the control of the French-backed government of Bao Dai. Freedom of movement between the two areas was to be permitted for a period of 300 days, thereby facilitating the regroupment of Communist forces in the north and non-Communist forces in the south. During this period some 900,000 people, many of whom were Catholics or individuals fleeing the land reform program initiated by the Ho Chi Minh government, migrated south. The unification of the country under one government was to be effected through general elections, later scheduled for July, 1956. These elections, which were considered likely to favor the Communists, were never held; the South Vietnamese government refused to participate on the grounds that it had not signed the Geneva agreements and was therefore not bound by them.
A few months after the partition of Vietnam in 1954, South Vietnam withdrew from the French Union and thus attained complete sovereignty. In a referendum held in Oct., 1955, the electorate deposed Bao Dai as chief of state and approved the establishment of a republic with Ngo Dinh Diem as president. The republic, proclaimed on Oct. 26, 1955, was recognized as the legal government of Vietnam by the United States, France, Great Britain, and other Western powers. Diem was faced with a war-torn economy and serious political chaos as numerous factions and individuals vied for power. He suppressed the Cao Dai, a religious sect with its own private army (the Binh Xuyen), and the Hoa Hao, an occultist religious group, both of which opposed him. But his authoritarian policies—rigid press censorship, interference with elections, restriction of opposition parties, and mass arrests—drew increasing criticism.
North Vietnam, meanwhile, continued to be dominated by Ho Chi Minh, who maintained good relations with both China and the USSR, receiving enormous aid from both countries while skillfully protecting the independence of his country. A three-year economic rehabilitation program (1958-60) and a five-year plan (1961-66), financed with Soviet and Chinese aid, were aimed at improving both industry and agriculture. Electric power production was increased fifteenfold, new mineral deposits were located, mining operations were expanded, and many new industries were established, especially in Hanoi and Haiphong. Also constructed were a large iron-and-steel complex at Thai Nguyen, a chemical combine at Viet Tri, and a textile complex at Nam Dinh. Much national effort was also devoted to the support of Communist insurgents in South Vietnam (the Viet Cong), who operated under the leadership of the National Liberation Front, an organization alleged to be indigenous to South Vietnam.The Vietnam War
By late 1961, the Viet Cong had won control of virtually half of South Vietnam with little local opposition. The United States increased its military and economic aid to combat the Communist threat and at the same time put pressure on President Diem for democratic reforms. In Apr., 1961, Diem was reelected president, but many voters boycotted the election. Resentment against the government was dramatized by the Buddhist crisis, which erupted in May, 1963, as a result of government persecution. A number of self-immolations by Buddhist monks followed. Large antigovernment demonstrations provoked police shootings, mass arrests, and more repressive government measures. These actions, along with the increasing loss of territory to the Viet Cong, prompted Diem's own military commanders to resort to a coup (Nov. 1, 1963), in which Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu (who headed the secret police), were murdered. A period of great political instability followed, with frequent changes in government, mounting disorders, and continued religious unrest (both Buddhist and Catholic).
In 1964 regular units of the North Vietnamese army began infiltrating into South Vietnam by way of what came to be known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The guerrilla conflict expanded into open warfare. The United States, deeply committed to the support of the non-Communist government of South Vietnam, became increasingly involved militarily, sending troops and then engaging in systematic bombing (see Vietnam War). The U.S. bombing of North Vietnam began after two U.S. destroyers were reportedly attacked (Aug., 1964) by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The bombing was directed at military and industrial targets and extended to Hanoi and Haiphong.
In June, 1965, a military junta came to power with Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu as chief of state and Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky as prime minister. Their regime was strengthened by the capture (1966) of Buddhist rebel strongholds in Da Nang and Hue. A new constitution (approved Mar., 1967) provided for a strong executive and a bicameral legislature. In Sept., 1967, Thieu and Ky were elected president and vice president respectively. The problems they faced were aggravated by the rapidly accelerating war. Heavy fighting in the rural areas forced thousands of people to seek refuge in the cities, where serious overcrowding ensued. Heavy damage was sustained in the Tet offensive of early 1968, especially in Hue and in the Saigon area.
Later in 1968 the United States, in response to increasing pressure by the American public, began a policy of "de-escalation." In Mar., 1968, raids north of latitude 19°N were halted to promote peace negotiations, and in Nov., 1968, all bombing ceased. Peace talks between the United States and Hanoi were begun in Paris. During this time, South Vietnam had become increasingly dependent upon U.S. aid, which reached massive proportions, and the presence of U.S. troops, whose numbers peaked at almost 550,000 in 1969 dislocated the traditional agricultural economy. Peace talks made little headway, and in early 1970 U.S. "protective action" air strikes against military installations south of latitude 19°N were resumed, as well as air strikes against North Vietnamese forces in Laos and Cambodia.
In Oct., 1971, President Thieu of South Vietnam was reelected for another four-year term; he ran unopposed as other candidates, fearing a rigged election, refused to participate. In his second term President Thieu faced serious problems. The gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops, which had begun in 1969, adversely affected the economy, bringing a severe recession. At the same time, the endless war fed a raging inflation. In Apr., 1972, in response to a major Communist drive from North Vietnam, the United States reinstituted mass bombings throughout the country; Haiphong harbor and six other North Vietnamese ports, as well as rivers and canals, were mined and effectively closed to shipping. Heavy, concentrated air strikes (as many as 340 a day) continued, with one temporary halt (Oct. 24-Dec. 18), until Dec. 30, 1972, inflicting enormous damage.
The country's industrial plant was destroyed, transportation lines were cut, and many non-military targets—including the extensive system of dikes in the Red River delta and numerous residential areas—were hit. Morale nevertheless remained high; damaged transportation facilities were constantly repaired, and "ant tactics" kept supplies laboriously moving from China. Despite the declaration of a cease-fire in Jan., 1973, fighting continued. While the fighting prevented any attempt at economic recovery in the south, North Vietnam was able to begin reconstruction with foreign aid, and in less than a year the shipyards at Haiphong, the iron- and steelworks at Thai Nguyen, and many small factories were again in operation. In 1974, South Vietnam came into direct conflict with China, which seized the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
President Thieu gradually assumed dictatorial powers; he abolished local self-government, restricted the press, arrested thousands of suspected Viet Cong sympathizers, and increased the number of executions. Mass protest demonstrations (Oct., 1974) in Saigon caused Thieu to reorganize his cabinet in an attempt to quiet the opposition. In early 1974 the constitution was amended to permit him to seek a third term in 1975, at the same time increasing that term from four to five years. During 1974 Thieu decided to abandon military defense of outlying areas, which were becoming increasingly difficult to hold without the U.S. presence. In Jan., 1975, the North Vietnamese began a major offensive, and the repeated withdrawal of South Vietnamese troops quickly enabled the North Vietnamese forces to gain a decisive advantage. By April President Thieu resigned and fled to Taiwan, the remaining government of South Vietnam surrendered, and the North Vietnamese entered Saigon without opposition.A Reunified Nation
In June, 1976, the country was officially reunited. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vietnam expanded its control of Southeast Asia by invading Cambodia (where it toppled the regime of Pol Pot and installed a Vietnamese-backed government) and also by establishing a military presence in Laos. These actions alienated Vietnam from China, its long-time ally, and generally worsened its international relations. In 1979, Vietnam and China fought a brief, but intense border war. Vietnam succeeded in establishing close ties with the Soviet Union during this period, a necessity in consideration of the severe economic difficulties caused by the war. Despite substantial aid from the Soviet Union, Vietnam continued to experience economic problems, exacerbated by a U.S. trade embargo. Economic hardship prompted the flight of great numbers of refugee boat people.
In the late 1980s changes in national leadership resulted in a policy reorientation toward privatization and efforts to attract foreign investment. In 1991, Do Muoi was chosen as party leader; Vo Van Kiet became premier and Le Duc Anh became president. Relations with China were normalized the same year. By the early 1990s the country had experienced limited success in revitalizing its economy, although there was no corresponding attempt to introduce political liberalization. In 1994 the United States ended its embargo, in response to Vietnamese cooperation in the search for missing American servicemen. A U.S. liaison office was opened in Hanoi early in 1995, and in July the United States extended full recognition to Vietnam. Also in 1995, Vietnam was admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In 1997, Le Kha Phieu took over as general secretary of the Communist party; Phan Van Khai, an economic reformer, became premier, and Tran Duc Luong was chosen as president. Vietnam's economy was affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and the country was forced to devalue its currency. China and Vietnam signed an agreement settling disputes concerning their shared land border in 1999, and the following year demarcated their territorial waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. In 2000, Vietnam and the United States signed an agreement designed to normalize trade relations between the two countries. Le Pha Phieu was replaced as party leader in 2001 by Nong Duc Manh, a moderate regarded as more receptive to further economic reform. There was speculation that Manh, an ethnic Tai, was chosen in part to help ease ethnic tensions that had sparked violence in the Central Highlands. The government has continued to move forward slowly on economic reforms, largely out of necessity. Manh was reappointed party leader in 2006, and Nguyen Tan Dung, a southerner with experience in Vietnam's security forces, and Nguyen Minh Triet, the party chief for Ho Chi Minh City, became premier and president, respectively.
See C. Bain, Vietnam: The Roots of Conflict (1967); J. F. Cairns, The Eagle and the Lotus: Western Intervention in Vietnam, 1847-1968 (1969); P. Gheddo, The Cross and the Bo-tree: Catholics and Buddhists in Vietnam (1970); D. G. Marr, Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1855-1925 (1971); S. Karnow, Vietnam (1984); W. Duiker, Vietnam since the Fall of Saigon (rev. ed. 1985); G. M. Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam (1986); M. P. Bradley, Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950 (2000); D. Lamb, Vietnam, Now (2002).
(1955–75) Protracted effort by South Vietnam and the U.S. to prevent North and South Vietnam from being united under communist leadership. After the First Indochina War, Vietnam was partitioned to separate the warring parties until free elections could be held in 1956. Ho Chi Minh's popular Viet Minh party from the north was expected to win the elections, which the leader in the south, Ngo Dinh Diem, refused to hold. In the war that ensued, fighters trained in the north (the Viet Cong) fought a guerrilla war against U.S.-supported South Vietnamese forces; North Vietnamese forces later joined the fighting. At the height of U.S. involvement, there were more than half a million U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968, in which the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked 36 major South Vietnamese cities and towns, marked a turning point in the war. Many in the U.S. had come to oppose the war on moral and practical grounds, and Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson decided to shift to a policy of “de-escalation.” Peace talks were begun in Paris. Between 1969 and 1973 U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, but the war was expanded to Cambodia and Laos in 1970. Peace talks, which had reached a stalemate in 1971, started again in 1973, producing a cease-fire agreement. Fighting continued, and there were numerous truce violations. In 1975 the North Vietnamese launched a full-scale invasion of the south. The south surrendered later that year, and in 1976 the country was reunited as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. More than 2,000,000 people (including 58,000 Americans) died over the course of the war, about half of them civilians.
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A distinct Vietnamese group began to emerge circa 200 BC in the independent kingdom of Nam Viet, which was later annexed to China in the 1st century BC. The Vietnamese were under continuous Chinese control until the 10th century AD. The southern region was gradually overrun by Vietnamese from the north in the late 15th century. The area was divided into northern and southern dynasties in the early 17th century, and in 1802 these two parts were unified under a single dynasty. Following several years of attempted French colonial expansion in the region, the French captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1859 and later the rest of the area, controlling it until World War II (see French Indochina). The Japanese occupied Vietnam in 1940–45 and allowed the Vietnamese to declare independence at the end of the war, a move the French opposed. The First Indochina War ensued and lasted until French forces with U.S. financial backing were defeated by the Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; evacuation of French troops followed. After an international conference at Geneva (April–July 1954), Vietnam was partitioned along latitude 17° N, with the northern part under the communist leadership of Ho Chi Minh and the southern part under the U.S.-supported former emperor Bao Dai; the partition was to be temporary, but the reunification elections scheduled for 1956 were never held. An independent South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam) was declared, while the communists established North Vietnam (Democratic Republic of Vietnam). The activities of North Vietnamese guerrillas and procommunist rebels in South Vietnam led to U.S. intervention and the Vietnam War. A cease-fire agreement was signed in 1973 and U.S. troops withdrawn, but the civil war soon resumed; in 1975 North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, and the South Vietnamese government collapsed. In 1976 the two Vietnams were united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. From the mid-1980s the government enacted a series of economic reforms and began to open up to Asian and Western nations. In 1995 the U.S. officially normalized relations with Vietnam.
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Vietnam (Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam; /koŋ˨ hʊa˨˩ sa˧˨˧ hoi˨ tɕu˧˩˧ ŋiə˧˨˧ vɪət˨ nam/), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.
Vietnam was under Chinese control for a thousand years before becoming a nation-state in the 10th century. Successive dynasties flourished along with geographic and political expansion deeper into Southeast Asia, until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Bitter fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a communist victory in 1975.
Emerging from a long and bitter war, the war-ravaged nation was politically isolated. The government’s centrally-planned economic decisions hindered post-war reconstruction and its treatment of the losing side engendered more resentment than reconciliation. In 1986, it instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth had been among the highest in the world in the past decade. These efforts culminated in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007 and its successful bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2008.
The name Việt Nam had been used for this country before it became the official name in "Dư địa chí" of Nguyễn Trãi written in 1435 and perhaps even before. "Việt" is the name of the largest ethnic group in Vietnam: the Kinh (người Kinh) and "Nam" means "the South", affirming Vietnam's sovereignty from China (usually called "North country" by the Vietnamese).
The area now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, and some archaeological sites in Thanh Hoa Province purportedly date back several thousand years. Archaeologists link the beginnings of Vietnamese civilization to the late Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, Phung-nguyen culture, which was centered in Vinh Phuc Province of contemporary Vietnam from about 2000 to 1400 BCE. By about 1200 BCE, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River plains led to the development of the Dong Son culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Dongsonian sites show a Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the bronze-casting technology. Many small, ancient copper mine sites have been found in northern Vietnam. Some of the similarities between the Dong Sonian sites and other Southeast Asian sites include the presence of boat-shaped coffins and burial jars, stilt dwellings, and evidence of the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening.
The legendary Hồng Bàng Dynasty of the Hùng kings is considered by many Vietnamese as the first Vietnamese state, known as Văn Lang. In 257 BCE, the last Hùng king lost to Thục Phán, who consolidated the Lạc Việt tribes with his Âu Việt tribes, forming Âu Lạc and proclaiming himself An Dương Vương. In 207 BCE, a Chinese general named Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue. In 111 BCE, the Chinese Han Dynasty consolidated Nanyue into their empire.
For the next thousand years, Vietnam was mostly under Chinese rule. Early independence movements such as those of the Trưng Sisters and of Lady Triệu were only briefly successful. It was independent as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Ly Dynasty between 544 and 602. By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not independence, under the Khúc family.
In 938 CE, a Vietnamese lord named Ngô Quyền defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and gained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control. Renamed as Đại Việt, the nation went through a golden era during the Lý and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Buddhism flourished and became the state religion. Following the brief Hồ Dynasty, Vietnamese independence was momentarily interrupted by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê Dynasty. Vietnam reached its zenith in the Lê Dynasty of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông (1460–1497). Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.
Towards the end of the Lê Dynasty, civil strife engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the Chinese-supported Mạc Dynasty challenged the Lê Dynasty's power. After the Mạc Dynasty was defeated, the Lê Dynasty was reinstalled, but with no actual power. Power was divided between the Trịnh Lords in the North and the Nguyễn Lords in the South, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades. During this time, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Champa in the central highlands and the Khmer land in the Mekong. The civil war ended when the Tây Sơn brothers defeated both and established their new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn Lords led by Nguyen Anh with the help of the French. Nguyen Anh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Despite fewer losses—Expeditionary Corps suffered 1/3 the casualties of the Chinese and Soviet-backed Viet Minh—during the course of the war, the U.S.-backed French and Vietnamese loyalists eventually suffered a major strategic setback at the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire with a favorable position at the ongoing Geneva conference of 1954. Colonial administration ended as French Indochina was dissolved. According to the Geneva Accords of 1954 the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists were separated south and north, respectively, with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, at the 17th parallel, between. A Partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bao Dai's State of Vietnam in the South Vietnam, was not intended by the 1954 Agreements, and they expressly forbade the interference of third powers. Counter to the counsel of his American advisor, the State of Vietnam Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem toppled Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diem refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the US began increasing its contribution of military advisers. US forces became embroiled in combat operations in 1965 and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. North Vietnamese forces unsuccessfully attempted to overrun the South during the 1968 Tet Offensive and the war soon spread into neighboring Laos and Cambodia, in both of which the United States bombed Communist forces supplying the North Vietnamese Army.
With its own casualties mounting, the U.S. began transferring combat roles to the South Vietnamese military in a process the U.S. called Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results. The Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973, formally recognized the sovereignty of both sides. Under the terms of the accords all American combat troops were withdrawn by March 29, 1973. Limited fighting continued, but all major fighting ended until the North once again sent troops to the South during the Spring of 1975, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. South Vietnam briefly became the Republic of South Vietnam, under military occupation by North Vietnam, before being officially integrated with the North under communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a single-party state. A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, replacing the 1975 version. The central role of the Communist Party was reasserted in all organs of government, politics and society. Only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, worker and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, the ideology's importance has substantially diminished since the 1990s. The President of Vietnam is the titular head of state and the nominal commander in chief of the military of Vietnam, chairing the Council on National Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of 3 deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions.
The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral legislature of the government, composed of 498 members. It is superior to both the executive and judicial branches. All members of the council of ministers are derived from the National Assembly. The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam, which is the highest court of appeal in the nation, is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People's Court stand the provincial municipal courts and the local courts. Military courts are also a powerful branch of the judiciary with special jurisdiction in matters of national security. All organs of Vietnam's government are controlled by the Communist Party. Most government appointees are members of the party. The General Secretary of the Communist Party is perhaps one of the most important political leaders in the nation, controlling the party's national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy.
The Vietnam People's Army is the official name for the combined military services of Vietnam, which is organized along the lines of China's People's Liberation Army. The VPA is further subdivided into the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces (including Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defense Forces), the Vietnam People's Navy, the Vietnam People's Air Force and the coast guard. Through Vietnam's recent history, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam's workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, in order to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA is involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The total strength of the VPA is close to 500,000 officers and enlisted members. The government also organizes and maintains provincial militias and police forces. The role of the military in public life has steadily been reduced since the 1980s.
The current Vietnamese foreign policy is that: "Implement consistently the foreign policy line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development; the foreign policy of openness and diversification and multilateralization of international relations. Proactively and actively engage in international economic integration while expanding international cooperation in other fields. Vietnam is a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the international community, actively taking part in international and regional cooperation processes" (Extract from The Political Report of The Central Committee - Vietnam Communist Party, 9th Tenure, at The Party’s 10th National Congress
As of December 2007, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 172 countries (the list is here: ). Vietnam holds membership of 63 international organizations such as United Nation, ASEAN, AES, La Francophonie, WTO and 650 non-government organizations
Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (known in Vietnamese as tỉnh, from the Chinese 省, shěng). There are also 5 centrally-controlled municipalities existing at the same level as provinces (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương).
The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 15,000 square kilometers, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in by the enormous alluvial deposits of the rivers over a period of millennia, and it advances one hundred meters into the Gulf annually. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 square kilometers, is a low-level plain not more than three meters above sea level at any point and criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong's various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year.
Because of differences in latitude and the marked variety of topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the China coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture; consequently the winter season in most parts of the country is dry only by comparison with the rainy or summer season. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains and plateaus and in the south than in the north. Temperatures in the southern plains (Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta) varies less, going between 21 and 28 degree Celsius (70 and 82.5 °F) over the course of a year. The seasons in the mountains and plateaus and in the north are much more dramatic, and temperatures may vary from 5 degree Celsius (41 °F) in December and January to 37 degree Celsius (98.6 °F) in July and August.
Vietnam has two World's Natural Heritage sites: Halong Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and 6 World's biosphere reserves including: Can Gio Mangrove Forest, Cat Tien, Cat Ba, Kien Giang, Red River Delta, Western Nghe An.
Vietnam is in the Indomalaya ecozone.
According to chapter 1 in National Environmental Present Condition Report 2005- Biodiversity Subject of Vietnam Environment Protection Agency, in species diversity, Vietnam is one of 25 countries having high level in biodiversity all over the world, is ranked 16th of biologically diverse level (having 16% world's species) (page 9). 15,986 flora was identified of which 10% was endemic (p9). Statistic says that there are 307 nematodes, 200 oligochaeta, 145 acarina, 113 springtails, 7750 insects, 260 reptiles, 120 amphibians, 840 birds and 310 mammals of which 100 birds and 78 mammals are endemic (p9,10). Vietnam also have 1438 fresh water microalgae (9,6% species in the world) (Table 1.2, p9). It is defined that there are 794 aquatic invertebrate and 2458 sea fish (p10,11). In recent years, there have been 13 genera, 222 species, 30 taxa of flora newly described and 6 mammals have been discovered such as the saola, giant muntjac, Edwards's Pheasant, Tonkin Snub-nosed Langur, livistona halongensis, geothelphusa vietnamica, etc (frame 1.4, p11,12). In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of 12 world's original cultivar centers (p13). Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank is preserving 12,300 cultivars of 115 species (p14).
The Vietnam War destroyed much of the economy of Vietnam. Upon taking power, the Government created a planned economy for the nation. Collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For a decade, united Vietnam's economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction and restrictions on economic activities and trade. It also suffered from the trade embargo from the United States and most of Europe after the Vietnam War. Subsequently, the trade partners of the Communist blocs began to erode. In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress introduced significant economic reforms with market economy elements as part of a broad economic reform package called "đổi mới" (Renovation). Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, foreign investment grew threefold and domestic savings quintupled. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Vietnam is a relative new-comer to the oil business, but today it is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with output of . Vietnam is one of Asia's most open economies: two-way trade is around 160% of GDP, more than twice the ratio for China and over four times India's.
Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with an annual GDP of US$280.2 billion at purchasing power parity (2006 estimate). This translates to a purchasing power of about US$3,300 per capita (or US$726 per capita at the market exchange rate). Inflation rate was estimated at 7.5% per year in 2006. Deep poverty, defined as a percent of the population living under $1 per day, has declined significantly and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines.
As a result of several land reform measures, Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts with a one-third global share and second largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand. Vietnam has the highest percent of land use for permanent crops, 6.93%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Besides rice, key exports are coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products. However, agriculture's share of economic output has declined, falling as a share of GDP from 42% in 1989 to 20% in 2006, as production in other sectors of the economy has risen. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the unemployment rate in Vietnam is 5.4% for 2007. Among other steps taken in the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam in July 2006 updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS. Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006. Vietnam's chief trading partners include Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European countries.
Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam, The Vietnam People's Army (VPA), is the official collective term for the armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The VPA consists of the Vietnam People's Ground Forces, Vietnam People's Navy, Vietnam People's Air Force, and Vietnam People's Coast Guard.
The modern transport network of Vietnam was originally developed under French rule for the purpose of raw materials harvesting, and reconstructed and extensively modernized following the Vietnam War. The road system is the most popular form of transportation in the country. Vietnam’s road system includes national roads administered by the central level; provincial roads managed by the provincial level; district roads managed by the district level; urban roads managed by cities and towns; and commune roads managed by the commune level.
Bicycles, motor scooters and motorcycles remain the most popular forms of road transport in Vietnam's cities, towns, and villages although the number of privately-owned automobiles is also on the rise, especially in the larger cities. Public bus operated by private companies is the main long distance travel means for many people. Traffic congestion is a serious problem in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the cities' roads struggle to cope with the booming numbers of automobiles. There are also more than 17,000 kilometers of navigable waterways, which play a significant role in rural life owing to the extensive network of rivers in Vietnam.
Recent census estimates the population of Vietnam at beyond 84 million. Vietnamese people, also called "Viet" or "Kinh", account for 86.2 percent of the population. Their population is concentrated in the alluvial deltas and coastal plains of the country. A homogeneous social and ethnic majority group, the Kinh exert political and economic control. There are more than 54 ethnic minorities throughout the country, but the Kinh are purveyors of the dominant culture. Most ethnic minorities, such as the Muong, a closely related ethnic of the Kinh, are found mostly in the highlands covering two-thirds of the territory. The Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Khmer Krom are mainly lowlanders. The largest ethnic minority groups include the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, and Nung.
The people of Vietnam speak Vietnamese as a native language. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called Chữ nôm. The celebrated epic Đoạn trường tân thanh (Truyện Kiều or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyễn Du was written in Chữ nôm. During the French colonial period, Quốc ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, which was developed in 17th century by Jesuit Alexandre De Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries, became popular and brought literacy to the masses.
Various other languages are spoken by several minority groups in Vietnam. The most common of these are Tày, Mường, Khmer, Chinese, Nùng, and H'Mông. The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is still spoken by some older Vietnamese as a second language, but is losing its popularity. Vietnam is also a full member of the Francophonie. Russian — and to a much lesser extent German, Czech, or Polish — is sometimes known among those whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc. In recent years, English is becoming more popular as a second language. English study is obligatory in most schools. Chinese and Japanese have also become more popular.
For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have strongly influenced the religious and cultural life of the people. About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism even though they do not practice on a regular basis. About 8% of the population are Christians (about 6 million Roman Catholics and less than 1 million Protestants, census of 2007). Christianity was introduced first by the Portuguese and the Dutch traders in the 16th and 17th centuries, then further propagated under the French colonists in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to a lesser extent, by American Protestant missionaries during the presence of American forces during the 1960s and early 70's. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church.
Vietnam has great reservation towards Roman Catholicism. This mistrust originated during the French colonial time when some Catholics collaborated with the French colonists as espionage agents and militiamen to suppress the Vietnamese independence movement. Furthermore, the Church's teaching regarding communism made it an unwelcome counterforce to communist rule. Relationship with the Vatican, however, has improved in recent years. Membership of Sunni and Bashi Islam is usually accredited to the ethnic Cham minority, but there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents of Islam in the southwest. The total number of Muslims remains very small nevertheless. The communist government has from time to time been criticized for its religious restrictions although it has categorically denied that such restrictions exist today.
The vast majority of Vietnamese people of Asian religions practice Ancestor Worship, although this may not be strictly considered a religion.
From the articles of Religions by country, Religion in Vietnam and Demographics of Vietnam; 85% is nominal/secular Buddhists including predominant 83% East Asian Buddhist or "Triple religion" (80% of people are worship the mixture of Mahayana Buddhism mainly, Taoism, Confucianism with Ancestor Worship; 2% Hòa Hảo with 1% of some new Vietnamese-Buddhist sects as Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa, Pure Land Buddhist, etc) and 2% Theravada Buddhism, mainly among Khmer people but the census of Government showed that only over 10 million people have taken refuge in the Three Jewels; 8% Christians (7% Catholics and 1% Protestants); 3% Caodaism; 2.5% Tribal animism; less than 70 thousand Muslims; small Hindu communities (over 50 thousand people) and a small numbers of Baha'is.
The culture of Vietnam has been influenced by neighboring China. Due to Vietnam's long association with the south of China, one characteristic of Vietnamese culture is filial duty. Education and self-betterment are highly valued. Historically, passing the imperial Mandarin exams was the only means for Vietnamese people to socially advance themselves.
In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.
One of the most popular Vietnamese traditional garments is the "Áo Dài", worn often for special occasions such as weddings or festivals. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam. Áo Dài was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by females, except for certain important traditional culture-related occasions where some men do wear it.
Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.
Vietnamese music varies slightly in the three regions: Bắc or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez-faire attitude.
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam. Sports and games such as badminton, tennis, ping pong, and chess are also popular with large segments of the population. Volleyball, especially women's volleyball, is watched by a fairly large number of Vietnamese people. The (expatriate Vietnamese) community forms a prominent part of Vietnamese cultural life, introducing Western sports, films, music and other cultural activities in the nation.
See also List of Vietnamese traditional games.
Vietnam is home to a small film industry.
Among countless other traditional Vietnamese occasions, the traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important. Regardless of westernization, many of the age-old customs in a Vietnamese wedding continue to be celebrated by both Vietnamese in Vietnam and overseas, often combining both western and eastern elements.
See also List of festivals in Vietnam
|Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal||Index of Economic Freedom||142 out of 157|
|The Economist||Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005||61 out of 111|
|Reporters Without Borders||Worldwide Press Freedom Index||155 out of 167|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index||111 out of 163|
|United Nations Development Programme||Human Development Index||109 out of 177|
|World Economic Forum||Global Competitiveness Report||77 out of 125|