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Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam
Flag of Vietnam Ruling Party: Communist Party of Vietnam of Vietnam
MottoĐộc lập - Tự do - Hạnh phúc
"Independence - Freedom - Happiness"
AnthemTiến Quân Ca
"Army March" (first verse)
Location of Vietnam
Map of Vietnam, see also; Atlas of Vietnam
Capital Hanoi
21°2′N 105°51′E / 21.033°N 105.85°E / 21.033; 105.85
Largest city Ho Chi Minh City
Official languages Vietnamese
Demonym Vietnamese
Government Socialist republic,1
Single-party communist state
 -  President Nguyễn Minh Triết
 -  Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
 -  General Secretary of CPV Nông Đức Mạnh
 -  National Assembly Chairman Nguyễn Phú Trọng
 -  Đại Việt 1054 
 -  French annexation 1853 to 1883 
 -  Independence from France September 2, 1945 
 -  Reunification April 30, 1975 
 -  Current constitution December 19, 1980 
 -  Total 331,690 km2 (65th)
128,527 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.3
 -  2008 mid-year estimate 86,116,559 (13th)
 -  1999 census 76,323,173 
 -  Density 253/km2 (46th)
655/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $221.614 billion[1] (46th)
 -  Per capita $2,589[1] (128th)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $70.943 billion[1] (60th)
 -  Per capita $828[1] (140th)
Gini (2002) 37 (medium) (59th)
HDI (2008)  0.718 (medium) (114th)
Currency đồng (₫) (VND)
Time zone UTC+7 (UTC+7)
 -  Summer (DST) No DST (UTC+7)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .vn
Calling code 84
Location of Vietnam
1 According to the official name and 1992 Constitution.

Vietnam (pronounced /ˌviːɛtˈnɑːm, ˌvjɛt-/; Vietnamese: Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: 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.

The people of Vietnam regained independence and broke away from China in AD 938 after their victory at the battle of Bạch Đằng River. 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. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

Emerging from this prolonged military engagement, 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.



Through the centuries, Vietnam has been called by many different names: Văn Lang during the Hùng Vương Dynasty, Âu Lạc during the An Dương Vương dynasty, Nam Viet during the Trieu Dynasty, Van Xuan during the Anterior Lý Dynasty, Đại Cồ Việt during the Đinh dynasty and Anterior Lê Dynasty. Starting in 1054, Vietnam was called Đại Việt (Great Viet). During the Hồ Dynasty, Vietnam was called Đại Ngu (Hán tự: ). Then, in 1804, King Gia Long planned to use the name of Nam Việt for Vietnam then changed it to Việt Nam. In English, the two words are combined into one word, "Vietnam". From 1839 to 1945, Emperor Minh Mạng renamed Việt Nam to Đại Nam (literally "Great South").

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).


Pre-Dynastic era

Song Da bronze drum's surface, Vietnam

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.

Dynastic era

Emperor's Tomb in Hue

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.[2] 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.

Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam Tien, 1069-1757).

In 938 CE, a Vietnamese lord named Ngô Quyền defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and regained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control.[3] Renamed as Đại Việt, the nation went through a golden era during the and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions.[4] 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).[5] They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.[6][7]

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.

Western colonial era

Vietnam's independence was gradually eroded by France in a series of military conquests from 1859 until 1885 when the entire country became part of French Indochina. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was propagated widely in Vietnamese society. Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Dinh Phung, Emperor Ham Nghi and Ho Chi Minh calling for independence. However, the French maintained control of their colonies until World War II, when the Japanese war in the Pacific triggered the invasion of French Indochina in 1941. This event was preceded by the establishment of the Vichy French administration, a puppet state of Nazi Germany then ally of the Japanese Empire. The natural resources of Vietnam were exploited for the purposes of the Japanese Empire's military campaigns into the British Indochinese colonies of Burma, the Malay Peninsula and India.

First Indochina War

French paratroopers in the delta area of northern Vietnam (1952)

In 1941, the Viet Minh  — a communist and nationalist liberation movement  — emerged under Ho Chi Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted independence on September 2.[8] In the same year the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which was originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces, in order to pacify the liberation movement and to restore French rule. On November 20, 1946, triggered by the Haiphong Incident, the First Indochina War between Viet Minh and the French forces ensued, lasting until July 20, 1954.

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.[9]

Vietnam War

Children running down a road near Trang Bang after a VNAF napalm attack. June 8, 1972

Democratic nationwide elections mandated by the Geneva Conference of 1954 having been thwarted by Ngo Dinh Diem, the communist nationalist National Liberation Front began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s, assisted by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, to overthrow Diem's government, which the NLF's official statement described as a "disguised colonial regime"[9]

In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diem's pro-Catholic discrimination erupted following the banning of the Buddhist flag and the Hue Vesak shootings. This resulted in a series of mass demonstrations known as the Buddhist crisis. With Diem unwilling to bend, his brother orchestrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids. As a result, the US' relationship with Diem broke down and resulted in coup that saw Diem killed.

Diem was followed by a series of military regimes that often lasted only months before being toppled by another. With this instability, the communists began to gain ground.

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.[10] North Vietnamese forces attacked most major targets in southern Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive.[11] Communist forces supplying the NLF carried supplies along the Truong Son Road, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. The US president authorized Operation Menu, a SAC bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which he kept secret from the US Congress.[12][13]

Its own casualties mounting, and facing opposition to the war at home and condemnation abroad, the U.S. began transferring combat roles to the South Vietnamese military according to the Nixon Doctrine; the process was subsequently called Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results. The Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973, formally recognized the sovereignty of Vietnam "as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements". 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.


Upon taking control of the bomb-ravaged country, the Vietnamese communists banned all other political parties, forced public servants and military personnel of the Republic of Vietnam into reeducation camps. The government also embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. Millions of people fled the country in crudely-built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis.[14][15] In 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia (sparking the Cambodian-Vietnamese War) which removed the Khmer Rouge from power.[16] This action worsened relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam (the Sino-Vietnamese War) in 1979.[17] This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.

Đổi Mới

In a historic shift in 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation). With the authority of the state remaining unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged. The economy of Vietnam has achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment.

Government and politics

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(VPA) 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.

Human Rights

In its 2004 report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of State characterized Vietnam’s human rights record as “poor” and cited the continuation of “serious abuses.” According to the report, the government has imposed restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.

International relations

The current Vietnamese foreign policy is: "Implement consistently the foreign policy line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development; the foreign policy of openness and diversification and multi-lateralization 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[18]

As of December 2007, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 172 countries.[19] Vietnam holds membership of 63 international organizations such as the United Nations, ASEAN, NAM, La Francophonie, WTO and 650 non-government organizations.[20]


Provinces of Vietnam

Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (known in Vietnamese as tỉnh, from the Chinese , shěng). There are also 5 centrally-controlled municipalities existing at the same level as provinces (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương).

The provinces are further subdivided into provincial municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc tỉnh), townships (thị xã) and counties (huyện), and then, subdivided into towns (thị trấn) or communes ().

The centrally-controlled municipalities are subdivided into districts (quận) and counties, and then, subdivided into wards (phường).

Geography and climate

Vietnam is approximately 331,688 km² (128,066 sq mi) in area (not including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands), larger than Italy and almost the size of Germany. The perimeter of the country running along its international boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi). The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the area, with smaller hills accounting for 40% and tropical forests 42%. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m (10,312 ft). The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Annamite Chain peaks, extensive forests, and poor soil. Comprising five relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land.

The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 15,000 km²,[21] 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 km², is a low-level plain no 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.

Topography of Vietnam.
Ban Gioc Waterfalls in Northern Vietnam.

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 °C (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 °C (41 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (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 of the 2005 National Environmental Present Condition Report, "Biodiversity Subject of Vietnam Environment Protection Agency",[22] in terms of species diversity Vietnam is one of twenty five countries considered to possess a high level of biodiversity, and is ranked 16th in biological diversity (having 16% world's species) (page 9). 15,986 flora were identified, of which 10% are endemic (p9). Statistics indicate 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 has 1438 fresh water microalgae (9,6% species in the world) (Table 1.2, p9). It is also noted that there are 794 aquatic invertebrates and 2458 sea fish (p10,11). In recent years, there have been 13 genera, 222 species, and 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, and others (frame 1.4, p11,12). In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centers (p13). The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank is preserving 12,300 cultivars of 115 species (p14).

In chapter 4 of that report, it is said that the Vietnamese government spent 49.07 million USD for preserving biodiversity in 2004 (p71) and has established 126 conservation areas including 28 national parks (p73).


Vietnamese currency: 500 000 VND

Historically, Vietnam has been an agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivating.

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 newcomer to the oil business, but today it is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with output of 400,000 barrels per day (64,000 m³/d). 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.[23]

Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with an annual GDP of US$280.2 billion at purchasing power parity (2006 estimate).[24] 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.[25]

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 4.3%.[26] 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 China, Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European countries.


Coast guard station in Hà Tiên

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.


Hai Van Pass.

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 km of navigable waterways, which play a significant role in rural life owing to the extensive network of rivers in Vietnam.

The nation has seven developed ports and harbors at Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai (Halong City), Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang.



Close portrait of a Hmong woman

Recent census estimates the population of Vietnam at beyond 84 million. Vietnamese people, also called "Viet" or "Kinh", account for 86.2% 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 minority groups 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. Before the Vietnam War, the population of the Central Highlands was almost exclusively Degar (over 40 hill tribal groups).[citation needed] The Hoa (ethnic Chinese)[27] and Khmer Krom are mainly lowlanders. The largest ethnic minority groups include the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, and Nung. From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam.[28]


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.


Religions of Vietnam
religion percentage
"One pillar" pagoda, Hanoi capital.
Cao Dai temple in My Tho

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, though not all practice on a regular basis.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35] About 8% of the population are Christians (about six million Roman Catholics and fewer than one million Protestants, according to the census of 2007). Christianity was introduced first by the Portuguese and the Dutch traders in the 16th and 17th centuries, then further propagated by French missionaries 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 1970s. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Two thirds of Vietnam's Protestants are ethnic minorities.[36]

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.[citation needed] Furthermore, the Church's teaching in Vietnam 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, a small minority faith, is primarily practiced by the ethnic Cham minority, though there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents in the southwest. 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.

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[37][38]; 8% Christians (7% Catholics and 1% Protestants); 3% Caodaism; 2.5% Tribal animism; less than 70 thousand Muslims (mainly Cham people);[39] small Hindu communities (over 50 thousand people) and a small number of Baha'is and Jews.


Vietnam has an extensive state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities but the number of privately-run and mixed public and private institutions is also growing. General education in Vietnam is imparted in 5 categories: Kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college / university. Courses are taught mainly in Vietnamese. A large number of public schools have been organized across cities, towns and villages with the purpose of raising the national literacy rate which is already among the highest in the world. There are a large number of specialist colleges, established to develop a diverse and skilled national workforce. A large number of Vietnam's most acclaimed universities are based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Facing serious crises, Vietnam's education system is under a holistic reform launched by the government. In Vietnam, education from age 6 to 11 is free and mandatory. Education above these ages is not free, therefore some poor families may find it hard to come up with the tuition for their children without some forms of public or private assistance. Regardless, school enrollment is among the highest in the world and the number of colleges and universities increased quite dramatically in recent years, from 178 in 2000 to 299 in 2005.


Historically, Vietnamese scholars did not practice "science" in its generally accepted meaning, but many academic fields were well-developed, especially social sciences and humanities. It has at least ten centuries of commentary and analytic writings. Among the best known works are those of "Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư" - of Ngô Sĩ Liên. Writings that deal with geography, nature, customs and people were also written such as "Dư địa chí" by Nguyễn Trãi. In mathematics, arithmetics and geometry has been taught in schools since the 15th century, using the famous textbook: "Đại thành toán pháp" by Lương Thế Vinh. Lương Thế Vinh also introduced the notion of zero while Mạc Hiển Tích had used the term "số ẩn" (unknown/secret/hidden number) to refer to negative numbers even earlier. In the later centuries, much knowledge was collected into encyclopedias such as "Vân đài loại ngữ" by Lê Quý Đôn and "Lịch triều hiến chương loại chí" by Phan Huy Chú.


The Temple of Literature, main entry
Vietnamese phở noodle soup with sliced rare beef and well done beef brisket.

The official spoken and written language of Vietnam is Vietnamese.

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 attitude.

My Dinh National Stadium in Western Hanoi

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.

Vietnam is home to a small film industry.

Among countless other traditional Vietnamese occasions, the traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important. 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.


Vietnam's media sector is controlled by the government to follow the official communist party line, though some newspapers are relatively outspoken.[40] The Voice of Vietnam is the official state-run radio broadcasting service that covers the nation. It also broadcasts internationally via shortwave, renting transmitters in other countries and provides broadcasts from its website. Vietnam Television is the national television broadcasting company. As Vietnam moved toward a free-market economy with its Đổi mới measures, the government has relied on the print media to keep the public informed about its policies. The measure has had the effect of almost doubling the numbers of newspapers and magazines since 1996. Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors.


The official logo of Vietnam, used to promote the tourist attractions in the country

Vietnam's number of visitors for tourism and vacation has increased steadily over the past ten years. About 3.56 million international guests visited Vietnam in 2006, an increase of 3.7% from 2005. The country is investing capital into the coastal regions that are already popular for their beaches and boat tours. Hotel staff and tourism guides in these regions speak a good amount of English.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
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

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Vietnam". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved on 2008-10-09. 
  2. ^ Chinese Colonization (200BC - 938AD)
  3. ^ Spears offer insight into early military strategy, Viet Nam News
  4. ^ The Tran Dynasty and the Defeat of the Mongols
  5. ^ The Le Dynasty and Southward Expansion
  6. ^ The Kingdom of Champa
  7. ^ The Chams: Survivors of a Lost Civilisation
  8. ^ Declaration of Independence, Democratic Republic of Vietnam] – Vietnam Documents
  9. ^ a b The United States in Vietnam - An Analysis in Depth of America's Involvement in Vietnam, by George McTurnin Kahin and John W. Lewis Delta Books, 1967
  10. ^ Vietnam War
  11. ^ Tet Offensive"...NLF/NVA troops and commandos attacked virtually every major town and city in South Vietnam as well as most of the important American bases and airfields...In Saigon, nineteen VC commandos blew their way through the outer walls of the US Embassy..."
  12. ^ Bombs over Cambodia Yale. Access 20 Nov '08
  13. ^ Operation Menu Access 20 Nov '08
  14. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "The State of The World's Refugees 2000 – Chapter 4: Flight from Indochina". Retrieved on 2007-04-06. : Three million fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos combined; close to a million Vietnamese were helped by the UNHCR.
  15. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "Boat people: A Refugee Crisis". Retrieved on 2007-04-06. 
  16. ^ Cambodia - The Fall of Democratic Kampuchea, U.S. Library of Congress
  17. ^ Chinese Invasion of Vietnam,
  18. ^ "Vietnam Foreign Policy". Retrieved on 2009-02-25. 
  19. ^ "List of countries which maintains diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (as of December 2007)". Retrieved on 2009-02-25. 
  20. ^ "Vietnam and International Organizations". Retrieved on 2009-02-25. 
  21. ^ Agroviet Newsletter September 2005
  22. ^ Báo cáo Hiện trạng môi trường quốc gia 2005 - (Vietnamese)
  23. ^ Vietnam Vrooooom: Asia's second-fastest-growing economy takes the global stage. - CNN Money
  24. ^ Source for GDP: Economist Intelligence unit
  25. ^ Economy of Vietnam – CIA World FactBook
  26. ^ Vietnam CIA World Fact Book, 2007 est., access 20 Nov 07
  27. ^ World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Vietnam : Chinese (Hoa), UNHCR Refworld
  28. ^ Vietnam (08/08). U.S. Department of State
  29. ^ US Department of State: Background Note: Vietnam
  30. ^ The Largest Buddhist Communities – This quotes a much lower figure than the 85% quoted by the US Department of State
  31. ^ APEC – Vietnam
  32. ^ Encyclopedia of the Nations – Vietnam
  33. ^ Vietnam travel and holidays – Vietnam's religions
  34. ^ Religion of the Vietnamese
  35. ^ "Vietnam: International Religious Freedom Report 2007". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. Retrieved on 2008-01-21. 
  36. ^ Vietnam's Christians persecuted as state sees hidden enemy, The Independent, October 15, 2004
  37. ^ Embassy of Vietnam – Beliefs and religions
  38. ^ CIA Factbook- Vietnam
  39. ^ History of Islam in Vietnam
  40. ^ Muting the Messengers: Vietnam's Press Under Pressure, The Economist, Jan 15, 2009, Accessed Jan 17, 2009

Other documents

  • Herring, George C. America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (4th ed 2001), most widely used short history.
  • Jahn GC. 2006. The Dream is not yet over. In: P. Fredenburg P, Hill B, editors. Sharing rice for peace and prosperity in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Victoria, (Australia): Sid Harta Publishers. p 237-240
  • Karrnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. Penguin (Non-Classics); 2nd edition (June 1, 1997). ISBN 0-14-026547-3
  • McMahon, Robert J. Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War: Documents and Essays (1995) textbook
  • Tucker, Spencer. ed. Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (1998) 3 vol. reference set; also one-volume abridgment (2001)
  • Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 7th edition, Oxford University Press.

External links

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General information
Non state-run

While all media in Vietnam must be sponsored by a Communist Party organization and be registered with the government, the following media sources have less government control than others.

  • VnExpress: Popular online newspaper (Vietnamese)
  • Tuổi Trẻ (Youth): Daily newspaper with highest circulation, affiliated with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Organization of Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese)
  • Thanh Niên (Youth): Major daily newspaper, affiliated with the Vietnam National Youth Federation
  • Lao Động (Labour): Major daily newspaper, affiliated with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (the sole labour union in Vietnam) (Vietnamese)
  • Tiền Phong (Vanguard): Major daily newspaper, affiliated with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth organization (Vietnamese)
  • Vietnam Economic Times – for foreign investors.

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