Vietnam (i/ˌviɪtˈnɑːm/, /viˌɛt-/, /-ˈnæm/, /ˌvjɛt-/), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam ( listen)), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 87.8 million inhabitants as of 2011, it is the world's 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as "South Viet", and was officially adopted in 1945. The country is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.
The Vietnamese became independent from Imperial China in 938 AD, following the Battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished as the nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia, until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. The First Indochina War eventually led to the expulsion of the French in 1954, leaving Vietnam divided politically into two states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy foreign intervention, during the Vietnam War, which ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Vietnam was then unified under a Communist government, but was politically isolated and impoverished. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms, which began Vietnam's path towards integration into the world economy. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth has been among the highest in the world since 2000, and according to Citigroup, such high growth is set to continue. Vietnam has the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies, and its successful economic reforms resulted in it joining the World Trade Organization in 2007. However, the country still suffers from relatively high levels of income inequality, disparities in healthcare provision, and poor gender equality.
The name Việt Nam (Vietnamese pronunciation: [viə̀t naːm]) is a variation of "Nam Việt" (Chinese: 南越; pinyin: Nányuè; literally "Southern Việt"), a name that can be traced back to the Zhao dynasty of the 2nd century BC. The word Việt originated as a shortened form of Bách Việt (: 百越; pinyin: Bǎiyuè), a word applied to a group of peoples then living in southern China and Vietnam. The form "Vietnam" (越南) is first recorded in the 16th-century oracular poem Sấm Trạng Trình. The name has also been found on 12 steles carved in the 16th and 17th centuries, including one at Bao Lam Pagoda in Haiphong that was carved in 1558.
Between 1804 and 1813, the name was used officially by Emperor Gia Long. It was revived in the early 20th century by Phan Boi Chau's Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su ("History of the Loss of Vietnam"), and later by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party. The country was usually called Annam until 1945, when Emperor Bao Dai changed the official name back to Việt Nam. Since the use of characters was discontinued at this time, the alphabetic spelling of Vietnam is now official.
The region now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, with some archaeological sites in Thanh Hóa Province purportedly dating back several thousand years. Archaeologists have linked the beginnings of Vietnamese civilization to the late Neolithic-early Bronze Age Phung Nguyen culture, which was centered in what is now Vĩnh Phúc Province between 2000 and 1400 BC.
By about 1200 BC, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River floodplains led to the development of the Dong Son culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Dong Son sites show a Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the bronze-casting technology.
Many ancient copper mine sites have been found in northern Vietnam. The Dong Son sites share many similarities with other Bronze Age Southeast Asian sites, including the presence of boat-shaped coffins, burial jars, and 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 the first Vietnamese state, known in Vietnamese as Văn Lang. In 257 BC, the last Hùng king was defeated by Thục Phán, who consolidated the Lạc Việt and Âu Việt tribes to form the Âu Lạc, proclaiming himself An Dương Vương. In 207 BC, a general named Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue. However, Nanyue was itself incorporated into the empire of the Han Dynasty in 111 BC.
For the next thousand years, Vietnam remained mostly under rule. Early independence movements, such as those of the Trưng Sisters and Lady Triệu, were only temporarily successful, but the region did become independent as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Lý Dynasty between 544 and 602 AD. By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not independence, under the Khúc family.
In 938 AD, the Vietnamese lord Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of the Southern Han state at Bạch Đằng River and regained independence after a millennium of domination. Renamed as Đại Việt (Great Viet), the nation enjoyed a golden era under the Lý and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Meanwhile, Buddhism flourished and became the state religion.
Following the brief rule of the Hồ Dynasty, Vietnamese independence was briefly interrupted by the Ming Dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê Dynasty. The Vietnamese dynasties reached their 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, Vietnam expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến ("southward expansion"), eventually conquering the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.
From the 16th century onwards, civil strife and frequent political infighting engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the -supported Mạc Dynasty challenged the Lê Dynasty's power. After the Mạc Dynasty was defeated, the Lê Dynasty was nominally reinstalled, but actual power was divided between the northern Trịnh Lords and the southern Nguyễn Lords, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades before a truce was called in the 1670s. During this time, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the central highlands of Tay Nguyen and the Khmer lands in the Mekong Delta.
The division of the country ended a century later when the Tây Sơn brothers established a new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long, and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn Lords, led by Nguyễn Ánh and aided by the French. Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Vietnam's independence was gradually eroded by France – aided by large Catholic collaborator militias – in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885, after which 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 Roman Catholicism was propagated widely in Vietnamese society. Most of the French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina – the southern third of Vietnam – based around the city of Saigon.
Developing a plantation economy to promote the export of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for Vietnamese 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 Hàm Nghi and Ho Chi Minh fighting or calling for independence. However, the royalist Can Vuong was defeated in the 1890s after a decade of resistance, and the 1930 Yen Bai mutiny of the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang was put down easily. The French maintained control of their colonies until World War II, when the war in the Pacific led to the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1941.
With the defeat of France in Europe in 1940, the French Third Republic was replaced by the Vichy Regime, to which the colony remained loyal. Heavily dependent on Nazi Germany, Vichy France was forced to surrender control of French Indochina to Germany's ally, Japan. 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. The Japanese occupation was a key cause of the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which caused around two million deaths, equivalent to as much as 10% of the contemporary population.
First Indochina War
In 1941, the Viet Minh – a communist and nationalist liberation movement – emerged under the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, who sought independence for Vietnam from France and the end of the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its puppet Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, the Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted national independence on 2 September.
In the same year, the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps – originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces – to pacify the Vietnamese liberation movement and to restore French colonial rule. On 23 November 1946, French vessels bombarded the port city of Hai Phong, and the Viet Minh's guerrilla campaign against French forces began soon after. The resulting First Indochina War lasted until 20 July 1954.
Despite taking fewer losses during the course of the war – the Expeditionary Corps suffered one-third of the casualties of the and Soviet-backed Viet Minh – the 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 from a favorable position at the Geneva Conference of 1954. The colonial administration ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954, which separated the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists at the 17th parallel north with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. A 300-day period of free movement was given, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholic, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists.
The partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bảo Đại's State of Vietnam in South Vietnam, was not intended to be permanent by the Geneva Accords, and the Accords expressly forbade the interference of third powers. However, in 1955, the State of Vietnam's Prime Minister, Ngo Dinh Diem, toppled Bảo Đại 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.
The pro-Hanoi Vietcong began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s to overthrow Diem's government, which an official Vietcong statement described as a "disguised colonial regime." In the North, the communist government massacred landowners and peasant rebels in a series of purges, with upper estimates of the death toll ranging between 100,000 and 900,000. Northern collectivization efforts led to a brief famine. In the South, Diem went about crushing political and religious opposition, imprisoning or killing tens of thousands; dissidents were routinely labelled as communists even if they were anti-communist.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diem's pro-Catholic regime erupted into mass demonstrations following the banning of the Buddhist flag and the Hue Vesak shootings. With Diem unwilling to compromise, Nhu orchestrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids; estimates of the death toll range into the hundreds. As a result, America's relationship with Diem broke down, resulting in the 1963 coup that saw Diem and Nhu assassinated.
Diem was followed by a series of corrupt military regimes that often lasted only months before being toppled by other military officers. With South Vietnam paralyzed by instability, the communists began to gain ground. There were more than a dozen South Vietnamese governments between 1961 and 1965, before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control in mid-1965. Thieu gradually outmaneuvered Ky and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers, using the controversial 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretext for such intervention. US forces became embroiled in ground combat operations in 1965, and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. Communist forces attacked major targets in South Vietnam en masse during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and although their campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and turned US public opinion against the war. Communist forces supplying the Vietcong carried supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. US presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon authorized Operation Commando Hunt and Operation Menu, SAC bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia, about which only high-ranking Congressional officials were informed.
Its own casualties mounting, and facing opposition to the war at home and condemnation abroad, the US began withdrawing from ground combat roles according to the Nixon Doctrine; the process was subsequently called Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results, ultimately failing to stabilize South Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 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 29 March 1973. Limited fighting continued, before North Vietnam captured the province of Phuoc Long in December 1974 and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam briefly came under the nominal rule of a Provisional Revolutionary Government while under military occupation by North Vietnam. On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll standing at between 1 million and 4 million.
Reunification and reforms
In the aftermath of the war, under Lê Duẩn's administration, the government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. This caused an economic collapse and resulted in triple-digit inflation. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, millions of people fled the country in crudely built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis.
In 1978, the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia to remove from power the Khmer Rouge, who had been razing Vietnamese border villages and massacring the inhabitants. Vietnam was victorious, installing a regime in Cambodia whose leaders ruled until 1989. This action worsened relations with the , who launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.
At the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in December 1986, reformist politicians upset by the country's lack of economic progress replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership. The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyen Van Linh, who became the party's new general secretary. Linh was a native of northern Vietnam who had served in the south both during and after the Vietnam War. In a historic shift, Linh and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms – known as Đổi Mới (Renovation) – which carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy".
Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries. The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports and foreign investment. However, these reforms have also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.
Government and politics
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a single-party state. Its current state constitution, which replaced the 1975 constitution in April 1992, asserts the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in all organs of government, politics and society. The General Secretary of the Communist Party performs numerous key administrative and executive functions, controlling the party's national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy. Only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections in Vietnam. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and worker and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, its economic policies have grown increasingly capitalist, with The Economist characterizing its leadership as "ardently capitalist communists".
The President of Vietnam is the titular head of state and the nominal commander-in-chief of the military, serving as the Chairman of the Council of Supreme Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of three deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions.
The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral legislature of the state, composed of 498 members. Headed by a Chairman, it is superior to both the executive and judicial branches, with all government ministers being appointed from members of the National Assembly. The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam, headed by a Chief Justice, is the country's highest court of appeal, though it is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People's Court stand the provincial municipal courts and numerous local courts. Military courts possess special jurisdiction in matters of national security.
The Vietnam People's Armed Forces consists of the Vietnam People's Army, the Vietnam People's Public Security and the Vietnam Civil Defense Force. The Vietnam People's Army (VPA) is the official name for the active military services of Vietnam, and is subdivided into the Vietnam People's Ground Forces, the Vietnam People's Navy, the Vietnam People's Air Force, the Vietnam Border Defense Force and the Vietnam Marine Police. The VPA has an active manpower of around 450,000, but its total strength, including paramilitary forces, may be as high as 5,000,000. In 2011, Vietnam's military expenditure totalled approximately US$2.48 billion, equivalent to around 2.5% of its 2010 GDP.
Throughout its history, Vietnam's key foreign relationship has been with its largest neighbour and one-time imperial master, China. Vietnam's sovereign principles and insistence on cultural independence have been laid down in numerous documents over the centuries, such as the 11th-century patriotic poem Nam quốc sơn hà and the 1428 proclamation of independence Bình Ngô đại cáo. Though China and Vietnam are now formally at peace, significant territorial tensions remain between the two countries.
Currently, the formal mission statement of Vietnamese foreign policy is to: "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 furthermore declares itself to be "a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the international community, actively taking part in international and regional cooperation processes."
By December 2007, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 172 countries, including the United States, which normalized relations in 1995. Vietnam holds membership of 63 international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN, NAM, Francophonie and WTO. It is furthermore a member of around 650 non-government organizations.
Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (Vietnamese: tỉnh, from the 省, shěng). There are also five municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương), which are administratively on the same level as provinces.
| Red River Delta |
| Northeast |
| Northwest |
| North Central Coast |
| Central Highlands |
| South Central Coast |
| Southeast |
Ba Ria-Vung Tau
| Mekong River Delta |
The provinces are subdivided into provincial municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc tỉnh), townships (thị xã) and counties (huyện), which are in turn subdivided into towns (thị trấn) or communes (xã). The centrally controlled municipalities are subdivided into districts (quận) and counties, which are further subdivided into wards (phường).
Vietnam is located on the eastern Indochina Peninsula between the latitudes 8° and 24°N, and the longitudes 102° and 110°E. It covers a total area of approximately 331,210 km2 (127,881 sq mi),, making it almost the size of Germany. The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long. Vietnam's land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country's land area, and tropical forests cover around 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, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high. Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, the mountains of the Annamite Range, and extensive forests. 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 soil in much of southern Vietnam is relatively poor in nutrients.
The Red River Delta, a flat, roughly triangular region covering 15,000 km2 (5,792 sq mi), 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 over the millennia by riverine alluvial deposits, and it advances 100 meters (328.1 ft) into the Gulf annually. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is a low-level plain no more than 3 meters (9.8 ft) above sea level at any point. It is criss-crossed by a maze of rivers and canals, which carry so much sediment that the delta advances 60 to 80 meters (196.9 to 262.5 ft) into the sea every year.
Because of differences in latitude and the marked variety in 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 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 higher in the south than in the north. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging between 21 and 28 °C (69.8 and 82.4 °F) over the course of the year. Seasonal variations in the mountains and plateaus and in the north are much more dramatic, with temperatures varying from 5 °C (41.0 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August.
Ecology and biodiversity
Vietnam has two World Natural Heritage Sites – Ha Long Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – and six biosphere reserves, including Can Gio Mangrove Forest, Cat Tien, Cat Ba, Kien Giang, Red River Delta, and Western Nghe An.
Vietnam lies in the Indomalaya ecozone. According to the 2005 National Environmental Present Condition Report. Vietnam is one of twenty-five countries considered to possess a uniquely high level of biodiversity. It is ranked 16th worldwide in biological diversity, being home to approximately 16% of the world's species. 15,986 species of flora have been identified in the country, of which 10% are endemic, while Vietnam's fauna include 307 nematode species, 200 oligochaeta, 145 acarina, 113 springtails, 7,750 insects, 260 reptiles, 120 amphibians, 840 birds and 310 mammals, of which 100 birds and 78 mammals are endemic.
Vietnam is furthermore home to 1,438 species of freshwater microalgae, constituting 9.6% of all microalgae species, as well as 794 aquatic invertebrates and 2,458 species of sea fish. In recent years, 13 genera, 222 species, and 30 taxa of flora have been newly described in Vietnam. Six new mammal species, including the saola, giant muntjac and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey have also been discovered, along with one new bird species, the endangered Edwards's Pheasant. In the late 1980s, a small population of Javan Rhinoceros was found in Cát Tiên National Park. However, the last individual of the species in Vietnam was reportedly shot in 2010.
In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centers. The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank is preserving 12,300 cultivars of 115 species. The Vietnamese government spent US$49.07 million on the preservation of biodiversity in 2004 alone, and has established 126 conservation areas, including 28 national parks.
Vietnam has been, for much of its history, a predominantly agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation. However, the Vietnam War destroyed much of the country's agrarian economy, leading the post-war government to implement a planned economy to revitalise agriculture and industrialise the nation. The collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For a decade following the Vietnam War, Vietnam's economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction, and restrictions on economic activity. It also suffered from the post-war trade embargo instituted by the United States and most of Europe. These problems were compounded by the erosion of the Soviet bloc, which included Vietnam's main trading partners, in the late 1980s.
In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress of Vietnam introduced free market economic reforms as part of the Đổi Mới reform program, resulting in a socialist-oriented market economy. Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. Thanks largely to these reforms, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth between 1990 to 1997, and the economy continued to grow at an annual rate of around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making Vietnam one of the world's fastest growing economies. Growth remained strong even in the face of the late-2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010, but Vietnam's year-on-year inflation rate hit 11.8% in December 2010, according to a GSO estimate. The Vietnamese dong was devalued three times in 2010 alone.
Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Though Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is currently the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, with a total 2011 output of 318,000 barrels per day (50,600 m3/d). Like its neighbours, Vietnam continues to make use of centrally planned economic five-year plans.
Deep poverty, defined as the percentage of the population living on less than $1 per day, has declined significantly in Vietnam, and the relative poverty rate is now less than that of China, India, and the Philippines. This decline in the poverty rate can be attributed to equitable economic policies aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality; these policies have included egalitarian land distribution during the initial stages of Đổi Mới, investment in poorer remote areas, and subsidising of education and healthcare. According to the CIA World Factbook, the unemployment rate in Vietnam stood at 2.3% in 2011.
In 2012, Vietnam's nominal GDP reached US$135.411 billion, with a nominal GDP per capita of $1,498, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to a December 2005 forecast by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy will become the world's 17th-largest by 2025, with an estimated nominal GDP of $436 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $4,357. According to a 2008 forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vietnam may be the fastest-growing of the world's emerging economies by 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10% per annum in real dollar terms. In 2012, HSBC predicted that Vietnam's total GDP would surpass Norway, Singapore and Portugal by 2050.
Since the early 2000s, Vietnam has applied sequenced trade liberalisation, a two-track approach opening some sectors of the economy to international markets while protecting others. In July 2006, Vietnam updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS, and it became a member of the WTO on 11 January 2007. Vietnam is now one of Asia's most open economies: two-way trade was valued at around 160% of GDP in 2006, more than twice the contemporary ratio for China and over four times the ratio for India. Vietnam's chief trading partners include China, Japan, Australia, the ASEAN countries, the United States and Western Europe. In 2011, Vietnam's total international trade, including both exports and imports, was valued at approximately $200 billion.
As a result of several land reform measures, Vietnam has become a major exporter of agricultural products. It is now the world's largest producer of cashew nuts, with a one-third global share; the largest producer of black pepper, accounting for one-third of the world's market; and the second-largest rice exporter in the world, after Thailand. Vietnam has the highest proportion of land use for permanent crops – 6.93% – of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Other primary exports include coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products. However, agriculture's share of Vietnam's GDP has fallen in recent decades, declining from 42% in 1989 to 20% in 2006, as production in other sectors of the economy has risen.
Science and technology
Vietnamese scholars developed many academic fields during the dynastic era, most notably social sciences and the humanities. The country boasts a millennium-deep legacy of analytical histories, such as the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư of Ngô Sĩ Liên. Vietnamese monks led by the abdicated Emperor Tran Nhan Tong developed the Trúc Lâm Zen branch of philosophy in the 13th century. Arithmetics and geometry have been widely taught in Vietnam since the 15th century, using the textbook Đại thành toán pháp by Lương Thế Vinh as a basis. Lương Thế Vinh introduced Vietnam to the notion of zero, while Mạc Hiển Tích used the term số ẩn (en: "unknown/secret/hidden number") to refer to negative numbers. Vietnamese scholars furthermore produced numerous encyclopedias, such as Lê Quý Đôn's Vân đài loại ngữ.
In recent times, Vietnamese scientists have made many significant contributions in various fields of study, most notably in mathematics. Hoàng Tụy pioneered the applied mathematics field of global optimization in the 20th century, while Ngô Bảo Châu won the 2010 Fields Medal for his proof of fundamental lemma in the theory of automorphic forms. Vietnam is currently working to develop an indigenous space program, and plans to construct the US$600 million Vietnam Space Center by 2018. Vietnam has also made significant advances in the development of robots, such as the TOPIO humanoid model. In 2010, Vietnam's total state spending on science and technology equalled around 0.45% of its GDP.
Much of Vietnam's modern transport network was originally developed under French rule to facilitate the transportation of raw materials, and was reconstructed and extensively modernized following the Vietnam War.
Vietnam operates 17 major civil airports, including three international gateways: Noi Bai serving Hanoi, Da Nang International Airport serving Da Nang, and Tan Son Nhat serving Ho Chi Minh City. Tan Son Nhat is the nation's largest airport, handling 75 percent of international passenger traffic. According to a state-approved plan, Vietnam will have 10 international airports by 2015 – besides the aforementioned three, these include Lien Khuong International Airport, Phu Bai International Airport, Cam Ranh International Airport, Phu Quoc International Airport, Cat Bi International Airport, Cần Thơ International Airport and Long Thanh International Airport. The planned Long Thanh International Airport will be built on an area of 50 square kilometres (19 sq mi), and will have an annual service capacity of 100 million passengers.
Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned national airline, maintains a fleet of 69 passenger aircraft, and aims to operate 150 by 2020. Several private airlines are also in operation in Vietnam, including Air Mekong, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, VASCO and VietJet Air.
Vietnam's road system includes national roads administered at the central level; provincial roads managed at the provincial level; district roads managed at the district level; urban roads managed by cities and towns; and commune roads managed at the commune level. Bicycles, motor scooters and motorcycles remain the most popular forms of road transport in Vietnam's urban areas, although the number of privately owned automobiles is also on the rise, especially in the larger cities. Public buses operated by private companies are the main mode of long-distance travel for much of the population.
Road safety is a serious issue in Vietnam – on average, 30 people are killed in traffic accidents every day. Traffic congestion is a growing problem in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as the cities' roads struggle to cope with the boom in automobile use.
Vietnam's primary cross-country rail service is the Reunification Express, which runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, covering a distance of nearly 2,000 kilometres. From Hanoi, railway lines branch out to the northeast, north and west; the eastbound line runs from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, the northbound line from Hanoi to Thai Nguyen, and the northeast line from Hanoi to Lao Cai.
In 2009, Vietnam and Japan signed a deal to build a high-speed railway using Japanese technology; numerous Vietnamese engineers have since been sent to Japan to receive training in the operation and maintenance of high-speed trains. The railway will be a 1,630-km-long express route, serving a total of 26 stations, including Hanoi and the Thu Thiem terminus in Ho Chi Minh City. Using Japan's well-established Shinkansen technology, the line will support trains travelling at a maximum speed of 360 kilometres (220 mi) per hour. The high-speed lines linking Hanoi to central Vinh and central Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam will be laid by 2015. From 2015 to 2020, construction will begin on the routes between Vinh and Nha Trang and between Hanoi and the northern provinces of Lao Cai and Lang Son.
Vietnam has several major sea ports, including Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai, Qui Nhơn, and Nha Trang. Further inland, the country's extensive network of rivers play a key role in rural transportation, with over 17,700 kilometres (11,000 mi) of navigable waterways carrying ferries, barges and water taxis.
The census of 1 April 2009 recorded the population of Vietnam as standing at approximately 85.8 million, of which the Viet or Kinh ethnic group constituted nearly 73.6 million, or 85.8% of the population. The population had grown significantly from the 1979 census, which showed the total population of reunified Vietnam to be 52.7 million. The dominant Kinh population is concentrated mainly in the alluvial deltas and coastal plains of the country. A largely homogeneous social and ethnic group, the Kinh possess significant political and economic influence over the country. However, Vietnam is also home to 54 ethnic minority groups, including the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, and Nung.
Many ethnic minorities – such as the Muong, who are closely related to the Kinh – dwell in the highlands, which cover two-thirds of Vietnam's territory. Before the Vietnam War, the population of the Central Highlands was almost exclusively Degar (including over 40 tribal groups); however, Ngo Dinh Diem's South Vietnamese government enacted a program of resettling Kinh in indigenous areas. The Hoa (ethnic ) and Khmer Krom people are mainly lowlanders. As Sino-Vietnamese relations soured in 1978 and 1979, some 450,000 Hoa left Vietnam.
The official national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, a tonal monosyllabic Mon–Khmer language which is spoken by the majority of the population. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters, referred to as Chữ nôm. The folk epic Đoạn trường tân thanh (also known as Truyện Kiều or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyễn Du was written in Chữ nôm. Quốc ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, was developed in 17th century by the Jesuit Alexandre De Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries. Quốc ngữ became widely popular and brought literacy to the Vietnamese masses during the French colonial period.
Vietnam's minority groups speak a variety of languages, including Tày, Mường, Cham, Khmer, , Nùng, and H'Mông. The Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands also speak a number of distinct languages.
The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is spoken by some educated Vietnamese as a second language, especially by the older generation; Vietnam is also a full member of the Francophonie, and education has revived some interest in the language. Russian – and to a much lesser extent German, Czech and Polish – are known among some Vietnamese whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. In recent years, as Vietnam's contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language; the study of English is now obligatory in most schools, replacing French, though the latter is used at times in higher education. , Japanese, and Korean have also grown in popularity as Vietnam's links with China, Japan and South Korea have strengthened.
For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have been the dominant religions, strongly influencing the national culture. About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism, though not all practice on a regular basis. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam's report for 1 April 2009, 6.8 million (or 7.9% of the total population) are practicing Buddhists, 5.7 milion (6.6%) are Catholics, 1.4 million (1.7%) are adherents of Hòa Hảo, 0.8 million (0.9%) practise Cao Đài, and 0.7 million (0.9%) are Protestants. In total, 15,651,467 Vietnamese (18.2%) are formally registered in a religion. Reportedly, 81% of Vietnamese people do not believe in God.
According to the 2009 census, while over 10 million people have taken refuge in the Three Jewels, the vast majority of Vietnamese people practice ancestor worship in some form.
About 8% of the population are Christians, totalling around six million Roman Catholics and fewer than one million Protestants, according to the census of 2007. Christianity was first introduced to Vietnam by Portuguese and Dutch traders in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was further propagated by French missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to a lesser extent, by American Protestant missionaries during the Vietnam War, largely among the Montagnards of South Vietnam. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Two-thirds of Vietnam's Protestants are reportedly members of ethnic minorities.
The Vietnamese government is widely seen as suspicious of Roman Catholicism. This mistrust originated during the 19th century, when some Catholics collaborated with the French colonists in conquering and ruling the country and in helping French attempts to install Catholic emperors, such as in the Lê Văn Khôi revolt of 1833. Furthermore, the Catholic Church's strongly anti-communist stance has made it an enemy of the Vietnamese state. The Vatican Church is officially banned, and only government-controlled Catholic organisations are permitted. However, the Vatican has attempted to negotiate the opening of diplomatic relations with Vietnam in recent years.
Several other minority faiths exist in Vietnam. About 3% of the population are adherents of Cao Dai, a syncretic modern religion whose followers are largely concentrated in Tay Ninh Province. Sunni and Cham Bani Islam is primarily practiced by the ethnic Cham minority, though there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents in the southwest. In total, there are approximately 70,000 Muslims in Vietnam, while around 50,000 Hindus and a small number of Baha'is are also in evidence.
The Vietnamese government rejects allegations that it does not allow religious freedom. The state's official position on religion is that all citizens are free to their belief, and that all religions are equal before the law. Nevertheless, only government-approved religious organisations are allowed; for example, the South Vietnam-founded Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam is banned in favour of a communist-approved body.
Vietnam has an extensive state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities, and a growing number of privately run and partially privatised institutions. General education in Vietnam is divided into five categories: kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities. A large number of public schools have been organized across the country to raise the national literacy rate, which stood at 90.3% in 2008.
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 program of reform launched by the government. Education is not free; therefore, some poor families may have trouble paying tuition for their children without some form of public or private assistance. Regardless, school enrollment is among the highest in the world, and the number of colleges and universities increased dramatically in the 2000s, from 178 in 2000 to 299 in 2005.
In 2009, Vietnam's national life expectancy stood at 76 years for women and 72 for men, and the infant mortality rate was 12 per 1,000 live births. As of 2009, 85% of the population has access to improved water sources. However, malnutrition is still common in the rural provinces. In 2001, government spending on health care corresponded to just 0.9% of Vietnam's gross domestic product (GDP), with state subsidies covering only about 20% of health care expenses.
In 1954, North Vietnam established a public health system that reached down to the hamlet level. After the national reunification in 1975, this system was extended to the provinces of former South Vietnam. In the late 1980s, the quality of healthcare declined to some degree as a result of budgetary constraints, a shift of responsibility to the provinces, and the introduction of charges. Inadequate funding has also contributed to a shortage of nurses, midwives, and hospital beds; in 2000, Vietnam had only 250,000 hospital beds, or 14.8 beds per 10,000 people, according to the World Bank.
Since the early 2000s, Vietnam has made significant progress in combating malaria, with the malaria mortality rate falling to about 5% of its 1990s equivalent by 2005, after the country introduced improved antimalarial drugs and treatment. However, tuberculosis cases are on the rise, with 57 deaths per day reported in May 2004. With an intensified vaccination program, better hygiene, and foreign assistance, Vietnam hopes to reduce sharply the number of TB cases and annual new TB infections.
As of September 2005, Vietnam had diagnosed 101,291 HIV cases, of which 16,528 progressed to AIDS, and 9,554 died. However, the actual number of HIV-positive individuals is estimated to be much higher. On average, 40–50 new infections are reported every day in Vietnam. As of 2007, 0.5% of the population is estimated to be infected with HIV, and this figure has remained stable since 2005. In June 2004, the United States announced that Vietnam would be one of 15 nations to receive funding as part of a US$15 billion global AIDS relief plan.
Vietnam's media sector is regulated by the government in accordance with the 2004 Law on Publication. It is generally perceived that Vietnam's media sector is controlled by the government to follow the official communist party line, though some newspapers are relatively outspoken. The Voice of Vietnam is the official state-run national radio broadcasting service, broadcasting internationally via shortwave using rented transmitters in other countries, and providing broadcasts from its website. Vietnam Television is the national television broadcasting company.
Since 1997, Vietnam has extensively regulated public Internet access, using both legal and technical means. The resulting lockdown is widely referred to as the "Bamboo Firewall." The collaborative project OpenNet Initiative classifies Vietnam's level of online political censorship to be "pervasive", while Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam to be one of 15 global "internet enemies". Though the government of Vietnam claims to safeguard the country against obscene or sexually explicit content through its blocking efforts, many politically and religiously sensitive websites are also banned.
Vietnam's culture has developed over the centuries from indigenous ancient Dong Son culture with wet rice agriculture as its economic base. To some extent, the national culture can be seen as part of the Sinosphere, drawing on elements of Confucianism and Laoism in its traditional political system and philosophy. Vietnamese society is structured around làng (ancestral villages); all Vietnamese mark a common ancestral anniversary on the tenth day of the third lunar month. The influences of immigrant cultures – such as the Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Hainan cultures – can also be seen, while the national religion of Buddism is strongly entwined with popular culture. In recent centuries, the influences of Western cultures, most notably France and the United States, have become evident in Vietnam.
The traditional focuses of Vietnamese culture are humanity (nhân nghĩa) and harmony (hòa); family and community values are highly regarded. Vietnam reveres a number of key cultural symbols, such as the Vietnamese dragon, which is derived from crocodile and snake imagery; Vietnam's National Father, Lạc Long Quân, is depicted as a holy dragon. The lạc – a holy bird representing Vietnam's National Mother, Âu Cơ – is another prominent symbol, while turtle and horse images are also revered.
The official spoken and written language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, currently written in the Latin alphabet. However, Vietnam is believed by historians to have had established a distinctive linguistic culture before the invasion of dynasties, including a syllabic writing system named Khoa Đẩu.
In the modern era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and cultural programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned, and emphasis was placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. However, since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.
Traditional Vietnamese music varies between the country's northern and southern regions. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest musical form, and is traditionally more formal. The origins of Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, when the Vietnamese captured a opera troupe.
Vietnamese literature has a centuries-deep history. The country has a rich tradition of folk literature, based around the typical 6–to-8-verse poetic form named ca dao, which usually focuses on village ancestors and heroes. Written literature has been found dating back to the 10th-century Ngô Dynasty, with notable ancient authors including Nguyễn Trãi, Trần Hưng Đạo, Nguyễn Du and Nguyễn Đình Chiểu. Some literary genres play an important role in theatrical performance, like "hát nói" in ca trù. Some poetic unions have also been formed in Vietnam, such as the Tao Đàn. Vietnamese literature has in recent times been influenced by Western styles, with the first literary transformation movement – Thơ Mới – emerging in 1932.
Vietnam has a plethora of festivals based on the lunar calendar, the most important being the Tết New Year celebration. Traditional Vietnamese weddings remain widely popular, and are often celebrated by expatriate Vietnamese in Western countries.
Vietnam has become a major tourist destination since the 1990s, assisted by significant state and private investment, particularly in coastal regions. About 3.77 million international tourists visited Vietnam in 2009 alone.
Popular destinations include Hanoi, Saigon, the former imperial capital of Hué, the World Heritage Sites of Hoi An and Mỹ Sơn, coastal regions such as Nha Trang, the caves of Ha Long Bay and the Marble Mountains. Numerous tourist projects are under construction, such as the Binh Duong tourist complex, which possesses the largest artificial sea in Southeast Asia.
On Valentine's Day 2011, Joe Jackson, the father of American pop star Michael Jackson, attended a ground breaking ceremony for what will be Southeast Asia's largest entertainment complex, a five-star hotel and amusement park called Happyland. The US$2 billion project, which has been designed to accommodate 14 million tourists annually, is located in southern Long An province, near Ho Chi Minh City. It is expected that the complex will be completed in 2014.
A key part of Vietnam's traditional culture is the áo dài, worn for special occasions such as weddings and religious 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 mostly the preserve of women, although men do wear it to some occasions, such as traditional weddings.
The Vovinam and Bình Ðịnh martial arts are widespread in Vietnam, while soccer is the country's most popular team sport. Other Western sports, such as badminton, tennis, volleyball, ping-pong and chess, are also widely popular. Vietnam has participated in the Summer Olympic Games since 1952.
Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice and soy sauce. Sugar, serrano peppers, lime and nuoc mam (fish sauce) are among the most common flavorings, as are mint and basil.
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