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Main article: History of Vietnam
Vietnam's history goes back more than 2,700 years. For a thousand years, it was under the rule of successive dynasties of the Chinese Empire. Vietnam regained independence in the early 10th century, and complete autonomy a century later. However, Vietnam remained a vassal state dependent on the good will of the Chinese emperors. The native dynastic period ended in mid-19th century, when the country was colonized by France. During World War II, Japan occupied Vietnam. After the war, France attempted to re-establish control but ultimately failed. The Geneva Accords partitioned the country into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. During the Cold War period, the North was supported by the People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics while the South was supported by the United States, Australia and other western countries. Tensions quickly escalated into the Vietnam War. The war continued until the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973 formally recognized sovereignty for both sides. American troops were withdrawn by March 29, 1973.
In 1976, Vietnam was officially unified under the North Vietnamese government as "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam." Refugees continued fleeing from Vietnam through the rest of the decade, and into the next.
In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and removed Pol Pot from power and into hiding, thereby decisively stabilizing Cambodia. Only one month later, however, partially in retaliation, China launched a failed invasion of Vietnam: the Sino-Vietnamese War.
Main article: Politics of Vietnam
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is governed through a highly centralized system dominated by the Communist Party of Vietnam (Đảng Cộng Sản Việt Nam), which was formerly known as the Vietnamese Labor Party. The government is in theory independent from the party, but in practice it receives most of its directives from the party. Although there has been some effort to discourage membership in overlapping party and state positions, this practice continues. Senior Politburo members (Tran Duc Luong, Phan Van Khai, Nguyen Van An, Nguyen Tan Dung, Le Hong Anh and Pham Van Tra) concurrently hold high positions in the government.
There are no legal opposition parties in Vietnam, although a number of opposition groups do exist scattered overseas among exile communities within countries such as France and the United States. These communities have supported demonstrations and civil disobedience against the government. The most prominent are the Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League, People Action's Party of Viet Nam, Montagnard Foundation Inc. and the Government of Free Vietnam. The Government of Free Viet Nam has claimed responsibility for a number of guerilla raids into Vietnam, which the government has denounced as terrorism.
Former political parties include the nationalist Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang of Nguyen Thai Hoc, the Can Lao party of the Ngo Dinh Diem government and the Viet Nam Duy Tan Hoi of Phan Boi Chau during the colonial period.
Main article: Provinces of Vietnam
Vietnam's capital (thủ đ? singular and plural) is Hanoi (Hࠎội). There are also four municipalities (thந phố trực thuộc Trung ương, singular and plural) existing at provincial level: Cần Thơ, Đࠎẵng, [[Hai Phong|Hải Ph], and Ho Chi Minh City (Thந phố Hồ Ch�inh). Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon.
Besides the five cities, the country is divided into fifty-nine provinces (tỉnh, singular and plural): An Giang, Bắc Giang, Bắc Kạn, [[Bac Lieu Province|Bạc Li굝], Bắc Ninh, [[Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province|Bࠒịa-Vũng T൝], Bến Tre, B쮨 Định, B쮨 Dương, B쮨 Phước, B쮨 Thuận, Cࠍau, Cao Bằng, Đắk Lắk, [[Dak Nong Province|Đắk N?], [[Dien Bien Province|Điện Biꮝ], Đồng Nai, [[Dong Thap Province|Đồng Thᰝ], Gia Lai, Hࠇiang, Hải Dương, Hࠎam, [[Ha Tay Province|Hࠔ], Hࠔĩnh, H쮨, Hậu Giang, [[Hung Yen Province|Hưng Yꮝ], [[Khanh Hoa Province|Khᮨ H, KiꮠGiang, Kon Tum, [[Lai Chau Province|Lai Chⵝ], L⭠Đồng, Lạng Sơn, LCai, Long An, Nam Định, Nghệ An, Ninh B쮨, Ninh Thuận, Ph?ọ, Ph?, Quảng B쮨, Quảng Nam, [[Quang Ngai Province|Quảng Ng㩝], Quảng Ninh, Quảng Trị, Srăng, Sơn La, TNinh, Th᩠B쮨, [[Thai Nguyen Province|Th᩠Nguyꮝ], [[Thanh Hoa Province|Thanh H, Thừa ThiꮭHuế, Tiền Giang, Trࠖinh, TuyꮠQuang, Vĩnh Long, [[Vinh Phuc Province|Vĩnh Ph? [[Yen Bai Province|YꮠBᩝ].
Main article: Geography of Vietnam
The country is approximately 331,688 square kilometers in area, which is slightly larger than New Mexico and slightly smaller than Germany. The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20 percent. Mountains account for 40 percent, hills 40 percent, and forests 75 percent. The northern part of the country consists of highlands and the Red River Delta, Fan Si Pan (3143 m) located in Lao Cai province is the highest mountain in Vietnam. The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Dai Truong Son (central mountains) with high plateaus, and the Mekong River Delta.
Land boundaries: Total: 4,639 km Border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km
Main article: Economy of Vietnam
In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam formally abandoned Marxist economic planning and began introducing market elements as part of a broad economic reform package called "Doi Moi" ("Renovation"). In many ways, this followed the Chinese model and achieved similar results. On the one hand, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2002, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, investment grew three-fold and domestic savings quintupled. On the other hand, urban unemployment has been rising steadily in recent years, and rural unemployment, estimated to be up to 35% during nonharvest periods, is already at critical levels. Layoffs in the state sector and foreign-invested enterprises combined with the lasting effects of a previous military demobilization further exacerbated the unemployment situation. The country is attempting to become a member of the WTO.
Vietnam, however, is still a very poor country with GDP of US$227.2 billion (est., 2004). This translates to US$2700 per capita. The impressive growth is due to its low base and the high inflation rate, estimated at 14% p.a. in 2004. This figure has been scaled down by the Government to 9.5% per annum to avoid the ‘double digit’ classification.
The high inflation rate effectively makes the growth rate negative. However, the spending power of the public has noticeably increased. The reason lies in the high property prices. In Hanoi, the capital, property prices can be as high as those in Tokyo or New York. This has amazed many people because GDP per capita of this city is around US$1,000 per annum. The booming prices have helped people with a little piece of land or a tiny apartment, by selling them, realise their dreams despite their low monthly income. Corruption, bribery and embezzlement committed by many government officials have pushed property prices even higher, as real estate investment is a popular form of money laundering.
Main article: Demographics of Vietnam
The ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) are concentrated largely in the alluvial deltas and in the coastal plains, having little in common with the minority peoples of the highlands, whom they historically have regarded as hostile and barbaric. A homogenous social group, the Vietnamese exert influence on national life through their control of political and economic affairs and their role as purveyors of the dominant culture. By contrast, the ethnic minorities, except for the Khmer Krom and the Hoa (Vietnamese of Chinese extraction), are found mostly in the highlands that cover two-thirds of the national territory.
The Khmer Krom, the largest minority, are found in the delta of the Mekong River, in the south of Vietnam, where they form in many areas the majority of the rural population. They live in an area previously part of Cambodia and which Vietnam conquered in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Hoa, the fourth-largest minority, are mainly lowlanders and more specifically, urban dwellers. Officially, the ethnic minorities are referred to as national minorities. Vietnam also has a small number of Eurasians. Most of them are descendants of Vietnamese people and either early French settlers or American soldiers and personnel (or both), during colonial period and Vietnam War.
According to official Vietnamese figures (1999 census), ethnic Vietnamese account for 86% of the population of the country. However, official Vietnamese figures are known to grossly underestimate the native Khmer Krom of southern Vietnam. Fully counting the 8 million Khmer Krom (who make up 10% of the overall population of Vietnam, and 30% of the population of the Mekong delta and the Ho Chi Minh City area), the ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) only make up 77% of Vietnam. In terms of land area, the ethnic Vietnamese inhabit a little less than half of Vietnam, while the ethnic minorities inhabit the majority of Vietnam's land (albeit the least fertile parts of the country).
Human Rights NGOs point out the bad records of Vietnam with respect to ethnic minorities. In particular, the large Khmer Krom minority of southern Vietnam is denied elementary human rights in an effort by the Vietnamese government to Vietnamize the Khmer Krom, or force them to leave their native land and relocate to Cambodia. The Vietnamese government is afraid that the large native Khmer Krom population in the Mekong delta could allow Cambodia to officially claim back the fertile areas of the delta that were annexed by Vietnam more than 200 years ago. On the other hand, some in the Vietnamese government still pursue the centuries old policy of colonizing Khmer land, and it was reported that in the 1980s and 1990s some local Vietnamese officials have pushed the Cambodian-Vietnamese border several kilometers inside Cambodian territory, annexing tens of Cambodian villages, in flagrant violation of international treaties, thus further increasing the ethnic Khmer population inside Vietnam. In 2005, the retired king of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk officially called for the end of Vietnamese annexations and an international demarcation of the boundary on the ground.
According to official figures, 88% of the population speak Vietnamese, the nation's official language, but in reality probably slightly less than that as explained above. Various other languages are spoken by the several minority groups in Vietnam. The most spoken languages are: Khmer (up to 8 million speakers), [[T] (1.5 million), Muong (1.2 million), Cantonese (870,000), Nung (860,000), Hmong (790,000), and Tai Dam (700,000). French is spoken by some, mostly older Vietnamese, as a second-language. In recent decades, English has become a more popular language to learn and is increasingly used in business, among other things.
See also: List of ethnic groups in Vietnam
Main article: Culture of Vietnam
In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 16th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called [[Chu Nom|Chữ N?. The celebrated epic Kim Van Kieu by Nguyễn Du is written in Chữ N? During the French colonial period, Quốc Ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet representation of spoken Vietnamese, became popular and brought literacy to the masses. This had a profound effect on the political power in the country.
Due to Vietnam's long association with China, Vietnamese culture remains strongly Confucian with its emphasis on familial duty and harmony. Education is highly prized. Historically, passing the imperial mandarin exams was the only means for ambitious Vietnamese to socially advance themselves. In the modern era, Vietnamese are trying to reconcile traditional culture with Western ideas of individual freedom, distrust of authority, and consumer culture.
The majority of Vietnamese are Buddhists, with a strong emphasis on ancestor worship. Some critics say that the Vietnamese' second religion is superstition and fatalism, brought on by the decades of war. Within a typical Vietnamese Catholic family, one would find: an intense devotion to the Virgin Mary (the Holy Mother outranks the Son in Confucian thinking), pictures of deceased ancestors on the family altar, and belief and practice in Feng Shui (Phong Thủy), fortune telling, and communication with spirits and the dead.
Vietnam's cuisine and music have three distinct flavors, related to Vietnam's three regions: Bac or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez faire attitude, probably due to the region's relative prosperity. Vietnamese cuisine is based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavor is sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), and flavored by a variety of mints.
- List of Vietnam-related topics
- Communications in Vietnam
- Transportation in Vietnam
- Military of Vietnam
- Foreign relations of Vietnam
- Holidays in Vietnam
- National Assembly (http://www.na.gov.vn/english/index.html): The Vietnamese legislative body
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/)
- Information about Vietnam (http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_vietnam/)
- General Statistics Office (http://www.gso.gov.vn/default_en.aspx?tabid=491)
- Communist Party of Vietnam (http://www.cpv.org.vn/index_e.html): the sole legal party
- Vietnam Tourism (http://www.vietnamtourism.com/index/e_index.asp)
- Vietnam Net (http://english.vietnamnet.vn/): Largest Vietnamese portal
- VOV News (http://www.vov.org.vn/Defaultv.htm): National radio broadcaster
- 2005 Vietnam Travel Guide (http://www.arikah.net/TourismVietnam-TravelGuide/Vietnam-Welcome)
- Vietnam Travel Guide (http://www.asinah.org/travel-guides/vietnam.html)
- Pictures of Vietnam (http://www.terragalleria.com/vietnam/)
- Photos of Vietnam (http://www.photo-vietnam.com)
|Countries in Southeast Asia|