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Vietnam

Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam
Flag Emblem
Motto: "Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc"
"Independence – Freedom – Happiness"
Anthem: Tiến Quân Ca
(English: "Army March")[N 1]
Location of  Vietnam  (green)in ASEAN  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Vietnam  (green)

in ASEAN  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Capital Hanoi
Largest city Ho Chi Minh City
Official languages Vietnamese
Official scripts Vietnamese
Ethnic groups
Religion Vietnamese folk religion
Demonym Vietnamese
Government Marxist-Leninist single-party state
 -  Communist Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng
 -  President Trương Tấn Sang
 -  Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
 -  Chairman of National Assembly Nguyễn Sinh Hùng
Legislature National Assembly
Formation
 -  Viet Minh declare independence from France
2 September 1945 
 -  Fall of Saigon 30 April 1975 
 -  Reunification 2 July 1976[1] 
 -  Current constitution 28 November 2013 (in effect since 1 January 2014) 
Area
 -  Total 332,698 km2 (65th)
128,565 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 6.4[2]
Population
 -  2014 estimate 90,630,000[3] (13th)
 -  Density 273.11/km2 (46th)
707.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 -  Total Int$509.466 billion[3] (36th)
 -  Per capita Int$5,621[3] (127th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $187.848 billion[3] (54th)
 -  Per capita $2,072[3] (133rd)
Gini (2008) 35.6[4]
medium
HDI (2013) Steady 0.638[5]
medium · 121st
Currency đồng (₫)[6] (VND)
Time zone Indochina Time (UTC+07:00)
 -  Summer (DST) No DST (UTC+7)
Drives on the right
Calling code +84
ISO 3166 code VN
Internet TLD .vn

Vietnam (, , , ;[7] Vietnamese pronunciation: ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV; Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam (About this sound listen)), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 90.5 million inhabitants as of 2014, it is the world's 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as "Southern Viet" (synonymous with the much older term Nam Viet); it was first officially adopted in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long, and was adopted again in 1945 with the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh. 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.[8] Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.

Vietnam was part of Imperial China for over a millennium, from 111 BC to AD 938. The Vietnamese became independent from Imperial China in 938, following the Vietnamese victory in 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. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy intervention from the United States, in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

Vietnam was then unified under a communist government but remained impoverished and politically isolated. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms which began Vietnam's path towards integration into the world economy.[9] By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with all nations. Since 2000, Vietnam's economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world,[9] and, in 2011, it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies.[10] Its successful economic reforms resulted in its joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.

However, regardless of the advancements that have been made in recent years, the country still experiences disparities in access to healthcare and a lack of gender equality.[11][12][13][14][15]

Etymology

The name Việt Nam (Vietnamese pronunciation: ) is a variation of "Nam Việt" (Chinese: 南越; pinyin: Nányuè; literally "Southern Việt"), a name that can be traced back to the Triệu Dynasty of the 2nd century BC.[16] The word Việt originated as a shortened form of Bách Việt (Chinese: 百越; pinyin: Bǎiyuè), a word applied to a group of peoples then living in southern China and Vietnam.[17] The form "Vietnam" (越南) is first recorded in the 16th-century oracular poem Sấm Trạng Trình.[18] 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 dates to 1558.[19]

Between 1804 and 1813, the name was used officially by Emperor Gia Long.[20] It was revived in the early 20th century by Phan Bội Châu's History of the Loss of Vietnam, and later by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party.[21] The country was usually called Annam until 1945, when both the imperial government in Huế and the Viet Minh government in Hanoi adopted Việt Nam.[22] Since the use of Chinese characters was discontinued in 1918, the alphabetic spelling of Vietnam is official.

History

Prehistory

Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of humans in what is now Vietnam as early as the Paleolithic age. Homo erectus fossils dating to around 500,000 BC have been found in caves in Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An provinces in northern Vietnam.[23] The oldest Homo sapiens fossils from mainland Southeast Asia are of Middle Pleistocene provenance, and include isolated tooth fragments from Tham Om and Hang Hum.[24] Teeth attributed to Homo sapiens from the Late Pleistocene have also been found at Dong Can,[25] and from the Early Holocene at Mai Da Dieu,[25] Lang Gao[26] and Lang Cuom.[27]

Bronze Age

By about 1000 BC, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River floodplains led to the flourishing of the Đông Sơn culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. At this time, the early Vietnamese kingdoms of Văn Lang and Âu Lạc appeared, and the culture's influence spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Maritime Southeast Asia, throughout the first millennium BC.[28][29][30]

Dynastic Vietnam

The 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 Chinese general named Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue. However, Nanyue was itself incorporated into the empire of the Chinese Han dynasty in 111 BC after the Han–Nanyue War.

Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam tiến), 1069–1757.

For the next thousand years, Vietnam remained mostly under Chinese rule.[31] Early independence movements, such as those of the Trưng Sisters and Lady Triệu, were only temporarily successful, though the region gained a longer period of independence as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Lý dynasty between AD 544 and 602.[32] By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not true independence, under the Khúc family.

In AD 938, the Vietnamese lord Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of the Chinese Southern Han state at Bạch Đằng River and achieved full independence for Vietnam after a millennium of Chinese domination.[33] 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.[34] Meanwhile, Buddhism flourished and became the state religion.

Following the 1406–7 Ming–Hồ War which overthrew the Hồ dynasty, Vietnamese independence was briefly interrupted by the Chinese 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"),[35] eventually conquering the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.[36][37]

From the 16th century onwards, civil strife and frequent political infighting 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 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 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.[38] Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.

1862–1945: French Indochina

French Indochina in 1913.

Vietnam's independence was gradually eroded by France – aided by large Catholic militias – in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885. In 1862, the southern third of the country became the French colony of Cochinchina. By 1884, the entire country had come under French rule and was formally integrated into the union of French Indochina in 1887. 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. Most French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina, basing themselves around Saigon.[39] The royalist Cần Vương movement rebelled against French rule and was defeated in the 1890s after a decade of resistance. Guerrillas of the Cần Vương movement murdered around a third of Vietnam's Christian population during this period.[40]

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 Bội Châu, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi and Ho Chi Minh fighting or calling for independence. However, the 1930 Yên Bái mutiny of the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng was suppressed easily.[41] The French maintained full control of their colonies until World War II, when the war in the Pacific led to the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1941. Afterwards, the Japanese Empire was allowed to station its troops in Vietnam while permitting the pro-Vichy French colonial administration to continue. Japan exploited Vietnam's natural resources to support its military campaigns, culminating in a full-scale takeover of the country in March 1945 and the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which caused up to two million deaths.[42]

1946–54: 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 Government of the French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to restore colonial rule, and the Viet Minh began a guerrilla campaign against the French in late 1946.[43] The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954.[44]

The defeat of French and Vietnamese loyalists in the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire from a favorable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference. The colonial administration was ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954, which separated the loyalist forces from the communists at the 17th parallel north with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone.[N 2] Two states formed after the partition – Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and Emperor Bảo Đại's State of Vietnam in the south. A 300-day period of free movement was permitted, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholics, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists.[48]

The partition of Vietnam was not intended to be permanent by the Geneva Accords, which stipulated that Vietnam would be reunited after elections in 1956.[49] However, in 1955, the State of Vietnam's Prime Minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam.[50]

1954–1975: Vietnam War

U.S. helicopter spraying chemical defoliants (probably Agent Orange) over the Mekong Delta, 1969.

The pro-Hanoi Viet Cong began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s to overthrow Diệm's government.[51] In the North, the communist government launched a land reform program,[52] and executed between 50,000[53] and 172,000[52] people in campaigns against wealthy farmers and landowners, amid broader purges.[52][54][55][56] In 1960 and 1962, the Soviet Union and North Vietnam signed treaties providing for further Soviet military support. In the South, Diệm went about crushing political and religious opposition, imprisoning or executing tens of thousands.[57][58]

In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm's regime erupted into mass demonstrations, leading to a violent government crackdown.[59] This led to the collapse of Diệm's relationship with the United States, and ultimately to the 1963 coup in which Diệm and Nhu were assassinated.[60] The Diệm era was followed by more than a dozen successive military governments, before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ 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.[61] Under this political instability, the communists began to gain ground.

To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers, using the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretext for such intervention. US forces became involved in ground combat operations in 1965, and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000.[62][63] The US also engaged in a sustained aerial bombing campaign. Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union provided North Vietnam with significant material aid and 15,000 combat advisers.[64][65] Communist forces supplying the Viet Cong carried supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail, which passed through Laos.[66]

The communists attacked South Vietnamese targets during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Although the campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and turned US public opinion against the war.[67][68] Facing an increasing casualty count, rising domestic opposition to the war, and growing international condemnation, the US began withdrawing from ground combat roles in the early 1970s. This process also entailed an unsuccessful effort to strengthen and stabilize South Vietnam.[69]

Following the Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 1973, all American combat troops were withdrawn by 29 March 1973. In December 1974, North Vietnam captured the province of Phước Long and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.[70] South Vietnam was briefly ruled by a provisional 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.[1] The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll standing at between 800,000 and 3.1 million.[42][71][72]

1976–present: 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.[73] This caused economic chaos and resulted in triple-digit inflation, while national reconstruction efforts progressed slowly. At least one million South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, with an estimated 165,000 prisoners dying.[74][75] Between 100,000[74][76][77] and 200,000[78] South Vietnamese were executed in extrajudicial killings;[79] another 50,000 died performing hard labor in "New Economic Zones".[74][80] In the late 1970s and early 1980s, millions of people fled the country in crudely built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis;[81][82] hundreds of thousands died at sea.[83]

In 1978, the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia to remove from power the Khmer Rouge, who had been attacking Vietnamese border villages.[84] Vietnam was victorious, installing a government in Cambodia which ruled until 1989.[85] This action worsened relations with the Chinese, who launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979.[86] This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.

At the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in December 1986, reformist politicians replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership.[87][88] The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyễn Văn Linh, who became the party's new general secretary.[87][88] 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".[89][90]

Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged under Đổi Mới, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries.[90] The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved strong 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.[13][14][15]

Government and politics

The Presidential Palace in Hanoi, formerly the Palace of The Governor-General of French Indochina.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, along with China, Cuba, Laos, and North Korea, is one of the world's five remaining single-party socialist states officially espousing communism. 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,[91] with The Economist characterizing its leadership as "ardently capitalist communists".[92]

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.

Legislature

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. Vietnam maintains the death penalty for numerous offences; as of February 2014, there are around 700 inmates on death row in Vietnam.[93]

Military

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 Coast Guard. 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.[94] In 2011, Vietnam's military expenditure totalled approximately US$2.48 billion, equivalent to around 2.5% of its 2010 GDP.[95]

International relations

Vietnamese troops on one of the disputed Spratly Islands in 2009.

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.[96]

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."[97] 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."[97]

By December 2007, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 172 countries, including the United States, which normalized relations in 1995.[98][99] 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.[100]

Administrative subdivisions

Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (Vietnamese: tỉnh, from the Chinese 省, shěng). There are also five municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương), which are administratively on the same level as provinces.

A clickable map of Vietnam exhibiting its 58 provinces and 5 centrally controlled municipalities.
Lai Châu Province Hà Giang Province Lào Cai Province Điện Biên Province China Laos Thailand Cambodia Sơn La Province Yên Bái Province Cao Bằng Province Bắc Kạn Province Tuyên Quang Province Lạng Sơn Province Quảng Ninh Province Thái Nguyên Province Phú Thọ Province Hai Phong Province Thái Bình Province Nam Định Province Bắc Giang Province Ha Noi Hòa Bình Province Ninh Bình Province Thanh Hóa Province Nghệ An Province Hà Tĩnh Province Quảng Bình Province Quảng Trị Province Da Nang Bình Định Province Quảng Nam Province Quảng Ngãi Province Kon Tum Province Gia Lai Province Thừa Thiên–Huế Province Đắk Lắk Province Phú Yên Province Khánh Hòa Province Đắk Nông Province Ninh Thuận Province Lâm Đồng Province Bình Thuận Province Bình Phước Province Tây Ninh Province Bình Dương Province Đồng Nai Province Ba Ria-Vũng Tàu Province Ho Chi Minh City Long An Province Don Thap Province An Giang Province Kiên Giang Province Cà Mau Province Tiền Giang Province Cần Thơ Province Vĩnh Long Province Bến Tre Province Trà Vinh Province Hậu Giang Province Sóc Trăng Province Bạc Liêu Province Vĩnh Phúc Province Ha Noi Bắc Ninh Province Hải Dương Province Hưng Yên Province Hà Nam Province Vĩnh Phúc Province Ha Noi Bắc Ninh Province Hải Dương Province Hưng Yên Province Hà Nam ProvinceA clickable map of Vietnam exhibiting its provinces.
About this image

Bắc Ninh
Hà Nam
Hải Dương
Hưng Yên
Nam Định
Ninh Bình
Thái Bình
Vĩnh Phúc
Hanoi (municipality)
Hai Phong (municipality)


Bắc Giang
Bắc Kạn
Cao Bằng
Hà Giang
Lạng Sơn
Lào Cai
Phú Thọ
Quảng Ninh
Thái Nguyên
Tuyên Quang
Yên Bái


Điện Biên
Hòa Bình
Lai Châu
Sơn La


Hà Tĩnh
Nghệ An
Quảng Bình
Quảng Trị
Thanh Hóa
Thừa Thiên–Huế


Đắk Lắk
Đắk Nông
Gia Lai
Kon Tum
Lâm Đồng


Bình Định
Bình Thuận
Khánh Hòa
Ninh Thuận
Phú Yên
Quảng Nam
Quảng Ngãi
Da Nang (municipality)


Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu
Bình Dương
Bình Phước Province
Đồng Nai
Tây Ninh
Ho Chi Minh City (municipality)


An Giang
Bạc Liêu
Bến Tre
Cà Mau
Đồng Tháp
Hậu Giang
Kiên Giang
Long An
Sóc Trăng
Tiền Giang
Trà Vinh
Vĩnh Long
Cần Thơ (municipality)

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

Geography

Topographic map of Vietnam.

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),[2] 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.[2] At its narrowest point in the central Quảng Bình Province, the country is as little as 50 kilometres (31 mi) across, though it widens to around 600 kilometres (370 mi) in the north. 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),[101] 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. The 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.

Climate

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 Chinese 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 SitesHạ Long Bay and Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park – and six biosphere reserves, including Cần Giờ Mangrove Forest, Cát Tiên, Cát Bà, Kiên Giang, the Red River Delta, and Western Nghệ An.

Vietnam lies in the Indomalaya ecozone. According to the 2005 National Environmental Present Condition Report.[102] 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.[102]

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.[102] In recent years, 13 genera, 222 species, and 30 taxa of flora have been newly described in Vietnam.[102] 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.[103] 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.[104]

In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centers. The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank preserves 12,300 cultivars of 115 species.[102] 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.[102]

Economy

Paddy fields in Sa Pa.

In 2012, Vietnam's nominal GDP reached US$138 billion, with a nominal GDP per capita of $1,527, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[3] According to a December 2005 forecast by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy will become the world's 21st-largest by 2025, with an estimated nominal GDP of $436 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $4,357.[105] 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.[106] In 2012, HSBC predicted that Vietnam's total GDP would surpass those of Norway, Singapore and Portugal by 2050.[107]

Vietnam has been, for much of its history, a predominantly agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation. There is also an industry for Bauxite mining in Vietnam, an important material for the production of aluminum. 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 National Congress of the Communist Party introduced socialist-oriented market economic reforms as part of the Đổi Mới reform program. Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture.[108] 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.[109]

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).[110] In 2010, Vietnam was ranked as the 8th largest crude petroleum producers in the Asia and Pacific region.[111] Like its Chinese 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.[112] 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 the Đổi Mới program, investment in poorer remote areas, and subsidising of education and healthcare.[113] According to the IMF, the unemployment rate in Vietnam stood at 4.46% in 2012.[3]

Trade

Floating market of Cần Thơ

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.[113][114] 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.[115] Vietnam's chief trading partners include China, Japan, Australia, the ASEAN countries, the United States and Western Europe.

Vietnam's Customs office reported in July 2013 that the total value of international merchandise trade for the first half of 2013 was US$124 billion, which was 15.7% higher than the same period in 2012. Mobile phones and their parts were both imported and exported in large numbers, while in the natural resources market, crude oil was a top-ranking export and high levels of iron and steel were imported during this period. The U.S. was the country that purchased the highest amount of Vietnam's exports, while Chinese goods were the most popular Vietnamese import.[116]

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 is the world's second largest exporter of coffee.[117] 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 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.

In 2014 the country negotiated a free trade agreement with the European Union which would give it access to the EU's Generalized System of Preferences, which provides preferential access to European markets for developing countries through reduced tariffs.[118]

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 Trần Nhân Tông 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.[119] Vietnam has also made significant advances in the development of robots, such as the TOPIO humanoid model.[120] In 2010, Vietnam's total state spending on science and technology equalled around 0.45% of its GDP.[121]

Transport

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.

Air

Vietnam operates 21 major civil airports, including three international gateways: Noi Bai in Hanoi, Da Nang International Airport in Da Nang, and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City. Tan Son Nhat is the nation's largest airport, handling 75% 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 have an annual service capacity of 100 million passengers once it becomes fully operational in 2020.

Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned national airline, maintains a fleet of 69 passenger aircraft,[122][123] 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.

Road

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.[124] 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.

Rail

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 Hạ Long Bay, the northbound line from Hanoi to Thái Nguyên, and the northeast line from Hanoi to Lào Cai.

In 2009, Vietnam and Japan signed a deal to build a high-speed railway using Japanese technology; numerous Vietnamese engineers were later sent to Japan to receive training in the operation and maintenance of high-speed trains. The railway will be a 1,630-km-long[125] express route, serving a total of 26 stations, including Hanoi and the Thu Thiem terminus in Ho Chi Minh City.[126] Using Japan's Shinkansen technology,[127] the line will support trains travelling at a maximum speed of 360 kilometres (220 mi) per hour. The high-speed lines linking Hanoi to Vinh, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City 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 Lào Cai and Lạng Sơn.

Water

As a coastal country, Vietnam has many major sea ports, including Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai, Qui Nhơn, Vũng Tàu 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.[128][129]

In addition, the Mekong Delta and Red River Delta are vital to Vietnam's social and economic welfare – most of the country's population lives along or near these river deltas, and the major cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are situated near the Mekong and Red River deltas, respectively. Further out in the South China Sea, Vietnam currently controls the majority of the disputed Spratly Islands, which are the source of longstanding disagreements with China and other nearby nations.[130]

Demographics

The census of 1 April 2009 recorded the population of Vietnam as standing at approximately 85.8 million. The population had grown significantly from the 1979 census, which showed the total population of reunified Vietnam to be 52.7 million.[131] In 2012, the country's population was estimated at approximately 90.3 million.[3] Currently, the total fertility rate of Vietnam is 1.8 (births per woman),[132] which is largely due to the government's family planning policy, the two-child policy.

Ethnicity

According to the 2009 census, the dominant Viet or Kinh ethnic group constituted nearly 73.6 million people, or 85.8% of the population. The 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 Nùng. 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, Ngô Đình Diệm's South Vietnamese government enacted a program of resettling Kinh in indigenous areas.[133] The Hoa (ethnic Chinese)[134] and Khmer Krom people are mainly lowlanders. As Sino-Vietnamese relations soured in 1978 and 1979, some 450,000 Hoa left Vietnam.[135]