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Vietnam: Land and People


Vietnam upies a land area of 330,000 sq. km. and measures 1,650 km from its northern border with China to its southernmost tip at the Eastern Sea. Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, with 3,260 km of spectacular coastline, Vietnam offers ideal advantages for economic development, trade and tourism.

Mountains and tropical forest cover three quarters of Vietnam, but the flatlands make up the most heavily populated portion of the country. The country's two "rice bowls" lie in the Red River delta in the north and the Mekong River delta in the south.

Hanoi, in the north, is the country's capital, while Ho Chi Minh City, in the south, is the largest commercial city. Danang, in the central part of the country, is the third largest city and an important port.

Vietnam has two climates. The southern and central regions have a tropical climate with dry and rainy seasons and are normally humid throughout the year. In the north, the four seasons, including a distinct winter, are more defined. Average annual rainfall is about 223 cm.


Vietnam's population stood at around 78 million in 1999. The average population density is 227 people per sq. km. The annual growth rate is 1.7%.

Of the 54 ethnic groups, those of Kinh (Vietnamese) descent account for 88% of the total population. The literacy rate is about 90%. Approximately 70% of the population is employed in agriculture and more than half is under the age of 25.

Natural Resources

In addition to having significant potential in energy sources such as oil, gas and coal, Vietnam is also very rich in other minerals, including bauxite, iron ore, copper, gold, precious stones, tin, chromate, apatite, and building materials, such as granite, marble, clay, silica sand, and graphite. This mineral wealth is complemented by significant marine resources, tropical forest, and agricultural potential.

(Map of Vietnam)


Vietnamese history dates back more than 4,000 years to when the ancient Vietnamese people founded their first nation under the name "Van Lang ".

The recent history of Vietnam is best characterized as one long, continuous struggle for freedom and independence. The country was ruled by the Chinese feudalists for nearly a thousand years from 111 B.C. to 939 A.D. It was also colonized by France for almost 100 years from 1859 to 1945.

During the Second World War, Vietnam was occupied by Japanese troops, but the French administration continued until March 9, 1945 when it was toppled by the Japanese. Vietnam regained its power from the Japanese in August 1945 and was declared independent on September 2 in the same year, giving the birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Right after the declaration of independence, the country was immediately plunged into a war against the French attempts to re-colonize, which lasted for another nine years. The war ended in 1954, leaving the country divided at the 17th parallel. The north remained as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by the communists, while the south fell under the influence of the West, namely the United States.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam grew in the 1950s and escalated into a full-fledged war in March 1965 when the first U.S. troops landed in Vietnam. Although U.S. troops were completely withdrawn by the end of March 1973 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords, the war continued until April 30, 1975, when the south was liberated. The nation was reunified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in January 1976.

International Links

As a result of the country's foreign policy of "being the friend of all countries," Vietnam has enjoyed increasing rapprochement with other countries. Relations with China were normalized in 1991 and have been expanding and developing since then. U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations were re-established in July 1995. A bilateral trade agreement was signed by the two countries in July 1999. Vietnam became a full member of ASEAN in July 1995 and in the same year, signed a cooperation treaty with the European Union. Vietnam currently maintains diplomatic relations with more than 160 countries, including all the world powers, and has economic and trade links with nearly 150 countries and territories. Ties with multilateral credit organizations such as World Bank, IMF and ADB have been resumed. The nation's international and regional economic integration process is being stepped up. Vietnam has been a member of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) since January 1st, 1996 and a full member of APEC since 1998. The country is also in the process of negotiating WTO membership.

The Political Structure

Vietnam is a socialist country under the leadership of the Communist Party. The Party holds a national congress every five years to outline the country's overall direction and future course as well as to formalize policies.

The National Assembly, which includes 450 members as maximum, representing all walks of life throughout the country, and is open to non-Party members, is the highest State authority and the only body with constitutional and legislative power. The President of the State and the Prime Minister are elected by the National Assembly.

The President has the right to nominate candidates for a number of key positions, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuracy. Nominees are then approved by the National Assembly.

The Prime Minister, who is charged with the day-to-day handling of the government, has the right to nominate and dismiss the members of his cabinet, though only with the approval of the National Assembly.

The Vietnamese Government now consists of 17 ministries and 12 ministerial agencies. The Ministry of Trade (MOT) is responsible for state management of both international and domestic trade while the Ministry of Planning and Investment is responsible for economic planning and management of both domestic and foreign investment.

In Vietnam, laws and ordinances are enacted by the National Assembly while decrees guiding the implementation of laws and ordinances are issued by the Government.

Vietnam is divided into 61 provinces and cities under the direct control of the central authority. Provinces are divided into districts, provincial capitals and towns. The districts are further divided into wards and villages. Municipalities remain under central authority and are divided into precincts and townships, which in turn are divided into wards.

Local People's Councils are elected by the local population in each area. The Councils have the duty to maintain respect for the law, to carry out state policies and tasks assigned from above, and to decide on local economic and social development plans and budgets.

Local People's Committees are the executive bodies of local People's Councils and serve as local administrative bodies, responsible to the Local People's Councils at the same level. The Chairmen, Vice Chairmen and members of the People's Committee are elected by the People's Council.



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