Cities in VIETNAM


Geography and Landscape


Vietnam (Vietnamese, = Country of the South) (officially: Viêt Nam Công Hòa Xa Hôi Chu 'Nghiã = Socialist Republic of Vietnam) is a republic in Southeast Asia. The total area of the country is over 330,000 km2.

Vietnam Satellite photoVietnam Satellite photoPhoto: Public Domain

Vietnam is bordered to the north by China (1281 km), to the northwest by Laos (2130 km) and in the southwest at Cambodia (950 km). The maximum distance from north to south is 1,650 kilometers and the width of the country varies from a maximum of 600 kilometers to 50 kilometers in the center of the country between Laos and the South China Sea. The total coastline is more than 2500 kilometers long and runs from north to south along the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea or Bien Dong and the Gulf of Thailand. These are largely natural borders, as Vietnam is separated from Laos and Cambodia by the Truong Son Mountains.

The territory of Vietnam includes a chain of thousands of islands and the government also claims a number of other islands, including the Paracel Islands (400 kilometers east of Da Nang) and the Spratley Islands (500 kilometers from the southeast coast).

Vietnam's largest island, Phu Quoc, is located in the Gulf of Thailand, just outside the territorial waters of Cambodia , 45 kilometers from Ha Tien. Phu Quoc is kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide and has an area of approximately 1,300 km2. Phu Quoc belongs to the 16-island archipelago Dao Phu Quoc.


The largest part of Vietnam, approx. 75%, consists of mountains and hills. In the mountainous north of Bac Bo is also the large, densely populated delta (approx. 15,000 km2) of the Song Hong, the Red River. The river owes its name to the red sediments it carries with it. This river is more than 1200 kilometers long and has its source in China's Yunnan province and flows to the Gulf of Tonkin in the southeast. To prevent flooding in the rainy season there are huge dikes along the river. The vast mountain country in the north, the Hoang Lien Mountains, is a continuation of the mountain country of Southeast China with the highest peak being the Phan Si Pan at 3,143 meters. This mountain range also forms the border with China in the north and Laos in the northwest. This area used to be almost completely forested, but now completely bare due to centuries of logging and burning for agriculture.

Phan Si Pan, highest point of Vietnam and Indo-China Phan Si Pan, highest point of Vietnam and Indo-ChinaPhoto: Phonglanpls CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Central Vietnam or Trung Bo has a narrow coastline that merges into the Cordillera of Annam or Truong Son, which forms the border with Laos and Cambodia for more than 1200 kilometers. Here are a number of mountains that are between 1000 and 2000 meters high. The coastal strip here consists of beaches, lagoons and dunes.

South Vietnam or Nam Bo is hilly with the Mekong Delta at its core with an area of 40,000 km2. The gigantic Mekong (Cuu Long Giang = River of the Nine Dragons) eventually flows through a number of countries through Vietnam for 222 kilometers and then flows into the South China Sea. The fertile silt that is constantly deposited here makes the Mekong Delta an area characterized by endless rice fields. Due to the continuous silting, the territory of Vietnam is expanded by a few dozen meters every year.

Climate and Weather

Monsoon clouds over VietnamMonsoon clouds over VietnamPhoto: Jean-Marie Hullot CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Due to the elongated shape of Vietnam, there are major climatic differences. The south and in particular the Mekong Delta is tropical with average temperatures that are fairly constant around 30 ° C. The north is subtropical and above 2000 meters there is even a moderate climate. Vietnam is further in the monsoon zone of Southeast Asia and the climate border is at Da Nang.

The differences per region are large; when the rainy season arrives in the mountains, it is sunny and dry on the coast. And if it is quite cold in the winter in the northern mountain area, it is nice and warm in the south. In Vietnam there is an average of between 1100 and 2600 millimeters of precipitation. Especially on the coast between Quy Njon and Vinh, more than 2000 millimeters fall annually due to the rapid rise of the landscape.

Vietnam has quite a few thunderstorms, in the north about forty days a year and in the south even about sixty days a year. In the north, the sun shines an average of 1167 hours a year, in Central Vietnam 2,224 hours a year and in the south much less, 1,621 hours a year.

The hurricane season for the sea area near Vietnam runs from May 1 to January 1, and in July, August, September and October there is a good chance of a typhoon struck Vietnam.

In the north, summer starts as early as April with subtropical temperatures and high humidity. Especially in July and August it rains a lot, but also in the rest of the year there are regular showers. Hanoi receives nearly 1,700 millimeters of rain every year. In September, summer will end in the north and temperatures will drop to around 15°C in January.

Sunset Mekong Delta, VietnamSunset Mekong Delta, VietnamPhoto: McKay Savage CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the south, the southwest monsoon prevails and it can get very hot from January to April with temperatures reaching well above 30 °C and reaching 40 °C on a daily basis. In April and May it becomes even more unpleasant due to the very high humidity, which then rises to above 90%. The rainy season starts in May and is characterized by strong short showers. July to September is the time when most rain falls. The Mekong Delta regularly experiences flooding in the summer after heavy rainfall in Laos and Cambodia. Nha Trang is one of the driest places in Vietnam with an annual approx. 1200 millimeters. In the mountains around Da Lat in the south, the temperature sometimes drops to zero in winter.

The weather is generally worst in the northern coastal region of central Vietnam, with heavy rainfall from August to January. This part of the coastal area therefore suffers a lot from devastating hurricanes or taifuns. Dry months are June and July. In the southern coastal region there is a rainy southwest monsoon from October to December. The dry season runs from May to September.

The highlands around Da Lat have an erratic climate with rain all year round. This is caused by foothills of both the southwest and the northeast monsoons. The relatively dry season is between September and March.

At the beginning of November 1999, Vietnam had to deal with heavy rainfall for weeks on end. Floods then claimed the lives of more than 500 people. On November 1, 1999 alone, quantities of up to 500 mm in one day were measured all over the country. In five days, the coastal city of Da Nang in central Vietnam caught more than 900 mm of rain. Normally, less than 400 mm falls here in the entire month of November.

Plants and Weather


Vietnam rainforestVietnam rainforestPhoto: Vyacheslav Argenberg CC 4.0 International no changes made

Due to the topographical differences in Vietnam, the country has a wide variety of flora in the mountains, tropical forests and on the plains and plateaus. Especially in the higher areas, the tropical rainforest dominates, which today still covers about 40% of the land surface of Vietnam. The tropical rainforest is home to an incredible number of approximately 7,000 plant species.

Deciduous tropical monsoon forests and savannas occur in the drier parts of Vietnam, along the coast mangrove forests. The marshes of the Mekong Delta and those along the north coast have been largely reclaimed for rice cultivation.

Red lotus, the national flower of VietnamRed lotus, the national flower of VietnamPhoto: Dennis Jarvis CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The national flower of Vietnam is the red lotus, the national plants are bamboo and rice.


Indian elephant at the Ho Chi Minh City Zoo, VietnamIndian elephant at the Ho Chi Minh City Zoo, VietnamPhoto: Diego Delso CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The great landscape differences in Vietnam result in a very varied animal world. This belongs to that of Indo-China and consists mainly of the fauna of the Asian tropical rainforest. The most famous representatives of the 270 mammal species are tiger, Indian elephant, deer, rhinoceroses and a number of monkeys such as the langur or helman, macaque, rhesus macaque and gibbon.

Edward's' Pheasant, VietnamEdward's' Pheasant, VietnamPhoto: Thaisk CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Different animal species have a limited distribution, mostly within Vietnam; The kouprey, a very rare wild buffalo species, is thought to have been virtually extinct, while certain slender monkeys are becoming increasingly rare. Javan and Sumatran rhinos have both probably already been exterminated. Endangered species include tiger, leopard, black bear, serow (a mountain goat), douc langur and the Indian elephant.

Vietnam has nearly 800 bird species, including storks, herons, pheasants (including the Edwards' pheasant, which were believed to be extinct in Vietnam), hornbills and peacocks.

Vietnam is home to 180 species of reptiles, including many snake species, including pythons, cobras and the highly poisonous krait.

Saola VietnamSaola VietnamPhoto: Silviculture CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Vietnam is one of the few countries in the world where unknown species are still regularly discovered. In the rainforest of Vu Quang (along the border with Laos, northwest of Vinh), an oryx-like animal, the "saola", was caught about ten years ago. Since then, more mammal species have been discovered, including a giant coin yak.

In 2007 it became known that scientists had discovered a large group of very rare gray shin cloths (Pygathrix cinerea). The group consists of 116 animals, but it is believed that the group consists of about 180 monkeys. The gray shin cloths were first observed in 1997.

Carabao, national animal of VietnamCarabao, national animal of VietnamPhoto: Brian Snelson CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The national animal of Vietnam is the carabao or water buffalo and symbolically the Vietnamese dragon.


Antiquity and Middle Ages

Dong Son drums Vietnam 500 BC Dong Son drums Vietnam 500 BCPhoto: Grenouille vert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Vietnamese are descended from migrants from Central Asia and from islands in the Pacific. Like most other peoples, they were first hunters and gatherers, turning to agriculture only after centuries.

The first historically recognized empire was that of Au Lac, which was soon succeeded by the empire Nam Viet, and it meant 'Country in the south' 111 years BC. Vietnam was conquered by armies of the Chinese Han dynasty. The Chinese would leave their mark on the social, cultural and political life of Vietnam for centuries. Ho Ewel is regularly opposed the Chinese did it all just little. On the contrary, most of the revolts were bloody suppressed and the hold of the Chinese over Vietnam, calling their southernmost province Annam, became more and more tight.

Head of Shiva of Champa civilization, Vietnam 800 AD. Head of Shiva of Champa civilization, Vietnam 800 ADPhoto: DoktorMax iin the public domain

Yet other peoples also managed to gain a foothold in Vietnam over the centuries. Indian merchants founded Funan in the Mekong Delta, which developed into a powerful city-state between the third and fifth centuries. At the same time, another Indian empire was developing on the east coast of central Vietnam: Champa. Between the fourth and thirteenth centuries, the temple city of My Son was the religious and cultural center of the Hindu Ham, a highly educated people, but also notorious for their piracy. Between the sixth and tenth centuries, they controlled the spice trade in Southeast Asia and traded with all the major powers in East and Southeast Asia. The Cham often conflicted with the Vietnamese in the north and the Khmer in the west, and eventually the Champa Empire fell into two pieces. This made the two empires so weak that they could easily be conquered by the Vietnamese. However, this would not be finalized until the 17th century.

Vietnam sovereign for the first time

Cannon from the days of the Le Dynasty, Vietnam Cannon from the days of the Le Dynasty, VietnamPhoto: Gary Todd in the public domain

Vietnam first became a sovereign state in the 10th century. The reigning Chinese Tang Dynasty collapsed and in 939 an emperor of its own was elected, calling the country Dai Co Viet, "Great Viet". Thang Long became the first capital, later this would be Hanoi. The kingdom of the Cham was also incorporated.

In the thirteenth century Vietnam was attacked from China by the Mongols. However, the Mongols did not manage to conquer the country, but the result was that the Chinese did manage to return. The Chinese in turn were expelled by Le Li, a local ruler, who then founded the Le Dynasty as King Le Thai To.

Arrival of the Europeans

Battle of Tho Xuong River between Tay Son and Qing army in December 1788, Vietnam Battle of Tho Xuong River between Tay Son and Qing army in 1788, VietnamPhoto: Public domain

In the 16th century, the dynasty weakened to such an extent that two rival clans took over: the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the center of the country. The rivalry between the two clans was so great that the country actually split into two pieces again and the Nguyen conquered the Mekong Delta. This rivalry continued throughout the eighteenth century.

In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on Vietnamese land and immediately set up trading posts. The inevitable missionaries also followed in their tracks and were especially successful with the poor rural population, despite often fierce opposition from the ruling class.

The French missionaries in particular had a great influence on daily life in Vietnam, and also played an important role in the fierce economic competition with the English. Around 1770, the French gained a firm foothold on the entire Indo-Chinese peninsula. The second half of the eighteenth century was marked by many revolts, all directed against the rule of the Trinh and Nguyen clans.

Ultimately, the Tay Son Rebellion of 1771 was successful and the Trinh and Nguyen rulers were dethroned. The rebels allowed the Le dynasty to stay put, but they did not trust the cause and in 1788 enlisted the help of the Chinese, who soon occupied Hanoi with a large army. In response, one of the Tay Son brothers, Nguyn Hue proclaimed himself emperor and then defeated the Chinese. He called himself Quang Trung.

In 1802, the throne was taken over by Gia Long. He was one of the few Nguyens who survived the uprising and made an agreement with the French: in exchange for territory and trade concessions, Gia Long received military support from the French.

Vietnam becomes French protectorate

Former Palace of the Governor of Indochina in Hanoi, Vietnam Former Palace of the Governor of Indochina in Hanoi, VietnamPhoto: Jorge L & aacute; scar CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

For the first time in history, the country was called Vietnam, with central authority in the centrally located capital Hue. Fia Long then abolished all reforms and Vietnam fell back to a feudal system with a strong government, a lot of bureaucracy and a poor and oppressed peasant population.

However, it would not be long before Vietnam would be occupied by the French again. Gia Long and his successors did not keep the promised trade concessions and missionaries and converted Vietnamese were persecuted. Furthermore, the French were very concerned that after India and Singapore, the British also China. In 1858, an army of Napoleon III conquered Saigon, the Mekong Delta and some southern provinces without much trouble. The conquered territory was called Cochin-China by the French and Annam (Central Vietnam) and Tonkin (North Vietnam) were also occupied by the French without the reigning Emperor Tu Doc being able to do much about it. Tu Doc officially remained the head of state of Vietnam. In 1887, the occupied Vietnamese territories were merged with the protectorates Cambodia and Laos to form the Union of (French) Indochina, with as governor the later president of France , Paul Doumer.

The French put a lot of money into the colony's infrastructure, but Vietnam was hit by a global economic crisis. Farmers had to work on plantations under terrible conditions and the educated elite were only eligible for bad jobs and that would be the seed for resistance. For the time being, however, anti-colonial movements have failed to make a fist against the French occupier. That changed significantly when the radical Vietnamese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang came into action. A first uprising was crushed and the leaders imprisoned or executed. In 1925, the Marxist-Leninist farmer's son Ho Chi Minh founded the Revolutionary Youth League, and four years later this movement had grown into an Indochinese Communist Party; main goal was independence. This was gradually being prepared by party executives who established party centers in the countryside and in the cities.

Several revolts took place in the 1930s. The French reacted mercilessly: many Vietnamese died violently, including many leaders of the uprising. Ho Chi Minh was arrested in Hong Kong in 1931. The next five years were captured put about 10,000 Vietnamese Communists. Due to internal conditions in France, thousands of political prisoners were again released, and the result of all that was that Indochina remained just a French colony.


 Flag of the Viet Minh (North Vietnam) Flag of the Viet Minh (North Vietnam)Photo: Public domain

With the colonial regime in Vietnam totally cut off from the motherland, the French Vichy government collaborated with the Japanese, allowing the Japanese to occupy Vietnam in 1941. It soon became apparent that the Japanese were not inferior to the French in terms of exploitation and disregard for Vietnam and the Vietnamese. In just a few years, Vietnam was looted and about 2 million Vietnamese died of starvation in 1945 alone.

Ho Chi Minh returned from China in 1941, along with Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong to Vietnam. Together with them he formed the nationalist League for Independence, which would later become known as Vietminh. Vietminh fighters started a guerrilla war against the Japanese and received help from the Chinese, but also from the Allies. As a final convulsion, the Japanese declared an independent state in March 1945, with Bao Dai, the last Nguyen emperor, as a puppet. The entire French army was even captured, but after the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, the role of the Japanese in Vietnam was over.


Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, VietnamPhoto: Public domain

As a result of the resulting power vacuum, Ho Chi Minh called for a national uprising on August 15. A few weeks later, the Vietminh controlled most of the country, and Bao Dai surrendered the throne to Ho Chi Minh, who proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi on September 2, 1945. However, the Americans refused to lend support to the new rulers, and Chiang Kai Shek's and British anti-communist Kuomintang were ordered to disarm the remaining Japanese. Before they could take action, however, the Vietminh had already fulfilled that task.

In the south, the British declared martial law, and together with a French army, Saigon was soon, and after that the whole south too, back in French hands. In the north, the Chinese left after an agreement between the French and the Kuomintang. Ho Chi Minh decided to choose the lesser of two evils and let the French do their thing. In return, France recognized the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state within a French Union. Permission was also given to hold a referendum on whether the South should join the new state.

It soon became apparent that the French were not concerned about the agreement. Ho Chi Minh was told in Parisin 1946 that France insisted that the south of Vietnam should remain a colony and the north a protectorate. Not long after, the first skirmishes broke out between the French and the Vietminh and the first Indo-Chinese War started, which would last until 1954. In December Ho Chi Minh fled with his army into the mountains and harassed the French from the jungle. The French sought to gain popular support by putting Bao Dai back on the throne as head of a united Vietnam. However, this did not help and the war continued.

When the communists came to power in China in 1949 things changed significantly. Ho Chi Minh got immediate military support from both China and the Soviet Union, and that was the sign for the Americans to get involved and back the French. However, the Vietminh gained the upper hand and even attacked Hanoi in 1951. The Americans again threatened with nuclear weapons, but France tried to negotiate an agreement with the Vietnamese. This should have come to pass at the Geneva Conference , but before then the strategic outpost of the French, Dien Bien Phu, fell. This forced the French to surrender to the Vietminh prior to the Conference.

New war inevitable

Bao Dao, Vietnam Bao Dao, VietnamPhoto: Manhai (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

The Geneva Conference (July 1954) continued, however, but not to the satisfaction of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh. China benefited from a divided Vietnam on its southern border and its delegation leader Chou En-Lai pushed for a divided Vietnam along the 17th parallel, and a demilitarized buffer zone was established pending free elections. An immediate ceasefire was further declared and all troops should withdraw to their assigned areas. China, the Soviet Union, England, France and the Vietminh agreed to the treaty, the United States and Bao Dai's government, of course, not. According to President Eisenhower, free elections would certainly lead to a major victory for the communist Ho Chi Minh, and that was unthinkable in the days of the Cold War. During the conference, the Americans in Saigon installed the regime of the Catholic anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem.

A popular migration started: more than a million refugees moved from the north to the south and About 100,000 anti-French guerrillas moved north, leaving about 10,000 Vietminh fighters in the south. Bao Dai had in the meantime appointed himself president, but that fairy tale does not last long. Diem put him aside and declared himself president. He carried out a real reign of terror against political dissenters, and up to 1960 tens of thousands of people were thrown in prison without much trial and about 50,000 more were murdered in pogroms.

In the north the situation was not much better. The infrastructure was largely destroyed and because of the division, the north no longer received rice from the south. Furthermore, so-called & lsquo; landowners & rsquo; as imperialists severely punished. Only when an uprising broke out in Ho Chi Minh province, Ho admitted that things had gone wrong and many prisoners were released.

The Americans are definitely joining the fray

Lyndon B Johnson, US President Lyndon B Johnson, US PresidentPhoto: Billy Hathorn in the public domain

Diem's extermination efforts in the south had also meant that the Vietminh guerrilla's not much was left, and the north benefited. From 1960 onwards, many men and equipment were sent from the north to the south and there the National Liberation Front, the NLF, was also established, consisting of a coalition of communist, non-communist, Catholic and Buddhist nationalists. Diem called these guerrillas Viet Cong or VC, Vietnamese Communists.

From this time on, the Americans became very actively engaged in the fighting in Vietnam, having financially supported Diem's government and the French from 1950 onwards. The advance of the Vietcong made the Americans fear that the last bastion of the free world would fall into the hands of the communists.

By the summer of 1962, more than ten thousand American advisers were already present in South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese people were gradually losing confidence in Diem's corrupt regime. Especially the & lsquo; strategic villages program & rsquo; met with a lot of resistance and after the shooting of a number of Buddhist monks, many demonstrations followed with the commitment of freedom of religion. And when images of the monk Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation in Saigon spread around the world, the Americans finally intervened. shot dead. Three weeks later, US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and succeeded by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson reluctantly felt compelled to step up support for South Vietnam. The governments that came to power after Diem were just as corrupt and inefficient and meanwhile the Vietcong gained more and more support in the countryside.

Tonkin Incident: Vietnam War Erupts

Captured Vietcong fighters , Vietnam Captured Vietcong fighters , VietnamPhoto: Public Domain

After a bogus incident involving the US warship USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, Johnson decided to station US troops in Vietnam, after which the conflict erupted in full force. Northern military bases were bombed in ways unparalleled in history. However, it did not help much, more and more Vietcong soldiers infiltrated in the south. In March 1965, the first US ground forces arrived in Vietnam, and two years later there were already more than half a million US soldiers in South Vietnam.

In early 1968, the US military base Khe Sanh was destroyed by a large North Vietnamese force under siege. That turned out to be a diversion, because during the New Year's truce, the Vietcong massively attacked more than a hundred city centers in the south. However, the Vietcong were everywhere beaten back and by then there was in fact no structured army left.

Still, the Americans in the street believed that this war could never be won and Johnson and his government became convinced of it. He therefore refused to send any more troops to Vietnam, despite the insistence of the military leadership in Vietnam. On March 31, 1968, he announced an end to the bombing and a month later peace negotiations began in Paris, which, however, would last more than five years.

Vietnam War ended

Vietnam War Protests in Wahington Vietnam War Protests in WahingtonPhoto: Leena A. Krohn CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1969, Richard M. Nixon, Johnson's successor, promised to end the war, but this had to be done without losing face. At the same time, however, General Diem's ARVN forces were reinforced with the aim of infiltrating and undermining the Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam. Here thousands of Vietcong were tortured and slain. In addition, the war was expanded to Cambodia and Laos, because there were many supply depots of the Vietcong. In March 1969, these targets were continuously bombed in secret. In the United States, meanwhile, the massive anti-war demonstrations stood out. Nixon didn't take much notice of this, however, and bombed Hanoi in the north. In Paris, negotiations dragged on between the American Henri Kissinger and the North Vietnamese Le Duc Tho.

A few days after Nixon's re-election, the United States, South Vietnam and the Vietcong signed the Paris Agreement. A ceasefire was agreed and mutual prisoners of war were released. A National Reconciliation Council was established, which included both the government in Saigon and the communists. Indeed, the accord allowed the Americans to withdraw their troops without losing face. However, the Vietcong troops were still in the south, and that would inevitably lead to another confrontation with the southern forces, which were additionally expanded and modernized with American support. However, this would not help because by the end of 1974 almost all of South Vietnam had been overrun by the Vietcong. On April 21, 1975, the last line of defense for Saigon fell and President Thieu, who took office in 1967, fled to Taiwan.

North and South Vietnam reunited

Reunification Palace in Vietnam Reunification Palace in VietnamPhoto: Dennis Jarvis CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

For the first time since the French colonization, Vietnam was a united country again and in July 1976 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps without trial, and South Vietnam was economically aligned with North Vietnam. For example, all private land ownership was confiscated and both industry and trade become the hands of the state. It should come as no surprise that productivity fell dramatically. In the years that followed, Vietnam tried to reconnect with the United States, but this was banned by the US government. Until 1993 Vietnam could not even borrow money from the World Bank. Vietnam only received support from the Soviet Union.

Vietnam was also deeply involved in the civil war in Cambodia. The Cambodian Khmer Rouge of dictator Pol Pot committed many attacks across the border in the Mekong Delta, where many ethnic Khmer people still live today. In 1978 more than 100,000 Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and expelled Pol Pot. The international community punished Vietnam with a boycott and in February 1979 Vietnam was attacked by China, the Khmer Rouge ally. The fighting lasted only sixteen days, after which the Chinese withdrew.

Major Economic Reforms: Doi Moi

Ho Chi Min City thrives under Doi Moi Ho Chi Min City thrives under Doi MoiPhoto: Xuanhuy3408 CC 4.0 International no changes made

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vietnam was in a deep economic crisis and many Vietnamese fled the country, including to the United States and the Netherlands.

Only after the death of the arch-conservative Le Duan in 1986 did the economy improve. Reformer Nguyen Van Linh was appointed Secretary General and embarked on sweeping economic reforms, called Doi Moi. Characteristics of this were a return to a free market economy, privatization and attempts to attract foreign capital. In 1989, Vietnam withdrew its troops from Cambodia, which led to international rehabilitation.

In 1993, the reformer Vo Van Kiet was elected Prime Minister, the signal for the Americans to lift the trade embargo in 1994 under President Clinton. and in 1995 diplomatic relations were resumed. In 2000, President Clinton concluded an economic agreement with Hanoi and in the same year he was the first US president to pay an official visit to Vietnam since 1975.

21st century

Meeting between Putin and Tran Duc luong, Vietnam Meeting between Putin and Tran Duc luong, VietnamPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

In 2001, Tran Duc Luong was elected president and Phan Van Khai became prime minister. At the Ninth Party Congress of April 22, 2001, the reformer Nong Duc Manh was elected party secretary, succeeding the communist Le Kha Phieu. Nong Duc Manh is a Tay and it was the first time that an ethnic minority member was elected to Vietnam's highest political post.

In the summer of 2002, the Vietnamese Parliament re-elected Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and President Tran Duc Luong was re-elected for a term of five years and the composition of the government was changed to a limited extent. In the run-up to the next Party Congress, in the second quarter of 2006, the struggle between conservatives and more reformists has rekindled behind the scenes. Important issues on the agenda will be: fighting corruption, admitting private entrepreneurs to the CP, and further reforms. The pressure is great and although the communistic foundation of the Vietnamese political order is not in question, the reduced authority of the CP among the population has reached the party.

Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, VietnamPhoto: Trangtranmy CC 4.0 International no changes made

The 10th National Party Congress of the CPV in April 2006 has been an important political event. Congress has seen a change of style: more openness to the population, who were able to comment for the first time on the draft political report published in the press in the run-up to the Congress, and more democracy within the party. During this five-year congress, which traditionally also reorganizes the personal balance of power, it was decided this year to replace the president and the prime minister. A number of ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, were also not re-elected to the Central Committee, which meant that they would not return to their post when the government changed. Nguyen Minh Triet has now been appointed as president and Nguyen Tan Dung as prime minister. Nguyen Phu Trong has been appointed as the new chairman of the National Assembly. End of June 2006 was also appointed several new ministers. In June 2006, President Nguyen Minh Triet visited the United States for the first time since the Vietnam War. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is reappointed in July 2007, promising to work on economic reforms. In January 2008, Vietnam is appointed a member of the United Nations Security Council. In November 2008 Vietnam says it wants to go to a forced orphan politically to combat overpopulation. In December 2008, China and Vietnam resolve a border dispute that has already caused tens of thousands of deaths. In 2009 and 2010, there are problems with human rights activists. In May 2010 "Human Right Watch" accused the Vietnamese government of intensifying repression.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, VietnamNguyen Xuan Phuc, VietnamPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

Truong Tan Sang has been the president of Vietnam since July 25, 2011. In October 2011, China and Vietnam signed an agreement to resolve their dispute over the South China Sea. There will be biennial evaluations. In June 2012, Vietnam will pass Brazil as the world's largest coffee exporter. In August 2013 prohibits the government online discussions on the Internet. Tensions with China will rise in 2014, mainly about the sea border and the possession of a number of islands. In January 2016, the communist party elects Nguyen Phu Throng as Secretary General for the second time. In May 2016, the US lifted the ban on arms sales to Vietnam and Nguyen Xuan Phuc became the new prime minister. Donald Trump visits Vietnam in November 2017, meeting Asian leaders in Danang. The next elections are scheduled for spring 2021.



Vietnamese VietnamesePhoto: Jspeed1310 CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups and the group of ethnic Vietnamese (Viet or Kinh = inhabitants of the plain) is by far the largest group (approx. 85.7%). Most Viet live in the deltas of the Red River and Mekong and the central coastal plain.

The Vietnamese people descend from many races and ethnic groups that have been amalgamated from the beginning of our era. The Viet include Thai, Malay, but mainly Chinese groups. Over the centuries they moved south from the north of Vietnam. The culture of the Viet has always been strongly influenced by the Chinese.

The approximately 1 million Chinese mainly live in the cities in the south of the country. After a serious border dispute between China and Vietnam, many Chinese entrepreneurs left the country in the late 1970s. Several thousand Chinese have retained their Chinese nationality; the rest have taken Vietnamese citizenship and are called Hoa. Most Chinese live in Cho Lon, a district of Ho Chi Minh City, where they have often established themselves as shopkeepers or traders.

Montagnards children, VietnamMontagnards children, VietnamPhoto: DXLINH CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The inhabitants of the hills and mountains of central and northern Vietnam, called "moi" or savages by the ethnic Vietnamese, together form the largest minority in the country. These so-called Montagnards are closely related to ethnic groups in Thailand and South China. The semi-nomadic hill dwellers generally have a low standard of living and live mainly from shifting cultivation (slash and burn), but also from hunting and fishing. Ancestor worship and animism are still common, but Christianity has also penetrated these groups. Each group has its own clothing, jewelry, language and religion. The situation of the Vietnamese mountain peoples has improved somewhat after the former economic and cultural disadvantage. They are allowed to wear their traditional clothing and speak their own language again. Nowadays, people from minorities also study at universities and they are also allowed to sit in parliament and representative bodies. At the end of the 20th century, an ethnic group of less than a hundred members was discovered in a northern province.

The Montagnards can be divided into three language groups:

Austro-Asiatic language group

These include the Muong, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the country. They mainly live in Hoa Binh province.

The Tay of Tho and the Nung live in the north of Vietnam, close to the border with China. They live in stilt houses, mainly live from rice cultivation and further grow soybean, cinnamon, tea, tobacco and cotton. The Nung speak the same language as the Tay and have the same culture and customs.

The Thai live in the river valleys around Sonla, Lai Chau and Lao Cai in northwestern Vietnam. Their houses are built on stilts; the houses of the Black Thai are in the shape of a turtle shell, while the houses of the White Thai are rectangular.Hmong, VietnamHmong, VietnamPhoto: Christophe Meneboeuf CC-BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

The Hmong or Meo (ca. 600,000) live mainly in the highlands of the northern provinces, in ordinary houses. They have no written language and the ancestor worship and spirits play an important role in the daily life of these people. There is also totemism, the worship of symbolic objects. Legends and songs are passed on orally from generation to generation. Their staple food is corn and they are highly skilled artisans. The Hmong wear colorful, very beautiful clothes.

The Dao or Mien do have a written tradition and they live on the hills of the northern provinces as well as in the valleys. They grow rice according to the shifting cultivation method and are very skilled craftsmen. What is special is that they make their own paper and have used Chinese characters for centuries to record all kinds of expressions.

Sino-Tibetan language group

Most of these groups migrated from Tibet via Myanmar (formerly: Burma) to Northern Vietnam in the 18th and 19th centuries and now live in the northern and northwestern provinces of Lai Chau and Lao Cai. This language group includes the La Hu, the Phu La, the Lolo, the Cong, the Si La and the Ha Nhi.

Austronesian or Malay-Polynesian language groups

These groups live in central and southern Vietnam and include the Jarai (or Gia Rai), the Sedang de Bahnar and the Rha De (or E De). Together these four tribes number about 750,000 souls.

The Jarai migrated from the coast to the highlands about 2,000 years ago and now live in villages of at least 50 houses built around a centrally located community house or "nga rong". The day-to-day affairs are regulated by a council of elders, headed by a village chief. They are farmers but they also keep water buffaloes, goats, chickens and pigs.

The Rha De live mainly in the province of Dac Lac and their villages consist of 20 to 70 "longhouses" built on stilts. In each longhouse lives a family headed by a "koa sang", the oldest woman. Each village has an autonomous government headed by a "po pin ao", a village chief chosen by the villagers. They live from shifting cultivation and rice is the main food crop, along with cotton, sugar cane, tobacco and melons.

Ham girl, VietnamHam girl, VietnamPhoto: Dalbera CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Cham and the Khmer are separate groups. The habitat of the Cham is the coastal strip from Phan Thiet to Nha Trang in South Vietnam and parts of the Mekong Delta; the Khmer inhabit the Mekong Delta.

The Ham, mostly Sunni Muslims, are the last descendants of the great and powerful kingdom of Ham (2nd to 15th century).

The Khmer were Hindu at first, but later converted to Theravada Buddhism. Due to the old enmities between Vietnamese and Khmer, it never clicked between these two populations. The same goes for Cambodia, where a Vietnamese minority has lived for many centuries.

Many Vietnamese live abroad, about two million. The large majority left in the period 1975-1984 as (boat) refugees, mainly to the United States and to France. Smaller numbers went to Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. In 1987 there was a second wave of boat people, mainly North Vietnamese. They were mainly fleeing bitter poverty and mainly fled to rich Hong Kong. Many governments refused to grant them asylum and from 1997 onward, other auspices of the High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) followed the first "voluntary" repatriations. All this under a global storm of protests.

From 1989, these people (the so-called Viet Kieu) were allowed to return by the Vietnamese government.

In Vietnam there are also about 5,000 so-called "Amerasians", descendants of departed American soldiers and thus children of mixed race. They are called "dirt off the street" and often live in very difficult circumstances after being rejected by their mothers. Children of African American fathers are particularly struggling.

In 1987 the American Congress passed the "Amerasian Homecoming Act". This law allowed the arrival of all Vietnamese who can prove to have an American father to the United States. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese have used the scheme, along with about 60,000 family members.

Demographic data

Population pyramid VietnamPopulation pyramid VietnamPhoto: MagHoxpox CC 4.0 International no changes made

Vietnam had 96,160,163 inhabitants in 2017, making it one of the top fifteen most populous countries in the world.

The average population density is about 290 inhabitants per km2. The coastal plains, the Mekong Delta and the Red River Delta (more than 1000 inhabitants per km2) have the greatest population density. The hill and mountain areas are sparsely populated, so that almost two-thirds of the total land area is inhabited by only 10 percent of the population.

The annual population growth between 1998 and 2014 was 1.4% (2017: 0.93%). Vietnam has a very young population. The average age of men is 71.2, women 76.4. (2017)

The age structure in 2014 is as follows:

0-14 years:23,6%
15-64 years:70,3%

36% of the population lives in cities in 2017. The largest cities are Ho chi Min city with 8.1 million inhabitants, Hanoi with 1.1 million inhabitants and Da Nan with more than 1.4 inhabitants (2017).



Vietnamese keyboardVietnamese keyboardPhoto: Yes0song CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Vietnam's official language is Vietnamese or "Kinh", which belongs to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family and is related to Hmong, Khmer, Thai and Muong. From 111 BC to 939 AD.C. when Vietnam was a province in the Chinese Empire, the Vietnamese script, "chu nho", consisted of Chinese characters. It was not until the 8th century that the so-called ch˜u'nôm script was designed, an adapted form of the Chinese character script for writing Vietnamese. In the 13th century a separately written language, the "chu nom" or "nom", emerged, more phonetically oriented. Until the early 20th century, the two spellings coexisted, after which they made way for the current ch˜u'quôc ng˜u ', which is based on the Latin alphabet and was developed in 1651 by the French Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes. In 1919 it became the national written language. Today only scholars use the traditional calligraphic chu nom to decipher ancient inscriptions and writings.

The Chinese, especially Cantonese, backgrounds of the Vietnamese language ensure that about 80% of today's words are derived from Chinese. French loanwords (cheese = fromage = pho mat; chocolate = chocolat = so co la; mustard = moutarde = mu tat) date back to the colonial period, from the 18th to the 20th century. English loanwords were introduced by the Americans during the Vietnam War; Russian loanwords were introduced as a result of the subsequent fraternization with the former Soviet Union.

In the Mekong Delta so many people speak Khmer that the local television broadcasts programs in this language. English and French are also spoken in trade and education. Until recently, the Russian language was the most widespread foreign language in Vietnam, especially in the former communist north. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, from 1989 on, interest in the Russian language declined sharply.

The ethnic minorities are classified according to language groups. Most mountain peoples (including Tay, Tai, Hmong, Muong and Dao) in the north of Vietnam belong to the Austro-Asiatic language group. Another language group, which can also be divided into different languages and dialects, is the Tibeto-Burmese language group. The mountain peoples of the south generally speak Mon-Khmer languages.

Grammar and pronunciation

Vietnamese alphabet and pronunciationVietnamese alphabet and pronunciationPhoto: Quanlykhuvuc CC 4.0 International no changes made

Vietnamese has a simple grammar. Articles do not exist, nouns have no plural form and verbs are not inflected. By adding words such as "already" and "not yet", one indicates the difference between past and future tense.

However, the pronunciation of Vietnamese is very complicated. Vietnamese is a tonal language with monosyllabic words that can be pronounced in six different pitches: toneless, rising, falling rapidly, falling slowly, floating or interrupted. As a result, a word can have many different meanings. For example, depending on the accent, the word "Be" means bottle, raft, small, break, ashamed, calf, stand, carry on, arm, ocean, banana leaf, or throne.

The pitch is indicated by diacritics above or below the vocals. To make things even more complicated, some letters in north and south are pronounced differently. The 53 ethnic minorities of Vietnam each have their own dialect, which is incomprehensible to the Vietnamese.

The Vietnamese script consists of 22 letters with a whole series of slightly changed letters.

The family name always comes first, then usually two personal names come. The middle name is usually a generation name, which the parents give to both their daughters and their sons. The last name is actually the actual personal name. A Vietnamese will therefore only introduce himself to a stranger with his personal name.

Some words and expressions



Map showing countries with state atheism, VietnamMap showing countries with state atheism, VietnamPhoto: Kamalthebest CC 4.0 International no changs made

All religions are equal by law, but atheism plays an important role in the Republic of Vietnam, based on Marxist principles. Freedom of religion has existed since 1992, but the government does not encourage the practice of religion. Significant for this is that until 1975, as a result of the socialist regime, many monks disappeared in re-education camps. At the moment there is a clear revival of religious activities.

The three traditional and most important religions are (Mahayana) Buddhism, to which belongs approximately 55% (= 42 million adherents) of the population, Taoism and Confucianism. These three religions are mixed with animism and ancestor worship and have merged into more or less one faith, the Tam Giao or "Three Religions."

The syncretistic religion Cao Dai (literally = supreme deity) with approximately 2 million followers and the Buddhist Hoa Hao sect (variant of Hinayana Buddhism) with more than 1.5 million followers have great social influence.

Christianity is especially widespread among the mountain peoples. The Roman Catholic Church (present in Vietnam since the 17th century) has about 6 million members and is administratively organized in three archdioceses (Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City) with a total of 21 dioceses.

There are also small minorities of Hindus and Muslims. The Muslims are mainly found among the Cham and the Khmer in the south of Vietnam. Because they had hardly any contact with other Muslims throughout history, a completely unique interpretation of Islam could develop in Vietnam. Islam was introduced in the 7th century by Arab traders and Malaysian sailors, but never really flourished in Vietnam.


Buddhist temple in VietnamBuddhist temple in VietnamPhoto: Silveringking CC 4.0 International no changes made

Buddhism originated in India in the 6th century BC. The founder was Siddharta Gautama (560-480 BC). Although it is not known exactly when Buddha was born, the year of birth is supposed to be 543 BC. The year 2013 is 2555 in the Buddhist era.

The core of Buddha's teachings are the four noble truths:

-Life is suffering.

-The cause of this suffering is desire and attachment to life. As a result, man is trapped in an unwholesome cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

-By letting go the desire and detachment man can abolish suffering.

-The eightfold path (right insight, life, striving, meditation, thinking, purpose, word and deed) is the only way out of the unwholesome cycle of reincarnation and leads to nirvana, the state of bliss.

By adhering to some basic principles man can influence his fate or "karma". The Five Commandments are: do not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, and use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

Buddhism is not actually a religion, but a philosophical system and an attitude to life. There are no gods. Buddhism has monks, but again no ecclesiastical organization.

Traditionally, the king is the protector of all religions.

After Buddha's death, the religion fell apart in two directions: Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism is based on the universal salvation of all living beings and is therefore called the "great vehicle." This school has "bodhisattvas", mortals who have already attained enlightenment, but remain on earth to show people the right way. Mahayana Buddhism has spread across China, Nepal, Japan, Korea and also Vietnam, among others.

Mahayana Buddhism has various manifestations of Buddha and this form of Buddhism came to Vietnam via China at the beginning of our era. As a result, Mahayana Buddhism is also referred to as "Bac Tong" or "Northern Buddhism. Initially it had a profound impact on the wealthy ruling class. After the 10th century, this belief also spread among rural farmers.


Tao Yin and Yang symbolTao Yin and Yang symbolPhoto: ChaowanGov CC 4.0 International no changes made

"Freedom from desires brings inner peace"

In fact, Taoism or "daojiao" is more mystical than religious, although some schools also have gods. Taoism was probably founded by Lao-tze in the 6th century BC. His ideas were recorded in the Tao Te Jing ("On the Power of the Way").

Taoism is characterized by a contemplative view of life, in which one can achieve something by not doing or "wu wei". Man must follow his own nature, without restrictions imposed from outside. It is assumed that everything arises and happens of its own accord. Taoists believe in the ordering of nature and condemn the products of civilization such as wealth, knowledge, laws and refined manners.

During its development, Taoism incorporated the yin-yang system of balanced opposites. Yin represents the feminine element, which is associated with the moon, winter, darkness, conservatism and passivity, while yang, the masculine element, is associated with the sun, summer, light, creativity and dominance.

The "Way" can also be achieved through the practice of tai chi quan, a Taoist martial art.

Taoism is the great counterpart to strict Confucian teachings. Taoism has two schools of thought: the purely philosophical doctrine "Way of the Teacher", and a more magical one, the "Cult of the Immortals". The former is very complicated and can only be understood by a select minority. The magical current was introduced to Vietnam from China around the beginning of our era. Vietnamese Taoism does not have the same hierarchy of schools and systems as Taoism in China.


Confucius in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, VietnamConfucius in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, VietnamPhoto: Shankar s CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

"A balanced combination of nature and culture gives a right attitude to life"

Confucianism or 'rujia sixiang' is named after the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC). It is a paternalistic philosophy of society, which presents the Chinese people with the codes, rules and norms for their behavior, and Confucius (Kung Fu-tse) drew up more than 3000 rules of conduct for this.

According to Confucianism, one should not act as your heart dictates, but as your social status requires of you. General Chinese traits such as diligence, temperance, modesty and respect for the family (including great respect for the elderly) are due to Confucianism. Confucius also considered it of great importance that each individual should achieve great versatility and intelligence and be emotionally balanced. Confucius also firmly believed in the fundamental goodness of man; it is due to inadequate "understanding" (read: education) that man falls into mistakes.

Until the early 20th century, Confucianism dominated the thinking and acting of the social elite in China. It remained an important trend in a political sense as well.

Another important representative of the school founded by Confucius is Men Zi or Mencius (372-289 BC). Mencius' teachings greatly influenced Neo-Confucianism, which began during the Song Dynasty (960-1280).

Confucianism was introduced to Vietnam by the Chinese in the early 2nd century and from that time on it played an important role in Vietnamese society, especially among the ruling class. Due to the great social and political changes at the beginning of the 20th century, Confucianism lost its significance.

Hao Hao

The Altar of Huynh Phu So, Hoa Hao Buddhist Priest, VietnamThe Altar of Huynh Phu So, Hoa Hao Buddhist Priest, VietnamPhoto: Thuydaonguyen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

This sect is an offshoot of Buddhism and was founded in 1939 by the monk Huynh Phu So from southwestern Vietnam.

He argued for a return to pure Buddhism with a strong personal faith and a direct contact between man and god, without the intervention of, for example, temples and priests.

Huynh Phu So was also politically active and during World War II he worked with the Japanese occupiers. After the assassination of So in 1947, the sect began to cooperate with the French, but in 1956 President Diem put an end to the military and political power of the Hoa Hao.

The current followers of the sect now mainly live in the Mekong Delta and in the far southwest of the country.

Cao Dai

Cao Dao Monks, VietnamCao Dao Monks, VietnamPhoto: Jonathan Lewis CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The belief of the Cao Dai originated in 1926, when Ngo Minh Chieu "came into contact" with Cao Dai, the Supreme Being. This urged him to combine the best of all world religions and thus a new, ideal religion should emerge. Things like spiritualism and ancestor worship were also integrated into Codaism. Mediums are used to get in touch with the supreme god Cao Dai and the spirit world.

According to the Cao Dai, human history is divided into three periods of Divine Revelation. In the first period, God revealed Himself through Lao Tze, in the second through Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed and Jesus. The period of the Cao Dai is the third and final period.

The Cao Dai have a hierarchy derived from the Catholic Church with a pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests. The lower offices are open to men and women, all clergy are celibate and vegetarian.

After the Second World War, the sect gained more political and military influence, and even had an army of 25,000 men. In 1956 the sect was disarmed by President Diem, but retained its political power. After 1975 the significance declined sharply due to government intervention, but the religious significance has increased again in recent years.

Cao Dai's followers mainly live in the Mekong Delta and in Tay Ninh province, 100 kilometers northwest of Saigon, where the main temple is also located. The symbol of the Cao Dai is the all-seeing eye and their motto is: "Dieu et Humanité, Amour et Justice" = "God and Humanity, Love and Justice".

Roman Catholicism and Protestantism

Basilica of Notre Dame, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.Basilica of Notre Dame, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.Photo: Diego Delso CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Roman Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam by the Portuguese from 1533. A century later, the French Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes converted many Vietnamese to the Catholic faith. Initially, the Vietnamese rulers did not like the development and at one point the Catholic faith was even banned. Only under French rule did Catholicism come back strongly and in 1954 even a Catholic president, Diem.

After 1975 Catholicism had a difficult time again, but now the Church is allowed to exercise unimpeded activities as long as they are not political in nature. At the moment about 8% of the population is Catholic, after the Philippines the highest percentage of Catholics in Southeast Asia.

Protestantism was not introduced to Vietnam until the early 20th century. At the moment there are about 300,000 believers, mainly living in the central mountain region and cities in the south of the country.

Animism and Ancestor Worship

Guardian Spirit, VietnamGuardian Spirit, VietnamPhoto: Rdavout CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Animism still occurs mainly among the peasant population. They are often struck by forces of nature, in which they see spirits to whom they are delivered. In general, it can be said that all nature and all things are animated by good and evil spirits. They try to appease the spirits through sacrifices and worship services.

The main nature deities are Au Co, the mountain goddess, primeval father Lac Long, the dragon king, the mountain spirit Than Nui and the water spirit Than Thuy.

Every village has a guardian spirit, who lives in the temple of the Dình, the rear part of the men's community house. This spirit can be a nature god, or a revered person from myth or history. Each village chooses its own guardian spirit, which can be cast out if it does not fulfill its task properly.

Under communism, the worship of guardian spirits was forbidden, but in recent years so-called Dình parties have been held again, in which the guardian spirit is carried by the village people.

According to the Vietnamese, man has two groups of souls. The "phach" or "via" guides the body from birth to death.

The second group of souls consisting of the three "hon", is the spiritual substance that leaves the body during death. The dead are worshiped at the domestic ancestral altar by at least three generations. As a result, they remain present and even participate in family life. People communicate with their ancestors, give them paper money and gifts made of paper.


State structure

Political Structure of VietnamPolitical Structure of VietnamPhoto: Trangtranmy CC 4.0 International no changes made

Vietnam is a one-party state. After the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1975, the Communist Party (CP) is the only allowed party, thus dominating political life. There are inevitably close links between the Party and the civil service. The main political body of the Communist Party is the Politburo, which has 19 members. It can issue decrees that in fact have the status of law. Yet the power of the Politburo has declined sharply in recent years.

A "balancing act" has emerged, as it were, between Party, government and parliament. Politburo members are elected from parliament, the 450-member National Assembly ("Quoc Hoi"), which meets twice a year and is elected for a five-year term. The candidates of the National Assembly are nominated by the mass organizations and elected in "free elections". Every Vietnamese belongs to and of the mass organizations: man, woman, youth, farmer, worker, intellectual, civil servant.

Until recently, the task of the National Assembly was limited to approving legislation initiated by the Party and the Politburo, but it now plays an increasingly important role in Vietnamese politics. For example, it has the right to appoint and dismiss the president, the vice president, the prime minister and the deputy prime ministers. An important task is also the appointment of ministers and chairmen of state councils, who are usually members of the CP.

Day-to-day management is in the hands of a government (State Council) consisting of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, a Council of Ministers and other members. The head of state is the president, who is elected by and from the members of the National Assembly, to whom he is also accountable. The president's term of office is five years and he is, among other things, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

Part of the decision-making is decentralized to provinces, districts and communes. Local government (People's Committees) plays a very important role at these levels.

Vietnam is divided into more than 50 provinces ("tinh"); the urban areas of Hanoi, Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City are under the direct authority of the central government. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Vietnam administrative divisionVietnam administrative divisionPhoto:TUBS CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

An GiangLong Xuyen1.933.0003.424 km2
Bac CanBac Can240.0004.796 km2
Bac GiangBac Giang1.380.0003.817 km2
Bac LieuBac Lieu722.0002.485 km2
Bac NinhBac Ninh885.000797 km2
Ba Ria-Vung TauVung Tau660.0001.957 km2
Ben TreBen Tre1.310.0002.247 km2
Binh DinhOui Nhon1.375.0006.076 km2
Binh DuongThu Dau Mhot595.0002.718 km2
Binh PhuocDong Phu490.0006.814 km2
Binh ThuanPhan Thiet860.0007.992 km2
Ca MauCa Mau1.000.0005.204 km2
Can ThoCan Tho1.782.0002.951 km2
Cao BangCao Bang626.0008.445 km2
Dac LacBuon Ma Thuot1.175.00019.800 km2
Da NangDa Nang627.000942 km2
Dong NaiBien Hoa1.765.0005.864 km2
Dong ThapSa Dec1.465.0003.276 km2
Gia LaiPleiku740.00015.662 km2
Ha GiangHa Giang521.0007.831 km2
Hai DuongHai Duong1.625.0001.661 km2
Ha NamHa Nam775.000827 km2
Ha TavHa Dong2.230.0002.147 km2
Ha TinhHa Tinh1.295.0006.054 km2
Hoa BinhHoa Binh715.0001.780 km2
Hung YenHung Yen1.040.000895 km2
Khanh HoaNha Trang925.0005.258 km2
Kien GiangRach Gia1.330.0006.243 km2
Kon TumKon Tum250.0009.934 km2
Lai ChauLai Chau505.00017.131 km2
Lam DongDa Lat745.00010.173 km2
Lang SonLang Son675.0008.187 km2
Lao CaiLao Cai540.0008.050 km2
Long AnTan An1.230.0004.338 km2
Nam DinhNam Dinh1.820.0001.669 km2
Nghe AnVinh2.685.00016.381 km2
Ninh BinhNinh Binh840.0001.388 km2
Ninh ThuanPhan Rang-Thap Cham450.0003.430 km2
Phu ThoPhu Tho1.195.0003.465 km2
Phu YenTuv Hoa710.0005.278 km2
Ouang BinhDong Hoi740.0007.984 km2
Ouang NamTam Ky, Hoi An1.290.00010.406 km2
Ouang NgaiOuang Ngai1.150.0005.856 km2
Ouang NinhHong Gai890.0005.939 km2
Ouang TriDong Ha521.0004.592 km2
Soc TrangSoc Trang1.175.0003.191 km2
Son LaSon La780.00014.210 km2
Tav NinhTav Ninh870.0004.020 km2
Thai BinhThai Binh1.770.0001.509 km2
Thai NguyenSong Cong907.0003.541 km2
Thanh HoaThanh Hoa3.315.00011.168 km2
Thua Thien-HueHué975.0005.009 km2
Tien GiangMy Tho1.625.0002.339 km2
Tra VinhTra Vinh940.0002.369 km2
Tuven OuangTuven Ouang630.0005.801 km2
Vinh LongVinh Long1.045.0001.487 km2
Vinh PhucVinh Yen1.015.0001.371 km2
Yen BaiYen Bai640.0006.808 km2
urban areacapitalpopulationsurface
HaiphongHaiphong1.585.0001.504 km2
HanoiHanoi2.160.000921 km2
Ho Chi MinhHo Chi Minh City4.330.0002.090 km2


Vietnamese children in school uniformVietnamese children in school uniformPhoto: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil protection CC 2.0 no changes

Education has always been important in Vietnam's history, especially inspired by the teachings of Confucius. Compared to other developing countries, Vietnam has a fairly well-educated population and therefore only a relatively small part of the population is illiterate. Most illiterate people are found among the minorities.

Not so long ago, education was a fully state responsability. After the reunification of Vietnam, many private schools were established, especially in the south, in the context of Doi Moi.

Vietnam has compulsory education for children aged six to fifteen, and the majority of Vietnamese children (approx. 89%) attend primary school. Primary education has a lower school that lasts five years and a superstructure of four years. Because teachers are poorly trained and schools are struggling with a lack of furniture and books, the students actually learn far too little. Many children drop out after primary school, about a third of the children attend secondary education.

Secondary education lasts three years and can give access to a college or university. There are about a hundred institutes of higher education, with universities in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Cantho, Dalat and Hué. Haiphong has a Maritime Academy and Danang a Technical College.

The integrated education program has now been implemented in a total of 31 kindergartens and 32 primary schools. By 2000, 475 teachers had been trained in teaching children with disabilities, and more than 1000 disabled children were attending school.

Vietnam is facing a shortage of training places for higher education students. Of the 850,000 school-leavers, only 170,000 can follow further education. However, the training is often of a theoretical nature and by no means always meets the demand from the labor market.



Stock Exchange VietnamStock Exchange VietnamPhoto: Trungydang CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam decided on a major economic reform process (Doi Moi) and opening up to trade contacts with the West. Full-fledged private companies were allowed in addition to state-owned and collective enterprises. Until then, collective companies were privatized and responsible themselves for profit, loss, purchasing, sales of end products, personnel policy and planning. Other reforms concerned trade, toll controls at provincial borders, tax, banking, labor and prices. Land ownership remained prohibited and foreign investors were given the right to own capital or goods in Vietnam. Companies in which foreign companies invest may not be nationalized.

Due to the success of the Doi Moi, the Vietnamese economy has experienced remarkable growth since 1986. The gross national product (per capita $ 240 in 1995 and $ 400 in 2002) grew by an average of 8.3% per year between 1990 and 1995. Foreign investments amounted to a total of USD 10 billion, mainly in oil and gas, forestry and fishery products and in tourism. Inflation and unemployment (12.7% and 6.1% in 1995 respectively) were on the high side in those years. Currently, the unemployment rate is set at 6% in the cities and less than 1% in the countryside. The national average in 2002 was 2.3%.

Despite the support of the World Bank and the IMF, the Vietnamese economy in 1998 did not escape the financial crisis in Asia, which mainly affected construction, exports and tourism. GDP growth was half under expectations at 4% in 1998, but grew by 6.9% in 2001 and 7% in 2002. Economic growth declined in 1999 to the unprecedented level of 3.5% for many years, while inflation rose to 9%. Foreign direct investment fell to two-thirds of the total in previous years. Falling exports and a trade deficit of 4.5% of GDP in 1999 aggravated the situation, but a balance of payments crisis did not materialize. In the years after 1999, the Vietnamese economy accelerated again and the gross domestic product grew strongly. There is also a strong informal, underground economy, although this is denied by the government. Bureaucracy, corruption, illicit traffic, counterfeiting, prostitution, gambling and drugs are issues that constantly threaten the Vietnamese economy.

In 1995 Vietnam joined ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Despite more lenient conditions for foreign investment, the decline in foreign direct investment that started in 1997 continued. Trade liberalization and reform of loss-making state-owned companies stagnated. Due to a trade agreement in 2001 between the United States and Vietnam and agreements with the IMF and the World Bank, the confidence of foreign investors grew somewhat again. The treaty with the United States provided Vietnam with significantly better access to the American market. In the first quarter of 2003, exports to the United States increased by 43% compared to the same period in 2002. Foreign investment also increased with the establishment of a small stock exchange in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is still Vietnam's economic center of gravity with an economic growth of more than 10% per year. Together with the neighboring provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai, the entire region accounts for 60% of all foreign investment.

Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. The share of the agricultural sector in economic production has continued to shrink from about 25% in 2000 to less than 16% in 2013. In the same period, the share of the industry fell from 36% to 33%. The service sector accounts for about 51% of GDP. Poverty has fallen significantly and Vietnam is working to create jobs to keep the workforce growing by more than a million people a year in employment. The global recession hurt the export-oriented economy. GDP will grow by 6.8% in 2017. The GDP per capita was $ 6,900 in 2017.

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Rice cultivation in Sa Pa, VietnamRice cultivation in Sa Pa, VietnamPhoto: Ekrem Canli CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Only 25% of the area of mountainous Vietnam is suitable for agriculture. The main agricultural area is in the fertile Mekong delta and the Red River delta is also important. Thanks to the successful liberalization of agriculture, Vietnam has now taken second place in the world ranking of rice exporting countries, after Thailand. Rice is grown on about 60% of the agricultural area. Furthermore, Vietnam is the largest exporter of black pepper worldwide. Other important agricultural products are: corn, cotton, fruit, sugar cane, cassava, coffee, tea and rubber. The average farm is small in size and is only 0.7 hectares.

Livestock farming includes pig, chicken and buffalo farming and is mainly focused on domestic consumption. Most dairy cows are bred in the southern provinces.

Approx. 50% of the surface of the north is covered with forests, making timber extraction commercially very attractive. However, timber extraction is regulated to protect the forests, because in 1940 Vietnam had 15 million hectares of forests, today there are less than 8 million.

Vietnam has a coastline of more than 3000 kilometers and an extensive network of rivers, canals and lakes. Coastal and distant fisheries are well developed, as are river fisheries and fish farms (approx. 1 million hectares) in the rice fields, which make an important contribution to the diet. Freshwater fisheries and shrimp farms are particularly profitable. In terms of exports, fishing ranks third behind crude oil and textiles / clothing and the fish processing industry is also expanding very rapidly. The main buyers of Vietnamese fish and fish products are the United States, Japan and the European Union.

Mining and energy

Wind farm, VietnamWind farm, VietnamPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the north, the coal basins in the hinterland of the port city of Hong Gai are of great importance. The coal reserves mainly consist of anthracite and amount to between seven and eight billion tons, of which about 600 million tons are just below the surface. For the time being, the government prefers the construction of coal-fired power plants instead of hydropower plants, but there is a turnaround towards more sustainable energy sources.

The Vietnamese soil contains iron, bauxite, tin, zinc, chromium, copper, tungsten, lead, gold and manganese ores. Some of these are already being mined, including iron ore, potassium phosphate, chromium and gold. Iron ore reserves are estimated at 560 million tons and those of potassium phosphate, used for fertilizer production, at 1 billion tons. Bauxite could become an important commodity and there are advanced plans to exploit the bauxite reserves for aluminum production.

With the help of the Soviet Union, oil has been extracted off the south coast since 1984, but since the disintegration of that country in 1991, the oil has mainly been extracted by Western companies such as Shell and BP. The Russian Federation did, however, retain an interest in Vietnamese oil, for example through the Vietsorpetro joint venture. An oil refinery is under construction near Ho Chi Minh City. Total natural gas reserves are estimated at 1.3 trillion m3. The largest gas fields are located in the southwest and southeast of the country.


Button factory, textile industry VietnamButton factory, textile industry VietnamPhoto: Tophu4u2 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The industrial sector employs a quarter of the working population, but has less growth than the services sector. The industrial sector is developing slowly and is quite dependent on foreign investment.

The main industrial activities are concentrated in the north and around Ho Chi Minh City. Its main branches are the iron and steel industry, the food and textile industry.

The Vietnamese government gives high priority to the development of heavy industry, especially the steel and automotive industries.

Vietnam has a number of car assembly companies that have entered into joint ventures with foreign companies, including Daewoo, Toyota and Ford.


Vietnam ExportVietnam ExportPhoto:R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Vietnam's trade surplus has been increasing in recent years due to sharply increased exports. The surplus for 2017 is approximately $ 12 billion.

In 2001, a trade agreement with the United States gave exports a huge boost. Import tariffs in particular fell sharply, causing the United States to replace Japan as the main trading partner. Other export partners are China, South Korea and Malaysia.

The main exports were textiles and clothing, rice and electronics. Total exports were worth $ 214 billion (2017).

The main imports were machines and tools, cars and plastics. Total imports were worth $ 202 billion (2017). The main import partners are China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.


Top 10 provinces and cities at the top of the Vietnam ICT Index 2019.Top 10 provinces and cities at the top of the Vietnam ICT Index 2019Photo: Hangthuongvo CC 4.0 International no changes made

Information and communication technology is becoming increasingly important for the economic development of Vietnam and the government is investing a lot of money in it. The Vietnamese consumer mainly buys domestically produced computers and imported generic computers.

Due to its very low cost structure, Vietnam is an attractive market for multinationals in the software industry. In the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the software park Qua Trung Software City has been realized, where many Vietnamese but also a few dozen foreign companies have settled.

One of the fastest growing sectors is telecommunications. The mobile phone market is very profitable.


Traffic in VietnamTraffic in VietnamPhoto: Peter van der Sluijs CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The south in particular has an extensive road network, which measures a total of 105,000 km and of which only 65% is paved. Very popular means of transport are motorcycles and mopeds. The car is increasingly popular as a means of transport. Most cars are bought by private companies, taxi companies and government agencies. Private individuals only have a limited share in all purchases.

Vietnam's railway network has a length of more than 3,000 kilometers and approximately 260 stations. The vast majority of all railway lines are single-track.

The Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi railway line is of great importance to traffic.

In the expanded Mekong Delta, inland navigation is of great importance for the transport of goods and people. The Mekong and the Red River, including tributaries and canals, have a total length of more than 7,000 kilometers, and both rivers have more than 30 important inland ports.

Main seaports are Saigon, Haiphong, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Saigon is the country's main port. The Vietnam Ocean Shipping Agency deals with maritime transport.

The national airline is Vietnam Airlines; Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang have international airports. A number of local airports are being modernized and made accessible to international air traffic.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Old town Hue, VietnamOld town Hue, VietnamPhoto:Dronepicr CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Tourism is increasingly becoming an important sector for the Vietnamese economy. It is estimated that in 2004 about 2.5 million tourists visit Vietnam. Most foreign visitors come from China and the United States.

About two million people work in the tourist industry; 5.5% of the total working population. The total accommodation amounts to more than 70,000 hotel rooms. Due to the increasing number of tourists, it is important to quickly build additional accommodation.

Halong Bay, VietnamHalong Bay, VietnamPhoto: Disdero CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Vietnam has a number of tourist highlights with Hanoi, Saigon, the imperial city of Hue, the museum city of Hoi An, Halong Bay, the coast, the beaches and the remains of the Cham. In development are cruise tourism, adventure tourism and even tourism for Vietnam War veterans.

Hanoi, VietnamHanoi, VietnamPhoto: Alex 69200 vx CC 4.0 International no changes made

Hanoi is one of the most important cultural centers of Vietnam and the capital for over a thousand years. Numerous Vietnamese dynasties and other rulers have left their mark on this city. Although many of the beautiful historical structures have not been preserved, the city still has many interesting cultural and historical monuments and is attractive to visitors and residents. Many of the colonial structures were built in a mix of French and traditional Vietnamese architectural styles, such as the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the National Museum of Fine Arts of Vietnam, and the old medical school building.

Food market in Hanoi, VietnamFood market in Hanoi, VietnamPhoto: Daderot in the public domain

On a culinary level, you can order the most delicious meals very cheaply. Be surprised by the local specialties, the spicy dishes are certainly appreciated by enthusiasts. Some specialties are soup with noodles (pho) and chicken (ga) or beef (bo) flavored with all kinds of spices. Rice noodles with fish and crab (banh canh) is a very popular dish. Read more on the Hanoi page of Landenweb.

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Krücker, F.-J. / Vietnam

Paulzen, H. / Vietnam : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Peterse, L. / Vietnam

Te gast in Vietnam
Informatie Verre Reizen



Wulf, A. / Vietnam
Het Spectrum

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb