VIETNAM, LAND AND RESOURCES, PEOPLE, ECONOMIC ACTIVITY, GOVERNMENT referat







Vietnam


Vietnam, a nation located along the eastern coast of

mainland Southeast Asia, has had a turbulent history.

Emerging as a distinct civilization during the first

millennium BC, Vietnam was conquered by China during the

early Han dynasty and subjected to 1,000 years of foreign

rule. In AD 939 the Vietnamese restored their

independence and gradually expanded southward along the

coast from their historic homeland in the YUAN (Red) River

valley. In the 19th century Vietnam was conquered once

again and absorbed, along with neighboring Cambodia (now

Kampuchea) and Laos, into French INDOCHINA. Patriotic

elements soon began to organize national resistance to

colonial rule, however, and after World War II,

Communist-led Viet Minh guerrillas battled for several

years to free the country from foreign subjugation.


In 1954, at the GENEVA CONFERENCE, the country was divided

into Communist-led North Vietnam and non-Communist South

Vietnam. For the next 20 years, both North and South

Vietnam were involved in the VIETNAM WAR. That conflict

came to an end when Communist forces from the north

occupied Saigon (now HO CHI MINH CITY) in April 1975.

Today, the Vietnamese government is attempting to lead the

entire nation to socialism. But domestic unrest and

foreign-policy problems, compounded by renewed tensions

with China over the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea,

keep Vietnam a garrison state.


LAND AND RESOURCES


Vietnam, is shaped like a giant letter 'S', extending some

1,600 km (1,000 mi) from the Chinese border to Point Ca

Mau (Baibung) on the Gulf of Thailand. At its widest, it

reaches a width of about 560 km (350 mi). In the narrow

center, it it less than 50 km (30 mi) wide.


Much of Vietnam is rugged and densely forested. A chain

of mountains called the Truong Son (Annamese Cordillera)

extends more than 1,287 km (800 mi) from the Yuan River

delta east of HANOI to the Central Highlands south of

Laos For much of that distance, these mountains form the

border between Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. The highest

point in the country, Fan Si Pan, rises to 3,143 m (10,312

ft) in the mountainous northwest, near the Chinese

border. Poor soils and heavy rains make the mountainous

areas relatively unsuitable for agriculture.


The large deltas of the Yuan River in the north and the

MEKONG RIVER in the south are rich in alluvial basaltic

soil brought down from South China and inner Southeast

Asia and have abundant water resources and favorable

climate that make them highly suitable for settled

agriculture, particularly the cultivation of wet rice.  In

the Yuan delta, the climate is subtropical, ranging from 5

deg C (41 deg F) in winter to more than 38 deg C (100 deg

F) in summer. The Mekong delta is almost uniformly hot,

varying from 26 deg to 30 deg C (79 deg to 85 deg F)

throughout the year. The monsoon season extends from

early May to October, and typhoons often cause flooding in

northern coastal areas.



Most of Vietnam's hardwoods and wild animals (including

buffalo, elephants, and rhinoceroses) are found in the

mountains. In the north are deposits of iron ore, tin,

copper, apatite (phosphate rock), and chromite.  Coal,

mined along the coast near the Chinese border, is an

important export and the main source of energy, although

rivers are being harnessed for hydroelectric power and the

government is attempting to exploit modest oil reserves in

the South China Sea.


PEOPLE


Vietnam is one of the most homogeneous societies in

Southeast Asia Although more than 60 different ethnic

groups live in the country, ethnic Vietnamese constitute

nearly 90% of the total population and are in the majority

throughout the country except in the mountains. The

Vietnamese are descended from peoples who settled in the

Yuan delta area more than 3,000 years ago and later moved

southward along the coast into the Mekong delta. They

speak Vietnamese, which exhibits many similarities to

other tongues spoken in the region but is sometimes

considered a separate language group (see SOUTHEAST ASIAN

LANGUAGES).


The so-called overseas Chinese, descended from ethnic

Chinese who migrated into the country during the 17th and

18th centuries, settled for the most part in large cities

and became involved in commerce, manufacturing, fishing,

and coal mining. During the traditional and colonial

periods, the Chinese were placed under separate

administration. Recent governments, however, have

attempted to assimilate them. Thousands of ethnic Chinese

fled abroad in 1978 in the wake of a government decision

to nationalize commerce and industry in the south; about 2

million reportedly remain in the country.


Tribal peoples, including the MEO (Hmong) and the

MONTAGNARDS, number about 3 million. Descended from a

wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, they live primarily in

the Central Highlands and in the mountains of the north,

where they practice SLASH-AND-BURN AGRICULTURE.  Other

smaller groups are the KHMER (about 500,000) and the Cham

(about 50,000), remnants of ancient states absorbed by the

Vietnamese during their southward expansion.


Although the majority of ethnic Vietnamese traditionally

considered themselves Buddhist or Confucianist, there are

about 3 million Roman Catholics, most of whom now live in

the south. Members of two religious sects, the Cao Dai (an

amalgam of eastern and western traditions) and the Hoa Hao

(a radical form of Buddhism), live mainly in the Mekong

delta area and number about 1 million each.  Like the

ethnic minorities, these religious groups have resisted

assimilation into the majority culture and today are under

considerable pressure to conform to the government's

socialist program.


The vast majority of the population live in overcrowded

cities or in the densely populated delta areas and along

the central coast. Large southern cities include Ho Chi

Minh City, DA NANG, and HUE. Hanoi, the capital, and

HAIPHONG, a port on the Gulf of Tonkin (see TONKIN, GULF

OF), are the chief cities in the north.


Rapid population growth has placed considerable strain on

limited health services, educational facilities, and food

supplies. The government has instituted a family planning

program and attempted to relieve the problem of

overcrowding by resettling several million people into

'new economic areas' in the sparsely populated mountains

and upland plateaus.


Education is under state control and is free at all

levels. The leading institution of higher learning is

Hanoi University. Although health facilities remain

limited, there has been significant progress in health

care since the reunification of the country in 1976.


For centuries, Vietnamese art and architecture were

heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian forms (see

SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART AND ARCHITECTURE). More recently,

Vietnamese painting borrowed from French styles and

techniques. Traditional handicrafts are still practiced,

and poetry remains the favorite literary genre.  Vietnam's

greatest poet was Nguyen Du (1765-1820).


ECONOMIC ACTIVITY


According to the evidence of contemporary archaeology, the

Vietnamese were one of the first peoples of Asia to master

the art of irrigation. Ever since, they have lived off

the land, and their primary economic activity has been the

cultivation of wet rice. During the period of French

rule, the marshes of the Mekong delta were drained,

leading to a significant increase in rice production.  The

French also developed coal mining, introduced a number of

cash crops, and built a modern rail and road network, but

they were determined to maintain their colonies as a

market for French manufactured goods and a source of cheap

raw materials and did not seriously encourage the

development of a modern commercial and industrial sector.

After the French departed, economic development in both

North and South Vietnam was hindered by the Vietnam War,

and the country remained basically preindustrial,

dependent on outside assistance for essential goods and

services.


The ultimate goal of the Communist regime that took power

in 1975 was to transform all of Vietnam into an advanced

industrial society based on socialist forms of ownership.

Industry had been nationalized and agriculture

collectivized in the north by the late 1950s, but

Communist leaders delayed a similar socialist

transformation in the south to avoid alienating the local

population and to encourage economic recovery from the

long years of war. In 1978, due to the slow pace of

postwar economic development and fears of the growth of an

unmanageable private sector in the south, governments

planners announced the nationalization of all industrial

and commercial enterprises above the family level and

began to create low-level collective organizations in the

countryside. The results were disastrous. With much of

the population opposed to the new policies, the economy

went into a rapid decline.


In September 1979 the regime reversed course, permitting

the revival of private commerce and postponing the process

of collectivization in the south. During the next few

years, economic production gradually recovered as emphasis

shifted from heavy industry to consumer goods and farmers

were allowed to sell surplus crops on the free market.

But the restoration of the small private sector concerned

ideological purists within the party leadership, who

argued for a rapid socialist transformation. In 1985 the

regime reached a compromise. Profit incentives would be

temporarily retained to spur production, but the ultimate

objective of eliminating the private sector on a gradual

basis was reaffirmed.


All land is still owned by the state, but an economic

crisis aggravated by recurrent poor weather and rapid

population growth led the government in 1990 to release

farmers from their obligation to work on collective farms

and to grant them long-term rights to till private plots.

This reform led to a dramatic increase in harvests and the

resumption of rice exports. Some hilly areas have

recently been planted with cash crops such as coffee, tea,

and rubber, and fishing, livestock raising, and forestry

are also being encouraged. The industrial sector is

showing signs of improvement, particularly in light

industry and handicrafts, but consumer goods are in short

supply and growth rates continue to be hampered by

primitive technology, low export capacity, managerial

inexperience, a lack of foreign investment, and shortages

of energy, raw materials, and spare parts.


Vietnam's serious balance-of-payments deficit was

aggravated in the early 1990s by a decline in remittances

from Vietnamese workers in Eastern Europe and the Middle

East and the halting (1991) of Soviet economic subsidies.

Military expenditures, which had consumed about half of

the national budget, were reduced when Vietnam withdrew

its forces from Kampuchea in 1989, although Vietnam, Laos,



and Kampuchea remain closely linked economically. The

government has sought aid from China and has liberalized

its policies in a largely unsuccessful effort to attract

foreign investors.


GOVERNMENT


Vietnam is a Communist republic. A new constitution in

1980 replaced the North Vietnamese constitution of 1959,

which was extended throughout the country after the formal

reunification of Vietnam on July 2, 1976. On paper,

Vietnam has a parliamentary form of government, with

supreme power vested in the unicameral National Assembly

elected every five years by universal suffrage.  The

Assembly elects the Council of State, the collective

presidency. Governmental functions are carried out by a

Council of Ministers responsible to the National

Assembly. In practice, real power resides in the hands of

the Vietnamese Communist party.


HISTORY


The Vietnamese people first appear in history as one of

several peoples living along the southern coast of China

as far south as the Yuan delta. By the middle of the

first millennium BC, a small state based on irrigated

agriculture and calling itself Van Lang had emerged in the

delta. In 101 BC, Van Lang was overrun by forces from the

north and gradually absorbed into the expanding Chinese

empire. Despite intensive Chinese culture and political

influence, however, the sense of cultural uniqueness did

not entirely disappear, and in the 10th century rebel

groups drove out the Chinese and restored national

independence.


The new state,, which styled itself Dai Viet (Greater

Viet), accepted a tributary status with China and adopted

many political and cultural institutions and values from

its northern neighbor. It resisted periodic efforts to

restore Chinese rule, however, and began to expand its

territory, conquering the state of CHAMPA to the south and

eventually seizing the Mekong delta from the declining

KHMER EMPIRE.


Expansion brought problems, however. The difficulties of

administering a long and narrow empire, and the cultural

differences between the traditionalist and densely

populated north and the sparsely settled 'frontier' region

in the Mekong delta, led to political tensions and, in the

17th century, to civil war. Two major aristocratic

families, the Trinh and the Nguyen, squabbled for

domination over the decrepit Vietnamese monarchy.  This

internal strife was exacerbated by the arrival of European

adventurers who, in order to facilitate their commercial

and missionary penetration of Southeast Asia, frequently

intervened in local politics.


During the last quarter of the 18th century, a peasant

rebellion led by the so-called Tay Son brothers in the

south spread to the north, where the leading brother,

Nguyen Hue, united the country, and declared himself

emperor. After his death in 1792, this dynasty rapidly

declined and was overthrown by a scion of the princely

house of Nguyen, who in 1802 founded a new Nguyen dynasty

with its capital at Hue.


The Nguyen dynasty had come to power with French

assistance, and France hoped for commercial and economic

privileges. When these were not granted, the French

emperor Napoleon III, under pressure from imperialist and

religious groups in France, ordered an attack on Vietnam

in 1857. This resulted in a Vietnamese defeat and the

ceding of several provinces in the south, which the French

transformed into a new colony of COCHIN CHINA.  Twenty

years later the French completed their conquest of Vietnam

, dividing the northern and central parts of the country

into protectorates with the historic names of TONKIN and

ANNAM. Between 1887 and 1893, all three regions were

joined with the protectorates of Laos and Cambodia into

the French-dominated Union of Indochina.


French rule had a significant effect on Vietnamese

society. Many traditional institutions were dismantled and

replaced with others imported from the West.  Western

technology was introduced, and upper-class Vietnamese

increasingly adopted the French language and Roman

Catholicism. The economy was oriented toward the export

of raw materials, and the small manufacturing and

commercial sector was dominated by European and overseas

Chinese interests.


Deprived of a political and economic role by the colonial

administration, Vietnamese patriots turned to protest or

revolt. By the late 1930s the Communist party, led by a

Vietnamese revolutionary who took the name of HO CHI MINH,

had become the leading force in the nationalist movement.


Germany defeated France in 1940. Japan, a German ally,

then occupied Vietnam, but the French Vichy Government

continued to administer the country until March 1945, when

the Japanese established an autonomous state of Vietnam

under Annamese emperor BAO DAI. At the POTSDAM CONFERENCE

in July-August, the Allies instructed Nationalist Chinese

troops in the north and British troops in the south to

accept the Japanese surrender. When Japan surrendered in

August, however, the Viet Minh, an anti-Japanese and

anti-French front founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1941, revolted

and seized power. In early September, Viet Minh leaders

declared the formation of the independent Democratic

Republic of Vietnam (DRV). French forces returned by

1946, and in March of that year the new government reached

a preliminary agreement on the formation of a Vietnamese

'free state' within the FRENCH UNION, but negotiations

collapsed. In December, the First Indochinese War broke

out between the Vietnamese and the French, who were

increasingly supported by the United States. In 1954,

after eight years of fighting, the Vietnamese defeated the

French at DIEN BIEN PHU. Shortly after, the major powers

met at Geneva and called for the departure of all foreign

forces and the de facto division of Vietnam at 17 degrees

north latitude into two separate states, the

Communist-dominated DRV in the North and a non-Communist

state in the south, with provision for eventual


reunification and elections.


The division of Vietnam lasted only two decades.  In South

Vietnam, the weak Bao Dai, reinstalled by the French in

1949, was replaced by NGO DINH DIEM. Despite support from

the United States, Diem was unable to suppress a

continuing guerrilla insurgency directed from Hanoi but

provoked in part by his own unpopularity. In November

1963, Diem was overthrown in a military coup, and North

Vietnam intensified its efforts to seek reunification

under Communist rule. In 1965, with the South Vietnamese

regime on the verge of collapse, the United States decided

to send combat troops to South Vietnam to defeat the

insurgency, whose various elements had by this time united

as the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front of

Vietnam (also known as the VIET CONG). But victory was

elusive, and U.S. public opinion began to turn against the

Vietnam War. After 1968, U.S. President Richard Nixon

gradually withdrew U.S. military forces. In January 1973,

over the objections of South Vietnam's NGUYEN VAN THIEU

(who served as president from 1967 to 1975), a peace

agreement was signed in Paris calling for a cease-fire and

the total withdrawal of U.S. troops. Vague provisions for

a political settlement were ignored, however, and in the

spring of 1975 the Communists launched a major offensive

in South Vietnam. Southern resistance rapidly collapsed,

and North Vietnamese troops occupied Saigon in late

April. In 1976, North and South Vietnam were formally

united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with PHAM VAN

DONG as prime minister.


The government faced resistance to its socialist economic

policies at home and a variety of pressures from abroad.

Relations between North Vietnam and China, increasingly

tense during the final years of the Vietnam War, reached

the breaking point at war's end because of territorial

disagreements and a growing rivalry over Cambodia and

Laos. In November 1978, Vietnam signed a treaty of

friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.  Less

than two months later, Vietnamese forces invaded

Kampuchea, overthrew the pro-Chinese KHMER ROUGE regime,

and installed a new government sympathetic to Hanoi. China

continued to support Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia

and cooperated with the ASEAN nations in demanding a

withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from the country.  Vietnam

's dominant position in Cambodia and Laos, its close ties

to the Soviet Union, and the unresolved issue of U S.

soldiers missing in action during the Vietnam War hindered

its efforts to improve relations with the United States,

although a symbolic aid package was authorized in 1991.

In 1992, with Vietnam's economy near collapse due to the

cutoff of aid from the former USSR, the United States

agreed to provide humanitarian aid in exchange for

increased Vietnamese efforts to locate U.S. servicemen

listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.


In a major government reorganization, Truong Chinh was


replaced as party secretary general in 1986 (by Nguyen Van

Linh) and as president in 1987 (by Vo Chi Cong).  Pham

Hung, who replaced Pham Van Dong as premier in 1987, died

in March 1988. Do Muoi, who was named premier in June,

became party leader in June 1991 and was succeeded as

premier in August by Vo Van Kiet, whose powers were

enhanced under a new constitution adopted in 1992. The

constitution also formalized the free-market reforms

implemented since the 1980s and replaced the collective

presidency with a single president elected from within the

legislature. Le Duc Anh was chosen president after the

1992 legislative elections. French president Francois

Mitterrand made a state visit to Vietnam in February 1993,

during which he announced increases in French economic aid

and the signing of cultural, legal, medical, and other

agreements.




Socialist Republic of Vietnam


LAND


Area: 329,556 sq km (127,242 sq mi).

Capital: Hanoi (1985 est. pop., 2,674,400).

Largest city; Ho Chi Minh City (1984 est. pop., 3,293,146).

Elevations: highest--Fan Si Pan, 3,143 m (10,312 ft);

lowest--sea level, along the coast.


PEOPLE


Population (1992 est.): 68,964,018; density: 209 persons

per sq km (542 per sq mi).

Distribution (1986): 19% urban, 81% rural.

Annual growth (1992): 2.0%.

Official language: Vietnamese.

Major religions: Buddhism, Caodaism, Hoa Hao, Roman

Catholicism.


EDUCATION AND HEALTH


Literacy (1990 est.): 88% age 15 and over.

Universities (1981): 3.

Hospital beds (1985): 205,700.

Physicians (1985): 16,000.

Life expectancy (1992): women--67; men--63.

Infant mortality (1992): 47 per 1,000 live births.


ECONOMY


GNP (1991 est.): $15 billion; $220 per capita.

Labor force (1984): agriculture and fishing--73%;

manufacturing-- 14%; commerce and services--5%.

Foreign trade (1991): imports--$1.9 billion; exports--$1.8

billion; principal trade partners--Japan, Singapore,

Thailand, Eastern Europe.

Currency: 1 dong = 100 xu.


GOVERNMENT


Type: Communist state.

Government leaders (1993): Le Duc Anh--president; Vo Van

Kiet--premier; Do Muoi--Communist party secretary general.

Legislature: National Assembly.

Political subdivisions: 50 provinces, 3 municipalities.


COMMUNICATIONS


Railroads (1983): 2,523 km (1,568 mi) total.

Roads (1983): 347,243 km (215,767 mi) total.

Major ports: 3.

Major airfields: 3.


Copyright - 1993 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.


Vietnam






Vietnam, a nation located along the eastern coast of

mainland Southeast Asia, has had a turbulent history.

Emerging as a distinct civilization during the first

millennium BC, Vietnam was conquered by China during the

early Han dynasty and subjected to 1,000 years of foreign

rule. In AD 939 the Vietnamese restored their

independence and gradually expanded southward along the

coast from their historic homeland in the YUAN (Red) River

valley. In the 19th century Vietnam was conquered once

again and absorbed, along with neighboring Cambodia (now

Kampuchea) and Laos, into French INDOCHINA. Patriotic

elements soon began to organize national resistance to

colonial rule, however, and after World War II,

Communist-led Viet Minh guerrillas battled for several

years to free the country from foreign subjugation.


In 1954, at the GENEVA CONFERENCE, the country was divided

into Communist-led North Vietnam and non-Communist South

Vietnam. For the next 20 years, both North and South

Vietnam were involved in the VIETNAM WAR. That conflict

came to an end when Communist forces from the north

occupied Saigon (now HO CHI MINH CITY) in April 1975.

Today, the Vietnamese government is attempting to lead the

entire nation to socialism. But domestic unrest and

foreign-policy problems, compounded by renewed tensions

with China over the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea,

keep Vietnam a garrison state.


LAND AND RESOURCES


Vietnam, is shaped like a giant letter 'S', extending some

1,600 km (1,000 mi) from the Chinese border to Point Ca

Mau (Baibung) on the Gulf of Thailand. At its widest, it

reaches a width of about 560 km (350 mi). In the narrow

center, it it less than 50 km (30 mi) wide.


Much of Vietnam is rugged and densely forested.  A chain

of mountains called the Truong Son (Annamese Cordillera)

extends more than 1,287 km (800 mi) from the Yuan River

delta east of HANOI to the Central Highlands south of

Laos. For much of that distance, these mountains form the

border between Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia.  The highest

point in the country, Fan Si Pan, rises to 3,143 m (10,312

ft) in the mountainous northwest, near the Chinese

border. Poor soils and heavy rains make the mountainous

areas relatively unsuitable for agriculture.


The large deltas of the Yuan River in the north and the

MEKONG RIVER in the south are rich in alluvial basaltic

soil brought down from South China and inner Southeast

Asia and have abundant water resources and favorable

climate that make them highly suitable for settled

agriculture, particularly the cultivation of wet rice.  In

the Yuan delta, the climate is subtropical, ranging from 5

deg C (41 deg F) in winter to more than 38 deg C (100 deg

F) in summer. The Mekong delta is almost uniformly hot,

varying from 26 deg to 30 deg C (79 deg to 85 deg F)

throughout the year. The monsoon season extends from

early May to October, and typhoons often cause flooding in

northern coastal areas.


Most of Vietnam's hardwoods and wild animals (including

buffalo, elephants, and rhinoceroses) are found in the

mountains. In the north are deposits of iron ore, tin,

copper, apatite (phosphate rock), and chromite.  Coal,

mined along the coast near the Chinese border, is an

important export and the main source of energy, although

rivers are being harnessed for hydroelectric power and the

government is attempting to exploit modest oil reserves in

the South China Sea.


PEOPLE


Vietnam is one of the most homogeneous societies in

Southeast Asia. Although more than 60 different ethnic

groups live in the country, ethnic Vietnamese constitute

nearly 90% of the total population and are in the majority

throughout the country except in the mountains. The

Vietnamese are descended from peoples who settled in the


Yuan delta area more than 3,000 years ago and later moved

southward along the coast into the Mekong delta.  They

speak Vietnamese, which exhibits many similarities to

other tongues spoken in the region but is sometimes

considered a separate language group (see SOUTHEAST ASIAN

LANGUAGES).


The so-called overseas Chinese, descended from ethnic

Chinese who migrated into the country during the 17th and

18th centuries, settled for the most part in large cities

and became involved in commerce, manufacturing, fishing,

and coal mining. During the traditional and colonial

periods, the Chinese were placed under separate

administration. Recent governments, however, have

attempted to assimilate them. Thousands of ethnic Chinese

fled abroad in 1978 in the wake of a government decision

to nationalize commerce and industry in the south; about 2

million reportedly remain in the country.


Tribal peoples, including the MEO (Hmong) and the

MONTAGNARDS, number about 3 million. Descended from a

wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, they live primarily in

the Central Highlands and in the mountains of the north,

where they practice SLASH-AND-BURN AGRICULTURE.  Other

smaller groups are the KHMER (about 500,000) and the Cham

(about 50,000), remnants of ancient states absorbed by the

Vietnamese during their southward expansion.


Although the majority of ethnic Vietnamese traditionally

considered themselves Buddhist or Confucianist, there are

about 3 million Roman Catholics, most of whom now live in

the south. Members of two religious sects, the Cao Dai (an

amalgam of eastern and western traditions) and the Hoa Hao

(a radical form of Buddhism), live mainly in the Mekong

delta area and number about 1 million each.  Like the

ethnic minorities, these religious groups have resisted

assimilation into the majority culture and today are under

considerable pressure to conform to the government's

socialist program.


The vast majority of the population live in overcrowded

cities or in the densely populated delta areas and along

the central coast. Large southern cities include Ho Chi

Minh City, DA NANG, and HUE. Hanoi, the capital, and

HAIPHONG, a port on the Gulf of Tonkin (see TONKIN, GULF

OF), are the chief cities in the north.


Rapid population growth has placed considerable strain on

limited health services, educational facilities, and food

supplies. The government has instituted a family planning

program and attempted to relieve the problem of

overcrowding by resettling several million people into

'new economic areas' in the sparsely populated mountains

and upland plateaus.


Education is under state control and is free at all

levels. The leading institution of higher learning is

Hanoi University. Although health facilities remain

limited, there has been significant progress in health

care since the reunification of the country in 1976.


For centuries, Vietnamese art and architecture were

heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian forms (see

SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART AND ARCHITECTURE). More recently,

Vietnamese painting borrowed from French styles and

techniques. Traditional handicrafts are still practiced,

and poetry remains the favorite literary genre.  Vietnam's

greatest poet was Nguyen Du (1765-1820).


ECONOMIC ACTIVITY


According to the evidence of contemporary archaeology, the

Vietnamese were one of the first peoples of Asia to master

the art of irrigation. Ever since, they have lived off

the land, and their primary economic activity has been the

cultivation of wet rice. During the period of French

rule, the marshes of the Mekong delta were drained,

leading to a significant increase in rice production.  The

French also developed coal mining, introduced a number of

cash crops, and built a modern rail and road network, but

they were determined to maintain their colonies as a

market for French manufactured goods and a source of cheap

raw materials and did not seriously encourage the

development of a modern commercial and industrial sector.

After the French departed, economic development in both

North and South Vietnam was hindered by the Vietnam War,

and the country remained basically preindustrial,

dependent on outside assistance for essential goods and

services.


The ultimate goal of the Communist regime that took power

in 1975 was to transform all of Vietnam into an advanced

industrial society based on socialist forms of ownership.

Industry had been nationalized and agriculture

collectivized in the north by the late 1950s, but

Communist leaders delayed a similar socialist

transformation in the south to avoid alienating the local

population and to encourage economic recovery from the

long years of war. In 1978, due to the slow pace of

postwar economic development and fears of the growth of an

unmanageable private sector in the south, governments

planners announced the nationalization of all industrial

and commercial enterprises above the family level and

began to create low-level collective organizations in the

countryside. The results were disastrous. With much of

the population opposed to the new policies, the economy

went into a rapid decline.


In September 1979 the regime reversed course, permitting

the revival of private commerce and postponing the process

of collectivization in the south. During the next few

years, economic production gradually recovered as emphasis

shifted from heavy industry to consumer goods and farmers

were allowed to sell surplus crops on the free market.

But the restoration of the small private sector concerned

ideological purists within the party leadership, who

argued for a rapid socialist transformation. In 1985 the

regime reached a compromise. Profit incentives would be

temporarily retained to spur production, but the ultimate

objective of eliminating the private sector on a gradual

basis was reaffirmed.


All land is still owned by the state, but an economic

crisis aggravated by recurrent poor weather and rapid

population growth led the government in 1990 to release

farmers from their obligation to work on collective farms

and to grant them long-term rights to till private plots.

This reform led to a dramatic increase in harvests and the

resumption of rice exports. Some hilly areas have

recently been planted with cash crops such as coffee, tea,

and rubber, and fishing, livestock raising, and forestry

are also being encouraged. The industrial sector is

showing signs of improvement, particularly in light

industry and handicrafts, but consumer goods are in short

supply and growth rates continue to be hampered by

primitive technology, low export capacity, managerial

inexperience, a lack of foreign investment, and shortages

of energy, raw materials, and spare parts.


Vietnam's serious balance-of-payments deficit was

aggravated in the early 1990s by a decline in remittances

from Vietnamese workers in Eastern Europe and the Middle

East and the halting (1991) of Soviet economic subsidies.

Military expenditures, which had consumed about half of

the national budget, were reduced when Vietnam withdrew

its forces from Kampuchea in 1989, although Vietnam, Laos,

and Kampuchea remain closely linked economically.  The

government has sought aid from China and has liberalized

its policies in a largely unsuccessful effort to attract

foreign investors.


GOVERNMENT


Vietnam is a Communist republic. A new constitution in

1980 replaced the North Vietnamese constitution of 1959,

which was extended throughout the country after the formal

reunification of Vietnam on July 2, 1976. On paper,

Vietnam has a parliamentary form of government, with

supreme power vested in the unicameral National Assembly

elected every five years by universal suffrage.  The

Assembly elects the Council of State, the collective

presidency. Governmental functions are carried out by a

Council of Ministers responsible to the National

Assembly. In practice, real power resides in the hands of

the Vietnamese Communist party.


HISTORY


The Vietnamese people first appear in history as one of

several peoples living along the southern coast of China

as far south as the Yuan delta. By the middle of the

first millennium BC, a small state based on irrigated

agriculture and calling itself Van Lang had emerged in the

delta. In 101 BC, Van Lang was overrun by forces from the



north and gradually absorbed into the expanding Chinese

empire. Despite intensive Chinese culture and political

influence, however, the sense of cultural uniqueness did

not entirely disappear, and in the 10th century rebel

groups drove out the Chinese and restored national

independence.


The new state,, which styled itself Dai Viet (Greater

Viet), accepted a tributary status with China and adopted

many political and cultural institutions and values from

its northern neighbor. It resisted periodic efforts to

restore Chinese rule, however, and began to expand its

territory, conquering the state of CHAMPA to the south and

eventually seizing the Mekong delta from the declining

KHMER EMPIRE.


Expansion brought problems, however. The difficulties of

administering a long and narrow empire, and the cultural

differences between the traditionalist and densely

populated north and the sparsely settled 'frontier' region

in the Mekong delta, led to political tensions and, in the

17th century, to civil war. Two major aristocratic

families, the Trinh and the Nguyen, squabbled for

domination over the decrepit Vietnamese monarchy.  This

internal strife was exacerbated by the arrival of European

adventurers who, in order to facilitate their commercial

and missionary penetration of Southeast Asia, frequently

intervened in local politics.


During the last quarter of the 18th century, a peasant

rebellion led by the so-called Tay Son brothers in the

south spread to the north, where the leading brother,

Nguyen Hue, united the country, and declared himself

emperor. After his death in 1792, this dynasty rapidly

declined and was overthrown by a scion of the princely

house of Nguyen, who in 1802 founded a new Nguyen dynasty

with its capital at Hue.


The Nguyen dynasty had come to power with French

assistance, and France hoped for commercial and economic

privileges. When these were not granted, the French

emperor Napoleon III, under pressure from imperialist and

religious groups in France, ordered an attack on Vietnam

in 1857. This resulted in a Vietnamese defeat and the

ceding of several provinces in the south, which the French

transformed into a new colony of COCHIN CHINA.  Twenty

years later the French completed their conquest of Vietnam

, dividing the northern and central parts of the country

into protectorates with the historic names of TONKIN and

ANNAM. Between 1887 and 1893, all three regions were

joined with the protectorates of Laos and Cambodia into

the French-dominated Union of Indochina.


French rule had a significant effect on Vietnamese

society. Many traditional institutions were dismantled and

replaced with others imported from the West.  Western

technology was introduced, and upper-class Vietnamese

increasingly adopted the French language and Roman

Catholicism. The economy was oriented toward the export

of raw materials, and the small manufacturing and

commercial sector was dominated by European and overseas

Chinese interests.


Deprived of a political and economic role by the colonial

administration, Vietnamese patriots turned to protest or

revolt. By the late 1930s the Communist party, led by a

Vietnamese revolutionary who took the name of HO CHI MINH,

had become the leading force in the nationalist movement.


Germany defeated France in 1940. Japan, a German ally,

then occupied Vietnam, but the French Vichy Government

continued to administer the country until March 1945, when

the Japanese established an autonomous state of Vietnam

under Annamese emperor BAO DAI. At the POTSDAM CONFERENCE

in July-August, the Allies instructed Nationalist Chinese

troops in the north and British troops in the south to

accept the Japanese surrender. When Japan surrendered in

August, however, the Viet Minh, an anti-Japanese and

anti-French front founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1941, revolted

and seized power. In early September, Viet Minh leaders

declared the formation of the independent Democratic

Republic of Vietnam (DRV). French forces returned by

1946, and in March of that year the new government reached

a preliminary agreement on the formation of a Vietnamese

'free state' within the FRENCH UNION, but negotiations

collapsed. In December, the First Indochinese War broke

out between the Vietnamese and the French, who were

increasingly supported by the United States. In 1954,

after eight years of fighting, the Vietnamese defeated the

French at DIEN BIEN PHU. Shortly after, the major powers

met at Geneva and called for the departure of all foreign

forces and the de facto division of Vietnam at 17 degrees

north latitude into two separate states, the

Communist-dominated DRV in the North and a non-Communist

state in the south, with provision for eventual

reunification and elections.


The division of Vietnam lasted only two decades.  In South

Vietnam, the weak Bao Dai, reinstalled by the French in

1949, was replaced by NGO DINH DIEM. Despite support from

the United States, Diem was unable to suppress a

continuing guerrilla insurgency directed from Hanoi but

provoked in part by his own unpopularity. In November

1963, Diem was overthrown in a military coup, and North

Vietnam intensified its efforts to seek reunification

under Communist rule. In 1965, with the South Vietnamese

regime on the verge of collapse, the United States decided

to send combat troops to South Vietnam to defeat the

insurgency, whose various elements had by this time united

as the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front of

Vietnam (also known as the VIET CONG). But victory was

elusive, and U.S. public opinion began to turn against the

Vietnam War. After 1968, U.S. President Richard Nixon

gradually withdrew U.S. military forces. In January 1973,

over the objections of South Vietnam's NGUYEN VAN THIEU

(who served as president from 1967 to 1975), a peace

agreement was signed in Paris calling for a cease-fire and

the total withdrawal of U.S. troops. Vague provisions for

a political settlement were ignored, however, and in the

spring of 1975 the Communists launched a major offensive

in South Vietnam. Southern resistance rapidly collapsed,

and North Vietnamese troops occupied Saigon in late

April. In 1976, North and South Vietnam were formally

united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with PHAM VAN

DONG as prime minister.


The government faced resistance to its socialist economic

policies at home and a variety of pressures from abroad.

Relations between North Vietnam and China, increasingly

tense during the final years of the Vietnam War, reached

the breaking point at war's end because of territorial

disagreements and a growing rivalry over Cambodia and

Laos. In November 1978, Vietnam signed a treaty of

friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.  Less

than two months later, Vietnamese forces invaded

Kampuchea, overthrew the pro-Chinese KHMER ROUGE regime,

and installed a new government sympathetic to Hanoi. China

continued to support Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia

and cooperated with the ASEAN nations in demanding a

withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from the country.  Vietnam

's dominant position in Cambodia and Laos, its close ties

to the Soviet Union, and the unresolved issue of U S.

soldiers missing in action during the Vietnam War hindered

its efforts to improve relations with the United States,

although a symbolic aid package was authorized in 1991.

In 1992, with Vietnam's economy near collapse due to the

cutoff of aid from the former USSR, the United States

agreed to provide humanitarian aid in exchange for

increased Vietnamese efforts to locate U.S. servicemen

listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.


In a major government reorganization, Truong Chinh was

replaced as party secretary general in 1986 (by Nguyen Van

Linh) and as president in 1987 (by Vo Chi Cong).  Pham

Hung, who replaced Pham Van Dong as premier in 1987, died

in March 1988. Do Muoi, who was named premier in June,

became party leader in June 1991 and was succeeded as

premier in August by Vo Van Kiet, whose powers were

enhanced under a new constitution adopted in 1992. The

constitution also formalized the free-market reforms

implemented since the 1980s and replaced the collective

presidency with a single president elected from within the

legislature. Le Duc Anh was chosen president after the

1992 legislative elections. French president Francois

Mitterrand made a state visit to Vietnam in February 1993,

during which he announced increases in French economic aid

and the signing of cultural, legal, medical, and other

agreements.


William J. Duiker


Bibliography: Beresford, M., Vietnam (1988); Buttinger,

J., Vietnam: A Political History (1968); Colby, William,

and McCargar, James, Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of

America's Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam (1989);

Duiker, W. J., China and Vietnam (1986), Vietnam Since the

Fall of Saigon, 3d rev. ed. (1989), and Vietnam: Nation in

Revolution (1983); Fitzgerald, F., Fire in the Lake

(1972); Gardner, L. C., Approaching Vietnam (1988);

Harrison, J. P., The Endless War (1982); Hickey, G. C.,

Village in Vietnam (1964); Huynh Kim Khanh, Vietnamese

Communism, 1925-1945 (1982); Karnow, S., Vietnam: A

History (1983; repr. 1984); Marr, D. G., Vietnamese

Anticolonialism, 1885-1925 (1971) and Vietnamese Tradition

on Trial, 1920-1945 (1970; repr. 1983); McAlister, J. T.,

and Mus, P., The Vietnamese and Their Revolution (1970);

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph, We Were Soldiers

OnceAnd Young (1992); Nguyen Khac Vien, Tradition and

Revolution in Vietnam (1974); Pike, D., Viet Cong

(1966); Shaplen, R., Bitter Victory (1986); Sheehan, N.,

After the War Was Over (1992); Sully, F., ed., We the

Vietnamese (1971); Taylor, K. W., The Birth of Vietnam

(1983); Thayer, C., Vietnam: Politics, Economics, and

Society (1986); Trung, T. Q., Vietnam Today (1990);

Wiegersma, N., Vietnam: Peasant Land, Peasant Revolution



Facts About Vietnam


OFFICIAL NAME


Socialist Republic of Vietnam


LAND


Area: 329,556 sq km (127,242 sq mi).

Capital: Hanoi (1985 est. pop., 2,674,400).

Largest city; Ho Chi Minh City (1984 est. pop., 3,293,146).

Elevations: highest--Fan Si Pan, 3,143 m (10,312 ft);

lowest--sea level, along the coast.


PEOPLE


Population (1992 est.): 68,964,018; density: 209 persons

per sq km (542 per sq mi).

Distribution (1986): 19% urban, 81% rural.

Annual growth (1992): 2.0%.

Official language: Vietnamese.

Major religions: Buddhism, Caodaism, Hoa Hao, Roman

Catholicism.


EDUCATION AND HEALTH


Literacy (1990 est.): 88% age 15 and over.

Universities (1981): 3.

Hospital beds (1985): 205,700.

Physicians (1985): 16,000.

Life expectancy (1992): women--67; men--63.

Infant mortality (1992): 47 per 1,000 live births.


ECONOMY


GNP (1991 est.): $15 billion; $220 per capita.

Labor force (1984): agriculture and fishing--73%;

manufacturing-- 14%; commerce and services--5%.

Foreign trade (1991): imports--$1.9 billion; exports--$1.8

billion; principal trade partners--Japan, Singapore,

Thailand, Eastern Europe.

Currency: 1 dong = 100 xu.


GOVERNMENT


Type: Communist state.

Government leaders (1993): Le Duc Anh--president; Vo Van

Kiet--premier; Do Muoi--Communist party secretary general.

Legislature: National Assembly.

Political subdivisions: 50 provinces, 3 municipalities.


COMMUNICATIONS


Railroads (1983): 2,523 km (1,568 mi) total.

Roads (1983): 347,243 km (215,767 mi) total.

Major ports: 3.

Major airfields: 3.



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