Vietnam -- Geography --
Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Location: Southeastern Asia
Capital City: Hanoi
Biggest City: Ho Chi Minh
Language: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Currency: Dong (VND)
Religions: Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao, others
Population: 86,116,560 (Jul 2008)
Density: 261 per square km
Area: total: 329,560 sq km , land: 325,360 sq km , water: 4,200 sq km
Coastline: 3,444 km (excludes islands)
Land Boundaries: total: 4,639 km, border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km
Landforms: The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the area, with smaller hills accounting for 40% and tropical forests 42%. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta.
Evaluation Extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m , highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m
Natural Resources: Phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Climate: Tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)
Natural hazards: Occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta
Environment - current issues: Logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Land divisions: 59 provinces
Vietnam -- History --
Legends and early history of Vietnam
According to legend, the first ruler of the Vietnamese people was King De Minh, a descendant of a mythical Chinese ruler who was the father of Chinese agriculture. De Minh and an immortal fairy of the mountains produced Kinh Duong, ruler of the Land of Red Demons, who married the daughter of the Dragon Lord of the Sea. Their son, Lac Long Quan (“Dragon Lord of Lac”), was, according to legend, the first truly Vietnamese king. To make peace with the Chinese, Lac Long Quan married Au Co, a Chinese immortal, who bore him 100 eggs, from which sprang 100 sons. Later, the king and queen separated; Au Co moved with 50 of her sons into the mountains, and Lac Long Quan kept the other 50 sons and continued to rule over the lowlands. Lac Long Quan’s eldest son succeeded him as the first of the Hung (or Hong Bang) kings (vuong) of Vietnam’s first dynasty; as such, he is regarded as the founder of the Vietnamese nation.
Vietnam under Chinese rule
The history of the Vietnamese people during more than a millennium under Chinese rule reveals an evolution toward national identity, which apparently came about as the result of two related developments. The first of these was the introduction into the Red River delta of the more advanced civilization of China, including technical and administrative innovations and the more sophisticated level of Chinese learning, which made the Vietnamese the most advanced people of mainland Southeast Asia. The second development during this period was the Vietnamese people’s resistance to total assimilation and their use, at the same time, of the benefits of Chinese civilization in their struggle against Chinese political rule.
However the desire to exploit the fertile Red River delta and its mountainous backcountry was certainly one reason why the expansionist Han dynasty wanted to hold on to Vietnam. China’s main interest in controlling the Red River delta, however, was to use it as a stopover for trade ships. Vessels from many countries with which China developed commercial relations docked at the harbours along the Vietnamese coast, not only bringing new goods but also establishing contacts with a wider world.
As in all regions conquered by the Chinese during the Han dynasty, the establishment of direct Chinese rule was accompanied by efforts to transform the people of the Red River delta into Chinese. Local customs were suppressed, and Chinese customs, rites, and institutions were imposed by force. Many of these elements of Chinese civilization were readily integrated into the indigenous local culture and ultimately benefited the Vietnamese people, but Sinicization never succeeded in reconciling them, especially their leaders, with Chinese political domination. Even the educated Vietnamese who knew Chinese and wrote only in Chinese continued to use the local spoken language.
The Ly dynasty
In the early 11th century, the Vietnamese province was finally unified under a centralized administration by Ly Thai To, the founder of the Ly dynasty. The Ly rulers established their capital at Thang Long (Hanoi), in the heart of the Red River delta, modernized the agricultural system, and in 1076 replaced the divisive local lords with a system of administrative officials trained in a civil service institute based on the Chinese model.
Although the new kingdom, now called Dai Viet , made considerable political, economic, and cultural progress, it soon encountered problems with its neighbours to the south. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dai Viet fought several wars against the Islamic, Indianized kingdom of Champa on the central coast. It also clashed with the Khmer (Cambodian) empire, with its capital at Angkor, then the greatest power in mainland Southeast Asia.
The Tran dynasty
By the time of its conflicts with Champa and the Khmer, the Ly dynasty was already in decline. It was succeeded, after a period of civil strife, by a new dynasty called the Tran, which reigned from 1225 to 1400. The Tran rulers continued to clash with Champa, but they were also able to maintain several periods of peaceful coexistence. The primary challenge to the independence of Da Viet, however, came from the north. The Yuan (Mongol) dynasty, which had come to power in China in 1279, sent armies estimated at more than 300,000 soldiers to restore the Red River delta to Chinese rule. The Tran resisted stubbornly and were eventually able to drive out the invaders.
The drain of these wars on Dai Viet’s resources, together with the declining vigour of its rulers, precipitated a deep economic and social crisis and led to the overthrow of the Tran dynasty in 1400. The deposed Tran ruler appealed to China to help him regain the throne. China, by then ruled by emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), seized this opportunity to invade Dai Viet again in 1407. The Ming rulers reestablished direct Chinese administration.
The Le dynasty
By the beginning of the 15th century, any attempt to force the Vietnamese people to become Chinese served only to strengthen their nationalist sentiments and their determination to throw off the Chinese yoke. Le Loi, a wealthy landowner in the province of Thanh Hoa, located south of the Red River delta, launched a movement of national resistance in 1418; after a 10-year struggle, the Chinese were forced to withdraw. Le Loi, who shortly thereafter declared himself emperor under the name of Le Thai To, became the founder of the third great Vietnamese dynasty.
Like the better rulers of the Ly and Tran dynasties, Le Thai To and some of his successors introduced many reforms. They gave Dai Viet a highly sophisticated legal code; promoted art, literature, and education; advanced agriculture; protected communal lands against the greed of large landowners; and even enforced a general redistribution of land among the entire population at the expense of the large landowners. The lack of land was one of the reasons rulers during the Le dynasty pursued a policy of territorial expansion, which was aimed initially at driving the Chams from the small but fertile deltas to the south. Most of Champa was conquered in 1471 under the leadership of Le Thanh Tong (ruled 1460–97).
Western Penetration of Vietnam
In 1516 Portuguese adventurers arriving by sea inaugurated the era of Western penetration of Vietnam. They were followed in 1527 by Dominican missionaries, and eight years later a Portuguese port and trading centre were established at Faifo (modern Hoi An). More Portuguese missionaries arrived later in the 16th century, and they were followed by other Europeans. The best-known of these was the French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes, who completed a transcription of the Vietnamese language into Roman script that later was adopted by modern Vietnamese as their official writing system.
By the end of the 17th century, however, the two rival Vietnamese domains (under the Nguyen family in the south, and the Trinh family in the north) had lost interest in maintaining relations with European countries.
When Nguyen Anh became an emperor he did not favour Christianity. Under his strongly anti-Western successor, Minh Mang (ruled 1820–41), all French advisers were dismissed, while seven French missionaries and an unknown number of Vietnamese Christians were executed. After 1840 French Roman Catholic interests openly demanded military intervention to prevent the persecution of missionaries. In 1847 the French took reprisals against Vietnam for expelling additional missionaries, but 10 years passed before Paris prepared a military expedition against Vietnam.
The conquest of Vietnam by France
The decision to invade Vietnam was made by Napoleon III in July 1857. The commander in East Asia, Rigault de Genouilly, was ordered to attack the harbour and city of Tourane (Da Nang) and to turn it into a French military base. Genouilly arrived at Tourane in August 1858 with 14 vessels and 2,500 men; the French stormed the harbour defenses on September 1 and occupied the town a day later. Genouilly soon recognized, however, that he could make no further progress around Tourane and decided to attack Saigon. Leaving a small garrison behind to hold Tourane, he sailed southward in February 1859 and seized Saigon two weeks later.
The Vietnamese, unable to mount effective resistance to the invaders and their advanced weapons, concluded a peace treaty in June 1862, which ceded the conquered territories to France.
The French now moved to impose a Western-style administration on their colonial territories and to open them to economic exploitation. Under Gov.-Gen. Paul Doumer, who arrived in 1897, French rule was imposed directly at all levels of administration, leaving the Vietnamese bureaucracy without any real power. All important positions within the bureaucracy were staffed with officials imported from France.
The exploitation of natural resources for direct export was the chief purpose of all French investments, with rice, coal, rare minerals, and later also rubber as the main products.
Effects of French colonial rule
Whatever economic progress Vietnam made under the French after 1900 benefited only the French and the small class of wealthy Vietnamese created by the colonial regime.
Apologists for the colonial regime claimed that French rule led to vast improvements in medical care, education, transport, and communications. In 1939, for example, no more than 15 percent of all school-age children received any kind of schooling, and about 80 percent of the population was illiterate, in contrast to precolonial times when the majority of the people possessed some degree of literacy. With its more than 20 million inhabitants in 1939, Vietnam had but one university, with fewer than 700 students. Medical care was well organized for the French in the cities, but in 1939 there were only 2 physicians for every 100,000 Vietnamese, compared with 76 per 100,000 in Japan.
Movements of national liberation
A new national movement arose in the early 20th century. Its most prominent spokesman was Phan Boi Chau, with whose rise the old traditionalist opposition gave way to a modern nationalist leadership that rejected French rule but not Western ideas, science, and technology. In 1905 Chau went to Japan. His plan, mildly encouraged by some Japanese statesmen, was to free Vietnam with Japanese help. Chau smuggled hundreds of young Vietnamese into Japan, where they studied the sciences and underwent training for clandestine organization, political propaganda, and terrorist action.
The year 1930 was important in the history of Vietnam. Five years earlier, a new figure, destined to become the most prominent leader in the national movement, had appeared on the scene as an expatriate revolutionary in South China. He was Nguyen Ai Quoc, better known by his later pseudonym of Ho Chi Minh. In June 1925 Ho Chi Minh had founded the Revolutionary Youth League of Vietnam, the predecessor of the Indochinese Communist Party.
Ho Chi Minh had left Vietnam in 1911 and traveled widely before settling in Paris in 1917. He joined the Communist Party of France in 1920 and later spent several years in Moscow and China in the service of the international communist movement. After making his Revolutionary Youth League the most influential of all clandestine resistance groups, he succeeded in early 1930 in forming the Vietnamese Communist Party.
World War II and independence
In May 1941, the Communist Party formed a broad nationalist alliance under its leadership called the League for the Independence of Vietnam, which subsequently became known as the Viet Minh. Ho Chi Minh, returning to China to seek assistance, was arrested and imprisoned there by the Nationalist government. After his release he returned to Vietnam and began to cooperate with Allied forces by providing information on Japanese troop movements in Indochina. When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the communist-led Viet Minh ordered a general uprising, and, with no one organized to oppose them, they were able to seize power in Hanoi.
The French, however, were determined to restore their colonial presence in Indochina and, with the aid of British occupation forces, seized control of Cochinchina. Thus, at the beginning of 1946, there were two Vietnams: a communist north and a noncommunist south.
The First Indochina War
Negotiations between the French and Ho Chi Minh led to an agreement in March 1946 that appeared to promise a peaceful solution. Under the agreement France would recognize the Viet Minh government and give Vietnam the status of a free state within the French Union.
Despite tactical cooperation between the French and the Viet Minh, their policies were irreconcilable: the French aimed to reestablish colonial rule, while Hanoi wanted total independence. In late November 1946 French vessels bombarded Hai phong, causing several thousand civilian casualties; the subsequent Viet Minh attempt to overwhelm French troops in Hanoi in December is generally considered to be the beginning of the First Indochina War.
The two Vietnams (1954–65)
The agreements concluded in Geneva between April and July 1954 (collectively called the Geneva Accords) were signed by French and Viet Minh representatives and provided for a cease-fire and temporary division of the country into two military zones at latitude 17 °N (popularly called the 17th parallel). All Viet Minh forces were to withdraw north of that line, and all French and Associated State of Vietnam troops were to remain south of it.
In the midst of a mass migration of nearly one million people from the north to the south, the two Vietnams began to reconstruct their war-ravaged land. With assistance from the Soviet Union and China, the Hanoi government in the north embarked on an ambitious program of socialist industrialization; they also began to collectivize agriculture in earnest in 1958. In the south a new government appointed by Bao Dai began to build a new country. Ngo Dinh Diem, a Roman Catholic, was named prime minister and succeeded with American support in stabilizing the anticommunist regime in Saigon. He eliminated pro-French elements in the military and abolished the local autonomy of several religious-political groups. Then, in a government-controlled referendum in October 1955, Diem removed Bao Dai as chief of state and made himself president of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
With the financial backing of the United States, the regime’s chief energies were directed toward building up the military and a variety of intelligence and security forces to counter the still-influential Viet Minh.
The Second Indochina War and the growing U.S. involvement in the war
A period of political instability followed, until the military firmly seized control in June 1965 under Nguyen Cao Ky. Militant Buddhists who had helped overthrow Diem strongly opposed Ky’s government, but he was able to break their resistance. Civil liberties were restricted, political opponents—denounced as neutralists or pro-communists—were imprisoned, and political parties were allowed to operate only if they did not openly criticize government policy.
Until 1960 the United States had supported the Saigon regime and its army only with military equipment, financial aid, and, as permitted by the Geneva Accords, 700 advisers for training the army. The number of advisers had increased to 17,000 by the end of 1963, and they were joined by an increasing number of American helicopter pilots. All of this assistance, however, proved insufficient to halt the advance of the Viet Cong, and in February 1965 U.S. Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, hoping to prevent further infiltration of arms and troops into the south. Four weeks after the bombing began, the United States started sending troops into the south. By July the number of U.S. troops had reached 75,000; it continued to climb until it stood at more than 500,000 early in 1968. Fighting beside the Americans were some 600,000 regular South Vietnamese troops and regional and self-defense forces, as well as smaller contingents from South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand.
The war continued under a new U.S. president, Richard M. Nixon, who began gradually to withdraw U.S. troops. Public opposition to the war, however, escalated after Nixon ordered attacks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and on Viet Cong sanctuaries inside Cambodia. In the meantime, the peace talks went on in Paris.
The Second Indochina War and the withdrawal of U.S. troops
Finally, in January 1973 a peace treaty was signed by the United States and all three Vietnamese parties (North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong). It provided for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops within 60 days and created a political process for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the south. Nothing was said, however, about the presence of more than 100,000 North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. The signing of the Paris Agreement did not bring an end to the fighting in Vietnam. The Saigon regime made a determined effort to eliminate the communist forces remaining in the south, while northern leaders continued to strengthen their military forces in preparation for a possible future confrontation. By late 1974 Hanoi had decided that victory could be achieved only through armed struggle, and early the next year North Vietnamese troops launched a major offensive against the south. Saigon’s forces retreated in panic and disorder, and President Thieu ordered the abandonment of several northern provinces. Thieu’s effort to stabilize the situation was too late, however, and on April 30, 1975, the communists entered Saigon in triumph. The Second Indochina War was finally at an end.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, reunification and early challenges
Following the communist victory, Vietnam remained theoretically divided (although reunified in concept) until July 2, 1976, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was officially proclaimed, with its capital at Hanoi. Vietnam at peace faced formidable problems. In the south alone, millions of people had been made homeless by the war, and more than one-seventh of the population had been killed or wounded; the costs in the north were probably as high or higher. Plans to reconstruct the country called for the expansion of industry in the north and of agriculture in the south. Within two years of the communist victory, however, it became clear that Vietnam would face major difficulties in realizing its goals.
Vietnam was now nearly isolated in the world. Apart from the protege regime in Phnom Penh and the government of Laos, which also depended heavily on Vietnamese aid for its survival, the country was at odds with the rest of its regional neighbours. The member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opposed the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and joined with China in supporting guerrilla resistance forces represented by the Khmer Rouge and various noncommunist Cambodian groups. An economic trade embargo was imposed on Vietnam by the United States and most other Western countries. Only the Soviet Union and its allies in eastern Europe stood by Vietnam.
Under such severe external pressure, Vietnam suffered continuing economic difficulties. The cost of stationing troops in Cambodia and of maintaining a strong defensive position along the Chinese border was especially heavy. To make matters worse, the regime encountered continuing problems in integrating the southern provinces into a socialist economy. Actual implementation, however, did not begin until 1988, when a deepening economic crisis and declining support from the Soviet Union compelled the government to slash spending, court foreign investment, and liberalize trade. Other policies essentially legalized free market activities that the government had previously tried to limit or suppress.
Vietnam since 1990
These measures stabilized the economy, but the sudden collapse of communist rule in eastern Europe and disintegration of the Soviet Union left Vietnam completely isolated. The Vietnamese agreement to help the United States determine the fate of Americans missing in action encouraged the United States to lift the embargo in 1994 and establish diplomatic relations with Hanoi in 1995. Admission to membership in ASEAN in July 1995 symbolized Vietnam’s full acceptance into the family of nations.
The return of peace and stability to the region allowed Vietnam to concentrate on the economic reforms begun in the late 1980s. The government took a pragmatic approach, responding flexibly to domestic realities while seeking ideas from diverse international sources. Major components of reform included instituting a relatively liberal foreign investment law, decollectivizing agriculture, ending fixed prices and subsidies, and significantly reducing the number of state-owned enterprises. Results were on the whole favourable. The output of food staples per capita, after a half century of decline, increased sufficiently for Vietnam to become a sizeable exporter of rice in 1989. Foreign investment spurred growth in crude oil production, light manufacturing, and tourism. Vietnam also redirected its trade in a remarkably short period of time from ex-communist countries to such new partners as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) averaged nearly 8 percent annually through the 1990s.
Vietnam -- Economy --
GDP (purchasing power parity): $221.1 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 8.5% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,600 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 19.5% ,industry: 42.3% , services: 38.2%
Labour force: 46.42 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 55.6% , industry: 18.9% , services: 25.5%
Unemployment rate: 4.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 14.8% (2007 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.3% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 37.1% of GDP (2007 est.)
Public debt: 42% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry; fish, seafood
Industries: food processing, garments, shoes, machine-building; mining, coal, steel; cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, paper
Industrial production growth rate: 10.6% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 59.01 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production: 324,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Natural gas - production: 6.86 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Current account balance: -$6.993 billion (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes
Export partners: US 22.4%, Japan 12%, Australia 7.4%, China 6.3%, Germany 5.1%, Singapore 4.2% (2007)
Imports: $58.92 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles
Imports - partners: China 20.9%, Singapore 11.4%, Taiwan 10.8%, Japan 10%, South Korea 7.7%, Thailand 6.7%, Malaysia 4.1%, Hong Kong 4% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: 23.87 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $21.83 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Currency (code): Dong (VND)
Exchange rates: dong per US dollar - 16,119 (2007), 15,983 (2006), 15,746 (2005)
Vietnam is a densely-populated developing country that in the last 30 years has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally-planned economy. Economic stagnation marked the period after reunification from 1975 to 1985.
In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress approved a broad economic reform package that introduced market reforms and set the groundwork for Vietnam's improved investment climate. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1997 in moving forward from an extremely low level of development and significantly reducing poverty. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy and temporarily allowed opponents of reform to slow progress toward a market-oriented economy.
GDP growth averaged 6.8% per year from 1997 to 2004 even against the background of the Asian financial crisis and a global recession. Since 2001, Vietnamese authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to economic liberalization and international integration. They have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries.
The economy grew 8.5% in 2007. Vietnam's membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into force of the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 have led to even more rapid changes in Vietnam's trade and economic regime. Vietnam's exports to the US increased 900% from 2001 to 2007. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007, following over a decade long negotiation process. WTO membership has provided Vietnam an anchor to the global market and reinforced the domestic economic reform process.
Among other benefits, accession allows Vietnam to take advantage of the phase-out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Agriculture's share of economic output has continued to shrink, from about 25% in 2000 to less than 20% in 2007. Deep poverty, defined as a percent of the population living under $1 per day, has declined significantly and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Vietnam is working to create jobs to meet the challenge of a labor force that is growing by more than one-and-a-half million people every year. In an effort to stem high inflation which took off in 2007, early in 2008 Vietnamese authorities began to raise benchmark interest rates and reserve requirements. Hanoi is targeting an economic growth rate of 7.5-8% during the next four years.
Vietnam -- Culture --
The culture of Vietnam has been influenced by neighboring China. Due to Vietnam's long association with the south of China, one characteristic of Vietnamese culture is filial duty. Education and self-betterment are highly valued. Historically, passing the imperial Mandarin exams was the only means for Vietnamese people to socially advance themselves.
In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others.
One of the most popular Vietnamese traditional garments is the "Ao Dai", worn often for special occasions such as weddings or festivals. White Ao dai is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam. Ao Dai was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by females, except for certain important traditional culture-related occasions where some men do wear it.
Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.
Vietnamese music varies slightly in the three regions: B?c or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez-faire attitude.
Football (soccer) is exceedingly popular in Vietnam, and volleyball, badminton, wrestling, bicycling, chess, and dominoes are also widely enjoyed. Since 1952, the country has participated in the Olympic Games, with competitors in swimming and water sports, martial arts, rowing and canoeing, weightlifting, table tennis, and track. Tran Hieu Ngan won Vietnam’s first Olympic medal at the 2000 Summer Games (in women’s tae kwon do)..
Media and Publishing
Radio and television services are owned and operated by the state and managed by the Ministry of Culture and Information. Radio reaches more of the population than television, as many rural families are located beyond the range of television transmitters or cannot afford sets. Most daily newspapers are in Vietnamese, but there are also several editions in English, and one in French. Newspapers and magazines operate under the supervision of particular state, party, and mass organizations. Although publishing is regulated by the government, the strict controls of earlier years were somewhat relaxed during the 1980s. Vietnam acquired a connection to the Internet in the late 1990s. At first, the government discouraged widespread access by charging high user fees. Early in the 21st century, fees were allowed to drop, and since then Internet use has been growing exponentially. Much foreign information, however, continues to be screened out by the government.
Vietnam -- Political system, law and government --
Government type: Communist state
Constitution: 15 April 1992
Chief of state: President Nguyen Minh TRIET (since 27 June 2006); Vice President Nguyen Thi DOAN (since 25 July 2007)
Head of government: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan DUNG (since 27 June 2006); Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh HUNG (since 28 June 2006), Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung HAI (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien NHAN (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia KHIEM (since 28 June 2006), and Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh TRONG (since 28 June 2006)
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by president based on proposal of prime minister and confirmed by National Assembly
Elections: President elected by the National Assembly from among its members for five-year term; last held 27 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by the prime minister; appointment of prime minister and deputy prime ministers confirmed by National Assembly
Election results: Nguyen Minh TRIET elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 94%; Nguyen Tan DUNG elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 92%
Political parties and leaders: Communist Party of Vietnam or CPV [Nong Duc MANH]; other parties proscribed
International organization participation: ADB, APEC, APT, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
A unicameral, popularly elected National Assembly is the supreme organ of the government. It elects the president, who is head of state, and the vice president, who is nominated by the president. The cabinet consists of the prime minister, who is nominated by the president and approved by the National Assembly, and deputy prime ministers and the heads of government ministries and various state organizations, who are named by the prime minister and confirmed by the Assembly. The cabinet coordinates and directs the ministries and various state organizations of the central government and supervises the administrative committees at the local government level.
Initially, administrative responsibilities were divided along narrow functional lines among many ministries; there were, for example, numerous economic ministries concerned with agriculture and the food industry, marine products, forestry, and water conservancy. In the mid-1980s, such smaller ministries were consolidated to streamline the system. The prime minister’s office oversees a number of general departments beneath the ministerial level and committees that are formed to supervise major projects which involve more than one ministry.
The judicial system consists of courts and tribunals at various levels and the Supreme People’s Procuracy. The National Assembly supervises the work of the Supreme People’s Court, which is the highest court of appeal and the court of first instance for special cases. This court, in turn, supervises the judicial work of both the local People’s Courts, which are responsible to their corresponding People’s Councils, and the Military Tribunals.
The Supreme People’s Procuracy, with its local and military subdivisions, acts as a watchdog for the state. It monitors the performance of government agencies, maintains vast powers of surveillance, and acts as a prosecutor before the People’s Courts. The Supreme People’s Procuracy is responsible to the National Assembly, or to its Standing Committee, when the Assembly is not in session.
Both the 1980 and 1992 constitutions institutionalized the Vietnamese Communist Party as the sole source of leadership for the state and society. The 1992 document, however, delegated much more authority to the president and to the cabinet; they were given the task of running the government, while the party became responsible for overall policy decisions. These changes reduced the role of the party.
Nonetheless, the Vietnamese Communist Party remains the dominant political institution within Vietnam. It leads the Vietnam Fatherland Front, a coalition of numerous popular political and social associations that disseminates party policies, serves as a training ground for potential party members, and submits lists of candidates for seats in the National Assembly. The Vietnam Fatherland Front embraces such important and active organizations as the Vietnam Women’s Union, the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, which is largely responsible for the Vietnam Youth Union. The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, also a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, has the responsibility of safeguarding workers’ welfare. It does not function as a Western-style bargaining unit, operating instead as a party organization responsible for labour matters.
Members of the National Assembly are chosen through direct election in their individual electoral units. All Vietnamese citizens age 18 and older and not deemed mentally incompetent are eligible to vote. Although voting is not compulsory, voter turnout is nearly universal. The majority of the seats are filled by male members of the Vietnamese Communist Party. There has, however, long been a notable and growing female presence in the National Assembly, as well as a small minority of nonparty representatives.