Vietnam has been populated since 6000 B.C.E. Its government was based on Confucianism and was based on Chinese institutions until, the 19th century when French Catholic Missionaries introduced Christianity and the French Government took control. The focus of French colonialism was taxation of the rural areas and forced labor in French colonial government projects, especially building roads. Colonialism monopolized and drained the revenue from trading salt, alcohol and opium. The harsh taxation policies enabled the French to take most of the land from the villagers. During their 100 years of colonial rule the French colonists held an attitude of cultural and racial superiority to everything Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese gained their independence from France after WWII created a struggle for political power and a civil war in which the U.S. intervened in the 1960s. War displaced and killed about 13 million Vietnamese people. Bombing destroyed forests and agricultural land.
The U.S. left Vietnam in 1975 and the communist government which was established at that time was isolated through an international economic embargo. Communism spread into South Vietnam at that time. Many Vietnamese left their homeland for neighboring countries. The economic embargo was finally ended in 1994. The Vietnamese Communist Party today assumes the role of leading the state. They have instituted some democratic reforms. Although the Vietnamese people are in favor of civil freedoms, they do not seem to want a western-style democracy, but rather a government style that is more similar to Confucianism.
Today, Vietnam is inhabited by about 80,300,000 people, mostly ethnic Vietnamese. Hanoi is the capital. There is a large minority of ethnic Chinese. There are also small minority populations of Khmers, Chams and tribal groups. The tribal populations mostly inhabit the mountainous highlands around the Red River Delta and the central highlands. Over 50 different languages are spoken among the tribal groups. Vietnamese is the official language. The predominant religion is Mahayana Buddhism with Christianity also having a substantial following. Religions that are believed to be a threat are suppressed by the government.
Education in Vietnam is free and compulsory for 5 years, hence the literacy rate is high. Less than half of the children continue into secondary school, largely because the facilities are inadequate, particularly in the mountainous regions. Only 5 % of college-age people attend the universities.
Vietnam’s economy is primarily an agricultural economy. Its greatest export is rice. North Vietnam favored a planned centralized economy, whereas South Vietnam was used to more of a free market economy. Today the economy is a mix of both. The economy has been remarkably strong, but that strength has not resulted in any substantial increase in the per capita income which remains at $310.
HIV/AIDS has been reported in all 61 provinces of the country. Its prevalence among IV drug users varies by location from 5% to 50% in the various cities of south and central Vietnam. IV drug use accounts for approximately 61% of HIV infections in Vietnam. Needle-sharing is blamed for this high rate. There is also an epidemic of HIV infections among female sex workers, particularly those who have worked in Cambodia or who work near the Cambodian border. There are approximately 122,000 cases of HIV infection in Vietnam today. Annual death rates from AIDS and related illnesses are approaching 11,000.
Population (2014 est) – 93,421,835
Area – 205,800mi
Capital – Hanoi
- Kinh (Viet) – 85.7%
- Tay – 1.9%
- Thai – 1.8%
- Muong – 1.5%
- Khmer – 1.5%
- Mong – 1.2%
- Nung – 1.1%
- Others – 5.3%
Exports – clothes, shoes, electronics, seafood, crude oil, rice, coffee, wooden products, machinery
Imports – machinery and equipment, petroleum products, steel products, raw materials for the clothing and shoe industries, electronics, plastics, automobiles
Life Expectancy (2014 est) – M 70 years, F 76 years
Infant Mortality (2014 est) – 18.99 deaths/1,000 live births
Adult Illiteracy Rate – 6.6%