1. Government and politics
2. Geography and climate
1. Government and politics
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a single-party state. A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, replacing the 1975 version. The central role of the Communist Party was reasserted in all organs of government, politics and society. Only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, workers and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, the ideology’s importance has substantially diminished since the 1990s. The President of Vietnam is the titular head of state and the nominal commander in chief of the military of Vietnam, chairing the Council on National Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of 3 deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions. The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral legislature of the government, composed of 498 members. It is superior to both the executive and judicial branches. All members of the council of ministers are derived from the National Assembly. The Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam, which is the highest court of appeal in the nation, is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People’s Court stand the provincial municipal courts and the local courts. Military courts are also a powerful branch of the judiciary with special jurisdiction in matters of national security. All organs of Vietnam’s government are controlled by the Communist Party. Most government appointees are members of the party. The General Secretary of the Communist Party is perhaps one of the most important political leaders in the nation, controlling the party’s national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy. The Vietnam People’s Army is the official name for the three military services of Vietnam, which is organized along the lines of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The VPA is further subdivided into the Vietnamese People’s Ground Forces (including Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defense Forces), the Vietnam People’s Navy, the Vietnam People’s Air Force and the coast guard. Through Vietnam’s recent history, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam’s workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, in order to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA is involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The total strength of the VPA is close to 500,000 soldiers. The government also organizes and maintains provincial militias and police forces. The role of the military in public life has steadily weakened since the 1980s.
2. Geography and climate
Vietnam extends approximately 331,688 km² (128,066 sq mi) in area(not included Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands). The area of the country running along its international boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi). 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. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m (10,312 ft). The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Annamite Chain peaks, extensive forests, and poor soil. Comprising five relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country’s arable land and 22% of its total forested land.
The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 3,000 square kilometers, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in by the enormous alluvial deposits of the rivers over a period of millennia, and it advances one hundred meters into the Gulf annually. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 square kilometers, is a low-level plain not more than three meters above sea level at any point and criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong’s various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year. Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84% throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and the marked variety of topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the China coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture; consequently the winter season in most parts of the country is dry only by comparison with the rainy or summer season. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains and plateaus.
Vietnam has two World’s Natural Heritage sites: Halong Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and 6 World’s biosphere reserves including: Can Gio Mangrove Forest, Cat Tien, Cat Ba, Kien Giang, Red River Delta, Western Nghe An.
The Vietnam War destroyed much of the economy of Vietnam. Upon taking power, the Government created a planned economy for the nation. Collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For many decades, Vietnam’s economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction and restrictions on economic activities and trade. It also suffered from the trade embargo from the United States and m
ost of Europe after the Vietnam War. Subsequently, the trade partners of the Communist blocs began to erode. In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress introduced significant economic reforms with market economy elements as part of a broad economic reform package called “đổi mới” (Renovation). Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making it the world’s second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, foreign investment grew threefold and domestic savings quintupled. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Vietnam is a relative new-comer to the oil business, but today it is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with output of 400,000 barrels per day. Vietnam is one of Asia’s most open economies: two-way trade is around 160% of GDP, more than twice the ratio for China and over four times India’s. Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with GDP of US$280.2 billion at purchasing power parity (est., 2006, source: Economist Intelligence unit). This translates to ~US$3,300 per capita (US$726 at market exchange rate). Inflation rate was estimated at 7.5% per year in 2006. The spending power of the public has noticeably increased. 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. As a result of several land reform measures, Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts with a one-third global share and second largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand. Vietnam has the highest percent of land use for permanent crops, 6.93%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Besides rice, key exports are coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products. However, agriculture’s share of economic output has declined, falling as a share of GDP from 42% in 1989 to 20% in 2006, as production in other sectors of the economy has risen. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the unemployment rate in Vietnam is one of the lowest in the world at 2%, trailing behind only Azerbaijan, Cuba, Iceland, Andorra and Liechtenstein. Among other steps taken in the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam in July 2006 updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS. Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006. Vietnam’s chief trading partners include Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European countries.
The modern transport network of Vietnam was originally developed under French rule for the purpose of raw materials harvesting, and reconstructed and extensively modernized following the Vietnam War. The road system is the most popular form of transportation in the country. Vietnam’s road system includes national roads administered by the central level; provincial roads managed by the provincial level; district roads managed by the district level; urban roads managed by cities and towns; and commune roads managed by the commune level. Bicycles, motor scooters and motorcycles remain the most popular forms of road transport in Vietnam’s cities, towns, and villages. Public bus operated by private companies is the main long distance travel means by many people. Traffic congestion is a serious problem in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the cities’ roads struggle to cope with the booming numbers of automobiles. There are also more than 17,000 kilometers of navigable waterways, which play a significant role in rural life owing to the extensive network of rivers in Vietnam. The nation have seven developed ports and harbors at Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai, Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang.
6.1 Population Main article:
Ethnic groups in Vietnam Recent census estimates the population of Vietnam at beyond 84 million. Vietnamese people, also called “Viet” or “Kinh”, account for 86.2 percent of the population. Their population is concentrated in the alluvial deltas and coastal plains of the country. A homogeneous social and ethnic majority group, the Kinh exert political and economic control. There are more than 54 ethnic minorities throughout the country, but the Kinh are purveyors of the dominant culture. Most ethnic minorities, such as the Muong, a closely related ethnic of the Kinh, are found mostly in the highlands covering two-thirds of the territory . The Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Khmer Krom are mainly lowlanders. The largest ethnic minority groups include the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, Nung.
6.2 Languages :
The people of Vietnam speak Vietnamese as a native language. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called Chữ nôm. The celebrated epic Đoạn trường tân thanh (Truyện Kiều or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyễn Du was written in Chữ nôm. During the French colonial period, Quốc ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, which was developed in 17th century by Jesuit Alexandre De Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries, became popular and brought literacy to the masses. Various other languages are spoken by several minority groups in Vietnam. The most common of these are Tày, Mường, Khmer, Chinese, Nùng, and H’Mông. The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is still spoken by some older Vietnamese as a second language, but is losing its popularity. There are however some French-language newspapers in the country as Le courrier du Vietnam and several French-language immersion programmes and French schools as the école française Colette in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam is also a full member of the Francophonie. Russian — and to a much lesser extent German, Czech, or Polish — is sometimes known among those whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc. In recent years, English is becoming more popular as a second language. English study is obligatory in most schools. Chinese and Japanese have also become more popular.
For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have strongly influenced the religious and cultural life of the people. About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism even though they do not practice on a regular basis. About 7% of the population are Roman Catholic. Christianity was introduced by French colonists, and to a lesser extent during the presence of American forces. There is a substantial following of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism among the Cao Đài, and Hòa Hảo communities. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Vietnam has great r
eservation towards Roman Catholicism. This mistrust originated during the French colonial time when some Catholics collaborated with the French colonists as espionage agents to suppress the Vietnamese independence movement. Furthermore, the Church’s teaching regarding communism made it an unwelcome counterforce to communist rule. Membership of Sunni and Bashi Islam is usually accredited to the ethnic Cham minority, but there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents of Islam in the southwest. The communist government has been criticized for its religious violations. The vast majority of Vietnamese people, regardless of their religious background (including Catholic or Buddhist), practice Ancestor Worship, although this may not be strictly considered a religion. From the articles of Religion by country, Religion in Vietnam and Demographics of Vietnam; 85% is nominal/secular Buddhists Including predominant 83% East Asian Buddhist or “Triple religion” (80% of people are worship the mixture of Mahayana Buddhism mainly, Taoism, Confucianism with Ancestor Worship;with 2% Hòa Hảo and other Vietnamese-Buddhist sects as Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa,etc…1%) and 2% Theravada Buddhism of Khmer people but the census of Government showed only 16% have taken the Refuge; 8% Christians (7% Catholics and 1% Protestants); 3% Cao Đài; 2.5% Tribal animism; less than 0.1% Muslim; small Hindu communities (over 50 thousand people); a small numbers of Baha’is and 1.2% is Communist members.
Vietnam has an extensive state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities. General education in Vietnam is imparted in 5 categories: Kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college / university. Courses are taught mainly in Vietnamese. A large number of public schools have been organized across cities, towns and villages with the purpose of raising the national literacy rate. There are a large number of specialist colleges, established to develop a diverse and skilled national workforce. A large number of Vietnam’s most acclaimed universities are based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Facing serious crises, Vietnam’s education system is under a holistic reform launched by the government. In Vietnam, education from age 6 to 11 is free and mandatory. Education above these ages is costly, therefore many families can’t afford to send their children to school.
In the past, Vietnam did not have “science” in its generally accepted meaning, but many fields were well developed, especially social science and humanities. It has at least ten centuries of commentary and analytic writings. Among the best known works are those of “Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư” of Ngô Sĩ Liên. Writings that deal with geography, nature, customs and people were written by “Dư địa chí” of Nguyễn Trãi. Some work was done on the natural and technical sciences . In mathematics, operations (including power and extract the root) of primary arithmetics and surveying, measurement (length, area, volume…) of primary geometry were taught in schools using the famous textbook: “Đại thành toán pháp” of Lương Thế Vinh. Lương Thế Vinh had notion of zero and Mạc Hiển Tích used the term “số ẩn” (unknown/secret/hidden number) to refer to negative numbers. Much knowledge was collected into encyclopedia: “Vân đài loại ngữ” of Lê Quý Đôn and “Lịch triều hiến chương loại chí” of Phan Huy Chú. Presently, Vietnamese scientists have been devoting themselves to contribute to human’s knowledge sush as Hoàng Tụy based the foundation of global optimization by finding out “Tụy’s cut”.
The spoken and written language is Vietnamese. 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 financial 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. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.
One of the most popular Vietnamese traditional garments is the “Áo Dài”, worn often for special occasions such as weddings or festivals. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam. Áo Dài 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: Bắc 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. See also Vietnamese art, theatre, dance, and literature Football (Soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam. Sports and games such as badminton, tennis, ping pong, and chess are also popular with large segments of the population. Volleyball, especially women’s volleyball, is watched by a fairly large number of Vietnamese. The (expatriate Vietnamese) community forms a prominent part of Vietnamese cultural life, introducing Western sports, films, music and other cultural activities in the nation. See also List of Vietnamese traditional games. Vietnam is home to a small film industry. Among countless other traditional Vietnamese occasions, the traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important. Regardless of westernization, many of the age-old customs in a Vietnamese wedding continue to be celebrated by both Vietnamese in Vietnam and overseas, often combining both western and eastern elements. See also List of festivals in Vietnam
Vietnam’s media sector is controlled by the government to follow the official communist party line. The Voice of Vietnam is the official sta
te-run radio broadcasting service that covers the nation. It also broadcasts internationally via shortwave, renting transmitters in other countries and provides broadcasts from its website. Vietnam Television is the national television broadcasting company. As Vietnam moved toward a free-market economy with its doi moi measures, the government has relied on the print media to keep the public informed about its policies. The measure has had the effect of almost doubling the numbers of newspapers and magazines since 1996 . Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors.
Vietnam’s number of visitors for tourism and vacation has increased steadily over the past ten years. About 3.56 million international guests visited Vietnam in 2006, an increase of 3.7% from 2005. The country is investing capital into the coastal regions that are already popular for their beaches and boat tours. Hotel staff and tourism guides in these regions speak a good amount of English.