An introduction to Vietnam
Vietnam is about the size of Italy, and has a population of nearly 90 million. Temperatures are subtropical, with dry winters and wet summers. The majority Viet Kinh people make up 88 per cent of the population, but a further 53 ethnic minority groups are recognised by the government. 33 per cent of the population is under 14 years of age.
Throughout the first millennium, North Vietnam was a reluctant province of China, and many aspects of Chinese culture remain an integral part of Vietnamese life. Chinese rule was eventually replaced by dynastic leadership that lead to ever changing boundaries and the country’s collapse into vast rice lands controlled by feudal lords.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the French arrived, eventually extending their protectorate over the whole nation. But anti-colonial feeling swelled and in 1930 Ho Chi Minh formed the Indo-Chinese Communist Party. The first Indo-Chinese war saw the League for the Independence of Vietnam (the Viet Minh) try to overthrow French control. The war ended in 1954, dividing Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The communist Viet Minh ruled in the north, and the French ruled in the south.
The conflict was resumed again in 1963, and this time American troops were sent in to support the anti-Communist south. The conflict was dragged out until 1975 when the northern armies overran Saigon, reuniting north and south to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Vietnam has had troubled relationships with its neighbours and it was only in the 1990s that Vietnam sought to improve foreign relations, signing a peace agreement with Cambodia and shortly thereafter restoring diplomatic relations with China. The US removed a trade embargo in 1994. Today Vietnam is an active member of the Association of South East Asian Nations [ASEAN] and, in 2007, became a member of the World Trade Organisation. Vietnam is rapidly developing and with 60% of the population under the age of 30, they have a powerful workforce. Vietnam is aiming to have a developed nation status by 2012.