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Destinations - Asia - Vietnam - World Facts

The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals - many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants - and growing international isolation. However, since the enactment of Vietnam's "doi moi" (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups, the vast majority connected to land-use issues and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests. In January 2008, Vietnam assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term.

Location

Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
 
Climate

Tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)
 
People
 
Population:  88,576,758 (July 2009 est.)
 
Nationality: Vietnamese (singular and plural)
 
Ethnic groups: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)
 
Religion: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)
 
Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Area:
Total: 331,210 sq km
Land: 310,070 sq km
Water: 21,140 sq km

Economy
 
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. 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. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007 following more than a decade-long negotiation process. WTO membership has provided Vietnam an anchor to the global market and reinforced the domestic economic reform process. Agriculture's share of economic output has continued to shrink from about 25% in 2000 to about 21% in 2009. Deep poverty has declined significantly and Vietnam is working to create jobs to meet the challenge of a labor force that is growing by more than one million people every year. The global recession has hurt Vietnam's export-oriented economy with GDP growing less than the 7% per annum average achieved during the last decade. In 2009 exports fell nearly 10% year-on-year, prompting the government to consider adjustments to tariffs to limit the trade deficit. The government has used stimulus spending, including a subsidized lending program, to help the economy through the global financial crisis, and foreign donors have pledged $8 billion in new development assistance for 2010. Domestic investment grew 16% while committed foreign direct investment fell 70%, a steep reduction after 5 years of growth. Nevertheless, the weaker economy, current account deficit, and subdued foreign investment environment means Vietnam's managed currency, the dong, faced downward pressure through 2009, leading the government to devalue it by more than 5% in December.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$258.1 billion (2009 est.)
$245.1 billion (2008 est.)
$230.8 billion (2007 est.)

Note: data are in 2009 US dollars

*Source: Central Intelligence Agency

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