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Ho Chi Minh City HCMC (Saigon)
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Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.
The people of Vietnam regained independence and broke away from China in AD 938 after their victory at the battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive dynasties flourished along with geographic and political expansion deeper into Southeast Asia, until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Emerging from this prolonged military engagement, the war-ravaged nation was politically isolated. The government’s centrally planned economic decisions hindered post-war reconstruction and its treatment of the losing side engendered more resentment than reconciliation. In 1986, it instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth had been among the highest in the world in the past decade. These efforts culminated in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007 and its successful bid to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2008.
For the next thousand years, Vietnam was mostly under Chinese rule. Early independence movements such as those of the Trưng Sisters and of Lady Triệu were only briefly successful. It was independent as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Ly Dynasty between 544 and 602. By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not independence, under the Khúc family.
In 938 CE, a Vietnamese lord named Ngô Quyền defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and regained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control. Renamed as Đại Việt, the nation went through a golden era during the Lý and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Buddhism flourished and became the state religion. Following the brief Hồ Dynasty, Vietnamese independence was momentarily interrupted by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê Dynasty. Vietnam reached its zenith in the Lê Dynasty of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông (1460–1497). Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.
Towards the end of the Lê Dynasty, civil strife engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the Chinese-supported Mạc Dynasty challenged the Lê Dynasty's power. After the Mạc Dynasty was defeated, the Lê Dynasty was reinstalled, but with no actual power. Power was divided between the Trịnh Lords in the North and the Nguyễn Lords in the South, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades. During this time, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Champa in the central highlands and the Khmer land in the Mekong. The civil war ended when the Tây Sơn brothers defeated both and established their new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn Lords led by Nguyen Anh with the help of the French. Nguyen Anh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Western colonial era
First Indochina War
Despite fewer losses - Expeditionary Corps suffered 1/3 the casualties of the Chinese and Soviet-backed Viet Minh - during the course of the war, the French and Vietnamese loyalists eventually suffered a major strategic setback at the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire with a favorable position at the ongoing Geneva conference of 1954. Colonial administration ended as French Indochina was dissolved. According to the Geneva Accords of 1954 the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists were separated south and north, respectively, with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, at the 17th parallel, between. A Partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bao Dai's State of Vietnam in the South Vietnam, was not intended by the 1954 Agreements, and they expressly forbade the interference of third powers. Counter to the counsel of his American advisor, the State of Vietnam Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem toppled Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diem refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections.
In July 1955, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem rejected the nationwide elections agreed to by France and North Vietnam at the Geneva Conference of 1954. The pro-Hanoi Vietcong began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s to overthrow Diem's government, which an official Vietcong statement described as a 'disguised colonial regime'.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diem's pro-Catholic discrimination erupted following the banning of the Buddhist flag and the Hue Vesak shootings. This resulted in a series of mass demonstrations known as the Buddhist crisis. With Diem unwilling to bend, his brother orchestrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids. As a result, America's relationship with Diem broke down and resulted in coup that saw Diem killed.
Diem was followed by a series of military regimes that often lasted only months before being toppled by another. With this instability, the communists began to gain ground. There were more than a dozen governments before the pairing of Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu took control of a junta in mid-1965. Thieu gradually outmanoevred Ky and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the US began increasing its contribution of military advisers. US forces became embroiled in ground combat operations in 1965 and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. Communist forces attacked most major targets in South Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and although their campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and caused them to think that the communists could not be defeated. Communist forces supplying the Vietcong carried supplies along the Truong Son Road, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. The US president authorized Operation Menu, a SAC bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which he kept secret from the US Congress.
Its own casualties mounting, and facing opposition to the war at home and condemnation abroad, the U.S. began withdrawing from ground combat roles according to the Nixon Doctrine; the process was subsequently called Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results. The Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 1973, formally recognized the sovereignty of Vietnam 'as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements'. Under the terms of the accords all American combat troops were withdrawn by 29 March 1973. Limited fighting continued, before the north captured the province of Phuoc Long in December 1974 and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam briefly come under the nominal rule of a Provisional Revolutionary Government while under military occupation by North Vietnam. On 2 July 1976, North and South were merged to form a Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
At the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in December 1986, reformers, upset by the lack of economic progress after the Vietnam War, replaced the 'old guard' with new leadership. The reformers were led by 71 year old Nguyen Van Linh, who became the party's new general secretary. Linh was a native of northern Vietnam who had served in the south both during and after the war. In a historic shift, the reformers implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation), which carefully managed the transition from a command economy to a Socialist-oriented market economy. With the authority of the state remaining unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies engaged in commodity production, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged while the state maintained control over strategic industry. The economy of Vietnam subsequently achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment.
Government and politics
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 (VPA) is the official name for the combined 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 Vietnamese People's 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 officers and enlisted members. The government also organizes and maintains provincial militias and police forces. The role of the military in public life has steadily been reduced since the 1980s.
The current Vietnamese foreign policy is: 'Implement consistently the foreign policy line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development; the foreign policy of openness and diversification and multi-lateralization of international relations. Proactively and actively engage in international economic integration while expanding international cooperation in other fields. Vietnam is a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the international community, actively taking part in international and regional cooperation processes.'
As of December 2007, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 172 countries. Vietnam holds membership of 63 international organizations such as the United Nations, ASEAN, NAM, La Francophonie, WTO and 650 non-government organizations.
Provinces of Vietnam
The provinces are further subdivided into provincial municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc tỉnh), townships (thị xã) and counties (huyện), and then, subdivided into towns (thị trấn) or communes (xã).
The centrally controlled municipalities are subdivided into districts (quận) and counties, and then, subdivided into wards (phường).
Geography of Vietnam
Topography of Vietnam.
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 and in the south than in the north. Temperatures in the southern plains (Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta) varies less, going between 21 and 28 °C (70 and 82.5 °F) over the course of a year. The seasons in the mountains and plateaus and in the north are much more dramatic, and temperatures may vary from 5 °C (41 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August.
In chapter 4 of that report, it is said that the Vietnamese government spent 49.07 million USD for preserving biodiversity in 2004 (p71) and has established 126 conservation areas including 28 national parks (p73).
Economy of Vietnam
Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with an annual GDP of US$280.2 billion at purchasing power parity (2006 estimate). This translates to a purchasing power of about US$3,300 per capita (or US$726 per capita at the market exchange rate). Inflation rate was estimated at 7.5% per year in 2006. 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, the largest producer of black pepper accounting for one-third of the world's market 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 4.3%. 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 China, Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European countries.
The nation has seven developed ports and harbors at Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai (Halong City), Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang.
There are also more than 17,000 km of navigable waterways, which play a significant role in rural life owing to the extensive network of rivers in Vietnam.
In 2009, Vietnam and Japan had signed a deal to built a high speed railway using Japanese technology. Vietnamese high speed engineers were sent to Japan to take high speed course from March to November. Since 2006, Vietnam had sent 100 high speed operator to take courses in Japan so they can operate it once it completed. The railway will be 1,630-km-long express route and contain a total of 26 stations, including Hanoi and Thu Thiem terminus in Ho Chi Minh city. It will help reduce the travel time between the country’s two largest cities to under 10 hours. Using the planned technology (Shinkansen), the railway will be designed for trains to travel at a maximum speed of 360 km per hour. However, the consultant joint venture recommended running trains at a maximum of 320 km per hour using Fastech 360s trains. As scheduled, the railway lines from Hanoi to central Vinh and from central Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam will be laid during the 2010-2015 period. From 2015-2020, construction will begin on the routes between Vinh and Nha Trang and between Hanoi and the northern mountainous provinces of Lao Cai and Lang Son.
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. 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.
Religions of Vietnam
Vietnam is deeply suspicious and wary of Roman Catholicism. This mistrust originated during the 19th century when some Catholics collaborated with the French colonists and in helping French priests in uprisings against the emperors. Furthermore, the Catholic Church's strongly anti-communist stance have made it an a government enemy. The Vatican Church is banned and only government-controlled organisations are permitted. Relationship with the Vatican, however, has improved in recent years. Membership of Sunni and Bashi Islam, a small minority faith, is primarily practiced by the ethnic Cham minority, though there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents in the southwest. The communist government rejects criticism that it does not allow religious freedom.
The vast majority of Vietnamese people of Asian religions practice Ancestor Worship.
From the articles of Religions 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; 2% Hòa Hảo with 1% of some new Vietnamese-Buddhist sects as Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa, Pure Land Buddhist, etc) and 2% Theravada Buddhism, mainly among Khmer people but the census of Government showed that only over 10 million people have taken refuge in the Three Jewels; 8% Christians (7% Catholics and 1% Protestants); 3% Caodaism; 2.5% Tribal animism; less than 70 thousand Muslims (mainly Cham people); small Hindu communities (over 50 thousand people) and a small number of Baha'is and Jews.
Science and technology
The official spoken and written language of Vietnam is Vietnamese.
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 attitude.
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 people. The (expatriate Vietnamese) community forms a prominent part of Vietnamese cultural life, introducing Western sports, films, music and other cultural activities in the nation.
Vietnam is home to a small film industry.
Among countless other traditional Vietnamese occasions, the traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important. 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.
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