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Atlas Vietnam

Country (long form)
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Total Area
127,243.83 sq mi
329,560.00 sq km
78,773,873 (July 2000 est.)
Estimated Population in 2050
Vietnamese (official), Chinese, English, French, Khmer, tribal languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
93.7% total, 96.5% male, 91.2% female (1995 est.)
Buddhist, Taoist, Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs, Muslim, Protestant, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao
Life Expectancy
66.84 male, 71.87 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
Communist state
1 new dong (D) = 100 xu
GDP (per capita)
$1,850 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture 67%, industry and services 33% (1997 est.)
food processing, garments, shoes, machine building, mining, cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, coal, steel, paper
paddy rice, corn, potatoes, rubber, soybeans, coffee, tea, bananas; poultry, pigs; fish
Arable Land
crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles
Natural Resources
phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Current Environmental Issues
logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Telephones (main lines in use)
775,000 (1995)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
178,000 (1998)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
5 (1999)

The sophisticated Bronze Age Dong Son culture emerged around the 3rd century BC. From the 1st to the 6th centuries AD, the south of what is now Vietnam was part of the Indianised kingdom of Funan, which produced fine art and architecture. The Hindu kingdom of Champa appeared around present-day Danang in the late 2nd century and had spread south to what is now Nha Trang by the 8th century. The kingdom existed in part through conducting raids in the region. The Chinese conquered the Red River Delta in the 2nd century and their 1000-year rule, marked by tenacious Vietnamese resistance and repeated rebellions, ended in AD 938 when Ngo Quyen vanquished the Chinese armies at the Bach Dang River.

During the next few centuries, Vietnam repulsed repeated invasions by China, and expanded its borders southwards from the Red River Delta, populating much of the Mekong Delta. In 1858, French and Spanish-led forces stormed Danang after several missionaries had been killed. A year later, Saigon was seized. By 1867, France had conquered all of southern Vietnam, which became the French colony of Cochinchina.

Communist guerillas under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh resisted French domination during and after WWII. Ho Chi Minh's declaration of Vietnamese independence in 1945 sparked violent confrontations with the French, culminating in the French military defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The Geneva Accords of 1954 temporarily divided Vietnam into two zones (the Communist north and the anti-Communist, US-supported south). Political and ideological opposition quickly turned to armed struggle, prompting the USA and other countries to commit combat troops in 1965. The Paris Peace Agreements, signed in 1973, provided an immediate cease-fire and signalled the withdrawal of US troops. Saigon eventually capitulated to the Communist forces on 30 April 1975.

Going straight from the fat into the frying pan, Vietnam had barely drawn breath from its war with America when it found itself at loggerheads with Khmer Rouge forces along the Cambodian borders. A protracted round of fighting eventually saw China enter the fray in support of Cambodia and the killings continued until the UN brokered a deal, with Vietnamese forces being pulled out of Cambodia in 1989. Although the Khmer Rouge continued to snipe from the borders, it was the first time since WWII that Vietnam was not officially at war with any other nation. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 caused Vietnam and Western nations to seek rapprochement.

In July 1995 even the intransigent USA re-established diplomatic relations with Hanoi, although Hanoi initially refused to sign trade agreements with the US in 1999 (this was finalised the following year). The US, on their part, talked about normalising relations but over 25 years later there's still a lot of soul-searching, hand-wringing and post mortems going on, accompanied by a slather of angst-ridden films and a handful of unplugged guitar tunes. John McCain, on a visit to Hanoi, talked about 'the wrong guys winning the war'. Vietnam went through something of a postwar economic boom, before suffering the economic setbacks that plagued the entire region when the foreign investment bubble burst in the late 1990s. It has recently recovered part of this ground, and some pundits predict it will be the next Asian 'tiger' economy.