Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Vietnam (pronounced /ˌviː.ɛtˈnɑːm/ vee-et-NAHM; Vietnamese: 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, referred to as East Sea (Vietnamese: Biển Đông), to the east.
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.
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 resulted in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.
Etymology: Việt Nam was adopted as the official name of the country by Emperor Gia Long in 1804. It is a variation of "Nam Việt" (南越, Southern Việt), a name used in ancient times. In 1839, Emperor Minh Mạng renamed the country Đại Nam ("Great South"). In 1945, the nation's official name was changed back to "Vietnam". The name is also sometimes rendered as "Viet Nam" in English.
The area now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, and some archaeological sites in Thanh Hóa Province purportedly date back several thousand years. Archaeologists link the beginnings of Vietnamese civilization to the late Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, Phùng-Nguyên culture, which was centered in Vĩnh Phúc Province of contemporary Vietnam from about 2000 to 1400 BCE.
By about 1200 BCE, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Mã River and Red River plains led to the development of the Đồng Sơn culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Dongsonian sites show a Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the bronze-casting technology.
Many small, ancient copper mine sites have been found in northern Vietnam. Some of the similarities between the Dong Sonian sites and other Southeast Asian sites include the presence of boat-shaped coffins and burial jars, stilt dwellings, and evidence of the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening.
Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam Tien, 1069-1757)
In 111 BCE, the Chinese Han Dynasty consolidated Nanyue into their empire.
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 Lý 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 (Great Viet), the nation went through a golden era during the Lý and Trần Dynasties.
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.
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 Nguyễn Ánh with the help of the French. Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Western colonial era
Vietnam's independence was gradually eroded by France in a series of military conquests from 1859 until 1885 when the entire country became part of French Indochina. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society.
A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was propagated widely in Vietnamese society. Most of the French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina (southern third of Vietnam whose principal city was Saigon).
Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Bội Châu, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng and Emperor Hàm Nghi calling for independence.
This event was preceded by the establishment of the Vichy French administration, a puppet state of Nazi Germany then ally of the Japanese Empire. The natural resources of Vietnam were exploited for the purposes of the Japanese Empire's military campaigns into the British Indochinese colonies of Burma, the Malay Peninsula and India.
First Indochina War
In 1941, the Việt Minh — a communist and nationalist liberation movement — emerged under Hồ Chí Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation. An estimated 2 million Vietnamese, or 10% of the population then, died during the Vietnamese famine of 1944–45.
Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted independence on 2 September.
In the same year the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which was originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces, in order to pacify the liberation movement and to restore French rule.
Despite fewer losses — Expeditionary Corps suffered one-third 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 Điện Biên Phủ, which allowed Hồ Chí 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 north, between.
A Partition of Vietnam, with Hồ Chí Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bảo Đại'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 Ngô Đình Diệm toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam.
The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diệm refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm'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 Diệm unwilling to bend, his brother orchestrated the Xá Lợi Pagoda raids. As a result, America's relationship with Diệm broke down and resulted in coup that saw Diệm killed.
Diệm 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 Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control of a junta in mid-1965. Thiệu gradually outmanoevred Kỳ and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States 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 Tết 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 Hồ Chí Minh trail, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. US president Richard Nixon 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.
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 Phước Long in December 1974 and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam briefly came 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.
Upon taking control of the bomb-ravaged country, the Vietnamese communists banned all other political parties and forced public servants and military personnel of the Republic of Vietnam into re-education camps.
The government also embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. Millions of people fled the country in crudely built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis.
In 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia (sparking the Cambodian-Vietnamese War) which removed the Khmer Rouge from power. This action worsened relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam (the Sino-Vietnamese War) in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.
Đổi mới (renovation)
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 Nguyẽn Văn 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.
The port of Da Nang.
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 of Vietnamwas 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, worker 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 three 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 (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.
Human rights: In its 2004 report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of State characterized Vietnam’s human rights record as “poor” and cited the continuation of “serious abuses.” According to the report, the government has imposed restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.
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 partner of all countries in the international community, actively taking part in international and regional cooperation processes."
As of December 2007, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 172 countries (including the United States, which normalized relations in 1995). 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
Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (known in Vietnamese as tỉnh, from the Chinese 省, shěng). There are also 5 centrally controlled municipalities existing at the same level as provinces (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương).
Geography and climate
Vietnam is approximately 331,688 km² (128,066 sq mi) in area (not including Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa islands), larger than Italy and almost the size of Germany. The perimeter 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 15,000 km2 (5,792 sq mi), 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 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is a low-level plain no 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.
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.
Nature: Vietnam has two World Natural Heritage sites: Halong Bay and Phong Nhã-Ke Bang National Park and six World biosphere reserves including: Cần Giờ Mangrove Forest, Cát Tiên, Cát Bà, Kiên Giang, Red River Delta, Western Nghệ An. Because of Typhoon Ketsana of 29 September 2009, more than 300,000 persons were evacuated.
Vietnam is in the Indomalaya ecozone.
According to chapter 1 of the 2005 National Environmental Present Condition Report, "Biodiversity Subject of Vietnam Environment Protection Agency", in terms of species diversity Vietnam is one of twenty five countries considered to possess a high level of biodiversity, and is ranked 16th in biological diversity (having 16% world's species) (page 9). 15,986 flora were identified, of which 10% are endemic (p9).
Statistics indicate that there are 307 nematodes, 200 oligochaeta, 145 acarina, 113 springtails, 7750 insects, 260 reptiles, 120 amphibians, 840 birds and 310 mammals of which 100 birds and 78 mammals are endemic (p9,10). Vietnam also has 1438 fresh water microalgae (9,6% species in the world) (Table 1.2, p9).
It is also noted that there are 794 aquatic invertebrates and 2458 sea fish (p10,11).
In recent years, there have been 13 genera, 222 species, and 30 taxa of flora newly described, and 6 mammals have been discovered such as the saola, giant muntjac, Edwards's Pheasant, Tonkin Snub-nosed Langur, livistona halongensis, geothelphusa vietnamica, and others (frame 1.4, p11,12).
In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centers (p13). The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank is preserving 12,300 cultivars of 115 species (p14).
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 and foreign relations
For a decade, united 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 most of Europe after the Vietnam War. Historically, Vietnam has been an agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivating. The Vietnam War destroyed much of the country's economy. 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.
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), resulting in a Socialist-oriented market economy. 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 newcomer to the oil business, but today it is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with output of 400,000 barrels per day (64,000 m3/d). 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 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.
Close portrait of a Hmong woman
Military: Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam, The Vietnam People's Army (VPA), is the official collective term for the armed forces of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The VPA consists of the Vietnam People's Ground Forces, Vietnam People's Navy, Vietnam People's Air Force, and Vietnam People's Coast Guard.