Vietnam (Việt Nam ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam), is the easternmost country on the Indochinese Peninsula. With an estimated million inhabitants , it is the 15th most populous country in the world. Vietnam shares its land borders with China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares its maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through the South China Sea. Its capital city is Hanoi, while its most populous city is Ho Chi Minh City, also known by its former name of Saigon.
Archaeological excavations indicate that Vietnam was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic age. The ancient Vietnamese nation was annexed by Imperial China in the 2nd century BC, which subsequently made Vietnam a division of China for over a millennium. The first independent monarchy emerged in the 10th century AD. This paved the way for successive imperial dynasties as the nation expanded geographically southward until the Indochinese Peninsula saw French Indochina in the mid-19th century. Modern Vietnam was born upon the Proclamation of Independence from France in 1945. Following Vietnamese victory against the French in the First Indochina War, which ended in 1954, the nation was divided into two rival states: communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam. Conflicts intensified in the Vietnam War, which saw extensive US intervention in support of South Vietnam and ended with North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
After North and South Vietnam were reunified under a unitary state socialist state government in 1976, the country became economically and politically isolated until 1986, when the Communist Party initiated a series of economic and political reforms that facilitated Vietnamese integration into world politics and the global economy. As a result of the successful reforms, Vietnam has enjoyed a high GDP growth rate, consistently ranked among the fastest-growing countries in the world. It nevertheless faces challenges including poverty, corruption and inadequate social welfare. By 2010, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 178 countries. It is a member of such international organisations as the United Nations (UN), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In AD 938, the Vietnamese lord Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of the Chinese Southern Han state at Bạch Đằng River and achieved full independence for Vietnam after a millennium of Chinese domination. Renamed Đại Việt ( Great Viet), the nation enjoyed a golden era under the Lý and Trần dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Meanwhile, the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism flourished and became the state religion. Following the 1406–7 Ming–Hồ War, which overthrew the Hồ dynasty, Vietnamese independence was interrupted briefly by the Chinese Ming dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê dynasty. The Vietnamese dynasties reached their 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, Vietnam expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến ("southward expansion"), eventually conquering the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.
From the 16th century onward, civil strife and frequent political infighting 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 nominally reinstalled. Actual power, however, was divided between the northern Trịnh lords and the southern Nguyễn lords, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades before a truce was called in the 1670s. During this period, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Central Highlands and the Khmer lands in the Mekong Delta. The division of the country ended a century later when the Tây Sơn brothers established a new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long, and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn lords, led by Gia Long, aided by the French. Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Between 1615 and 1753, French traders also engaged in trade in the area around Đàng Trong and actively dispersed missionaries. The Vietnamese kingdom began to feel threatened by continuous Christianisation activities. Following the detention of several missionaries, the French Navy received approval from their government to intervene in Vietnam in 1834, with the aim of freeing imprisoned Catholic missionaries from a kingdom that was perceived as xenophobic. Vietnam's sovereignty was gradually eroded by France, which was aided by the Spanish Empire and large Catholic militias in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885.
In 1862, the southern third of the country became the French colony of Cochinchina. By 1884, the entire country had come under French rule, with the central and northern parts of Vietnam separated into the two protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. The three Vietnamese entities were formally integrated into the union of French Indochina in 1887. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Catholicism was propagated widely. Most French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina, particularly in Saigon, and in Hanoi, the colony's capital.
Guerrillas of the royalist Cần Vương movement massacred around a third of Vietnam's Christian population during the colonial period as part of their rebellion against French rule. They were defeated in the 1890s after a decade of resistance by the Catholics in reprisal for their earlier massacres. Another large-scale rebellion, the Thái Nguyên uprising, was also suppressed heavily. The French developed a plantation economy to promote the export of tobacco, indigo dye, tea and coffee. However, they largely ignored the increasing demands for civil rights and self-government. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders like Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi, and Hồ Chí Minh fighting or calling for independence. This resulted in the 1930 Yên Bái mutiny by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ), which the French quashed. The mutiny caused an irreparable split in the independence movement that resulted in many leading members of the organisation becoming communism converts.
The French maintained full control over their colonies until World War II, when the Pacific War led to the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1940. Afterwards, the Japanese Empire was allowed to station its troops in Vietnam while permitting the pro-Vichy France colonial administration to continue. Japan exploited Vietnam's natural resources to support its military campaigns, culminating in a full-scale takeover of the country in March 1945. This led to the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which resulted in up to two million deaths.
In 1941, the Việt Minh, a nationalist liberation movement based on a Communist ideology, emerged under the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh. The Việt Minh sought independence for Vietnam from France and the end of the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its puppet Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, anarchy, rioting, and murder were widespread, as Saigon's administrative services had collapsed. The Việt Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted national independence on 2 September.
Earlier, in July 1945, the Allies had decided to divide Indochina at the 16th parallel to allow Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China to receive the Japanese surrender in the north while Britain's Lord Louis Mountbatten received their surrender in the south. The Allies agreed that Indochina still belonged to France.
However, as the French were weakened by the German occupation, British Raj forces together with the remaining Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group were used to maintain order and to help France re-establish control through the 1945–1946 War in Vietnam. Hồ Chí Minh initially chose to take a moderate stance to avoid military conflict with France. He asked the French to withdraw their colonial administrators, and for aid from French professors and engineers to help build a modern independent Vietnam. However, the Provisional Government of the French Republic did not act on these requests, including the idea of independence, and dispatched the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to restore colonial rule. This resulted in the Việt Minh launching a guerrilla campaign against the French in late 1946. The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954. The defeat of French colonialists and Vietnamese loyalists in the 1954 battle of Điện Biên Phủ allowed Hồ Chí Minh to negotiate a ceasefire from a favourable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.
The colonial administration was therefore ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954 into three countries—Vietnam, and the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam was further divided into North and South administrative regions at the Demilitarised Zone, roughly along the 17th parallel north, pending elections scheduled for July 1956. A 300-day period of free movement was permitted, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholics, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists. This migration was in large part aided by the United States military through Operation Passage to Freedom. The partition of Vietnam by the Geneva Accords was not intended to be permanent, and stipulated that Vietnam would be reunited after elections in 1956. However, in 1955, the southern State of Vietnam's prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself the president of the Republic of Vietnam. At that point the internationally recognised State of Vietnam effectively ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Vietnam in the south– supported by the United States, France, Laos, Republic of China and Thailand– and Hồ Chí Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north– supported by the Soviet Union, Sweden, Khmer Rouge, and the People's Republic of China.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm's Catholic regime erupted into Buddhist crisis, leading to a violent government crackdown. This led to the collapse of Diệm's relationship with the United States, and ultimately to a 1963 coup in which he and Nhu were assassinated. The Diệm era was followed by more than a dozen successive military governments, before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control in mid-1965. Thiệu gradually outmaneuvered Kỳ and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971. During this political instability, the communists began to gain ground. To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers, using the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext for such intervention. US forces became involved in ground combat operations by 1965, and at their peak several years later, numbered more than 500,000. The US also engaged in a sustained aerial bombing campaign. Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union provided North Vietnam with significant material aid and 15,000 combat advisers. Communist forces supplying the Việt Cộng carried supplies along the Hồ Chí Minh trail, which passed through the Kingdom of Laos.
The communists attacked South Vietnamese targets during the 1968 Tết Offensive. Although the campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment and turned US public opinion against the war. During the offensive, communist troops massacred over 3,000 civilians at Huế. A 1974 US Senate subcommittee estimated nearly 1.4 million Vietnamese civilians were killed or wounded between 1965 and 1974—over half the result of US and South Vietnamese military actions. Facing an increasing casualty count, rising domestic opposition to the war, and growing international condemnation, the US began Nixon Doctrine in the early 1970s. This process also entailed an unsuccessful effort to Vietnamisation. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 1973, all American combat troops were withdrawn by 29 March 1973. In December 1974, North Vietnam captured the province of Phước Long and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam was ruled by a provisional government for almost eight years while under military occupation by North Vietnam.
At the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in December 1986, reformist politicians replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership. The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyễn Văn Linh, who became the party's new general secretary. Linh and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới ("Renovation") which carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy". Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged under Đổi Mới, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation, and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries. The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved strong growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports, and foreign investment, although these reforms also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.
Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, the mountains of the Annamite Range, and extensive forests. 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 soil in much of the southern part of Vietnam is relatively low in nutrients as a result of intense cultivation. Several minor have been recorded in the past. Most have occurred near the northern Vietnamese border in the provinces of Điện Biên, Lào Cai and Sơn La, while some have been recorded offshore of the central part of the country. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Fansipan (also known as Phan Xi Păng), which is located in Lào Cai Province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing high. From north to south Vietnam, the country also has numerous islands; Phú Quốc is the largest. The Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave is considered the largest known cave passage in the world since its discovery in 2009. The Ba Bể Lake and Mekong are the largest lake and longest river in the country.
Vietnam is also home to 1,438 species of freshwater microalgae, constituting 9.6% of all microalgae species, as well as 794 aquatic and 2,458 species of sea fish. In recent years, 13 genera, 222 species, and 30 taxa of flora have been newly described in Vietnam. Six new mammal species, including the saola, giant muntjac and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey have also been discovered, along with one new bird species, the endangered Edwards's pheasant. In the late 1980s, a small population of Javan rhinoceros was found in Cát Tiên National Park. However, the last individual of the species in Vietnam was reportedly shot in 2010. In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the world's twelve original cultivar centres. The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank preserves 12,300 cultivars of 115 species. The Vietnamese government spent US$49.07 million on the preservation of biodiversity in 2004 alone and has established 126 conservation areas, including 30 national parks.
The main environmental concern that persists in Vietnam today is the legacy of the use of the chemical herbicide Agent Orange, which continues to cause and many health problems in the Vietnamese population. In the southern and central areas affected most by the chemical's use during the Vietnam War, nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people have been exposed to it and suffered from its effects. In 2012, approximately 50 years after the war, the US began a US$43 million joint clean-up project in the former chemical storage areas in Vietnam to take place in stages. Following the completion of the first phase in Đà Nẵng in late 2017, the US announced its commitment to clean other sites, especially in the heavily impacted site of Biên Hòa, which is four times larger than the previously treated site, at an estimated cost of $390 million.
The Vietnamese government spends over VNĐ10 trillion each year ($431.1 million) for monthly allowances and the physical rehabilitation of victims of the chemicals. In 2018, the Japanese engineering group Shimizu Corporation, working with Vietnamese military, built a plant for the treatment of soil polluted by Agent Orange. Plant construction costs were funded by the company itself. One of the long-term plans to restore southern Vietnam's damaged is through the use of reforestation efforts. The Vietnamese government began doing this at the end of the war. It started by replanting in the Mekong Delta regions and in Cần Giờ outside Hồ Chí Minh City, where mangroves are important to ease (though not eliminate) flood conditions during monsoon seasons.
Apart from herbicide problems, arsenic in the ground water in the Mekong and Red River Deltas has also become a major concern. And most notoriously, unexploded ordnances (UXO) pose dangers to humans and wildlife—another bitter legacy from the long wars. As part of the continuous campaign to demining/remove UXOs, several international bomb removal agencies from the United Kingdom, Denmark, South Korea and the US have been providing assistance. The Vietnam government spends over VNĐ1 trillion ($44 million) annually on demining operations and additional hundreds of billions of đồng for treatment, assistance, rehabilitation, vocational training and resettlement of the victims of UXOs. In 2017 the Chinese government also removed 53,000 land mines and explosives left over from the war between the two countries, in an area of in the Chinese province of Yunnan bordering the China–Vietnam border.
The general secretary of the CPV performs numerous key administrative functions, controlling the party's national organisation. The prime minister is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of five deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions. Only political organisations affiliated with or endorsed by the CPV are permitted to contest elections in Vietnam. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and worker and parties.
The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral state legislature composed of 498 members. The legislature is open to all parties. Headed by a chairman, it is superior to both the executive and judicial branches, with all government ministers being appointed from members of the National Assembly. The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam, headed by a chief justice, is the country's highest court of appeal, though it is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People's Court stand the provincial municipal courts and many local courts. Military courts possess special jurisdiction in matters of national security. Vietnam maintains the death penalty for numerous offences.
Vietnam's current foreign policy is to consistently implement a policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, co-operation, and development, as well openness and diversification/multilateralism with international relations. The country declares itself a friend and partner of all countries in the international community, regardless of their political affiliation, by actively taking part in international and regional cooperative development projects. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has taken several key steps to restore diplomatic ties with Western countries. Relations with the United States began improving in August 1995 with both nations upgrading their liaison offices to embassy status. As diplomatic ties between the two nations grew, the United States opened a consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City while Vietnam opened its consulate in San Francisco. Full diplomatic relations were also restored with New Zealand, which opened its embassy in Hanoi in 1995; Vietnam established an embassy in Wellington in 2003. Pakistan also reopened its embassy in Hanoi on October 2000, with Vietnam reopening its embassy in Islamabad in December 2005 and trade office in Karachi in November 2005. In May 2016, US President Barack Obama further normalised relations with Vietnam after he announced the lifting of an arms embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam.
Red River Delta
Hai Phong (municipality)| style="padding-right:1em; vertical-align:top;"
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North Central Coast
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South Central Coast
Da Nang (municipality)| style="padding-right:1em; vertical-align:top;"
Hồ Chí Minh City (municipality)| style="padding-right:1em; vertical-align:top;"
Cần Thơ (municipality)
Throughout the history of Vietnam, its economy has been based largely on agriculture—primarily wet rice cultivation. Bauxite, an important material in the production of aluminium, is mined in central Vietnam. Since reunification, the country's economy is shaped primarily by the CPV through Five Year Plans decided upon at the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and national congresses. The collectivisation of farms, factories, and capital goods was carried out as part of the establishment of central planning, with millions of people working for state enterprises. Despite strict state control, Vietnam's economy continued to be plagued by inefficiency, corruption in state-owned enterprises, poor quality and underproduction. With the decline in economic aid from its main trading partner, the Soviet Union, following the erosion of the Eastern bloc in the late 1980s, and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the negative impacts of the post-war trade embargo imposed by the United States, Vietnam began to liberalise its trade by devaluation its exchange rate to increase exports and embarked on a policy of economic development. In 1986, the Sixth National Congress of the CPV introduced socialist-oriented market economic reforms as part of the Đổi Mới reform program. Private ownership began to be encouraged in industry, commerce and agriculture and state enterprises were Corporatisation to operate under market constraints. This led to the five-year economic plans being replaced by the socialist-oriented market mechanism. As a result of these reforms, Vietnam achieved approximately 8% annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth between 1990 and 1997. The United States ended its economic embargo against Vietnam in early 1994. Despite the 1997 Asian financial crisis affecting Vietnam by causing an economic slowdown to 4–5% growth per annum, its economy began to recover in 1999, with growth at an annual rate of around 7% from 2000 to 2005 making it one of the world's fastest growing economies.; this article refers to the so-called "Vent for surplus" theory of international trade. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO), growth remained strong even in the face of the late-2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010, although Vietnam's year-on-year inflation rate hit 11.8% in December 2010 with the country's currency, the Vietnamese đồng being devalued three times.
Deep poverty, defined as the percentage of the population living on less than $1 per day, has declined significantly in Vietnam and the relative poverty rate is now less than that of China, India and the Philippines. This decline can be attributed to equitable economic policies aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality. These policies have included egalitarian land distribution during the initial stages of the Đổi Mới program, investment in poorer remote areas, and subsidising of education and healthcare. Since the early 2000s, Vietnam has applied sequenced trade liberalisation, a two-track approach opening some sectors of the economy to international markets. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Though Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is currently the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with a total 2011 output of . In 2010, Vietnam was ranked as the eighth-largest crude petroleum producer in the Asia and Pacific region. The United States purchased the highest amount of Vietnam's exports, while goods from China were the most popular Vietnamese import.
According to a December 2005 forecast by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy will become the world's 21st-largest by 2025, with an estimated nominal GDP of $436 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $4,357. Based on findings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2012, the unemployment rate in Vietnam stood at 4.46%. That same year, Vietnam's nominal GDP reached US$138 billion, with a nominal GDP per capita of $1,527. The HSBC also predicted that Vietnam's total GDP would surpass those of Norway, Singapore and Portugal by 2050. Another forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008 stated Vietnam could be the fastest-growing of the world's emerging economies by 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10% per annum in real dollar terms. Apart from the primary sector economy, tourism has contributed significantly to Vietnam's economic growth with 7.94 million foreign visitors recorded in 2015.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Vietnam devoted 0.19% of its GDP to science research and development in 2011. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of Vietnamese scientific publications recorded in Thomson Reuters' Web of Science increased at a rate well above the average for Southeast Asia, albeit from a modest starting point. Publications focus mainly on (22%), physics (13%) and engineering (13%), which is consistent with recent advances in the production of diagnostic equipment and shipbuilding. Almost 77% of all papers published between 2008 and 2014 had at least one international co-author. The autonomy which Vietnamese research centres have enjoyed since the mid-1990s has enabled many of them to operate as quasi-private organisations, providing services such as consulting and technology development. Some have 'spun off' from the larger institutions to form their own semi-private enterprises, fostering the transfer of public sector science and technology personnel to these semi-private establishments. One comparatively new university, the Tôn Đức Thắng University which was built in 1997, has already set up 13 centres for technology transfer and services that together produce 15% of university revenue. Many of these research centres serve as valuable intermediaries bridging public research institutions, universities, and firms.
, and remain the most popular forms of road transport in the country, a legacy of the French, though the number of privately owned has been increasing in recent years. Public buses operated by private companies are the main mode of long-distance travel for much of the population. Road accidents remain the major safety issue of Vietnamese transportation with an average of 30 people losing their lives daily. Traffic congestion is a growing problem in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City especially with the growth of individual car ownership. Vietnam's primary cross-country rail service is the Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, a distance of nearly . From Hanoi, railway lines branch out to the northeast, north, and west; the eastbound line runs from Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay, the northbound line from Hanoi to Thái Nguyên, and the northeast line from Hanoi to Lào Cai. In 2009, Vietnam and Japan signed a deal to build a high-speed railway—shinkansen (bullet train)—using Japanese technology. Vietnamese engineers were sent to Japan to receive training in the operation and maintenance of high-speed trains. The planned railway will be a -long express route serving a total of 23 stations, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with 70% of its route running on bridges and through tunnels. The trains will travel at a maximum speed of per hour. Plans for the high-speed rail line, however, have been postponed after the Vietnamese government decided to prioritise the development of both the Hanoi Metro and Ho Chi Minh City metros and expand road networks instead.
Vietnam operates 20 major civil airports, including three international gateways: Noi Bai in Hanoi, Da Nang International Airport in Đà Nẵng and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City. Tan Son Nhat is the nation's largest airport handling the majority of international passenger traffic. According to a state-approved plan, Vietnam will have another seven international airports by 2025 including: Vinh International Airport, Phu Bai International Airport, Cam Ranh International Airport, Phu Quoc International Airport, Cat Bi International Airport, Can Tho International Airport, and Long Thanh International Airport. The planned Long Thanh International Airport will have an annual service capacity of 100 million passengers once it becomes fully operational in 2025. Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned national airline, maintains a fleet of 86 passenger aircraft and aims to operate 170 by 2020. Several private airlines also operate in Vietnam, including Air Mekong, Bamboo Airways, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, VASCO and VietJet Air. As a coastal country, Vietnam has many major sea ports, including: Cam Ranh, Đà Nẵng, Haiphong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hạ Long, Qui Nhơn, Vũng Tàu, Cửa Lò and Nha Trang. Further inland, the country's extensive network of rivers plays a key role in rural transportation with over of navigable carrying ferries, barges and .
In recent years, there have been some efforts and collaboration between local and foreign universities to develop access to safe water in the country by introducing water filter. There is a growing concern among local populations over the serious public health issues associated with water contamination caused by pollution as well as the high levels of arsenic in groundwater sources. The government of Netherlands has been providing aid focusing its investments mainly on water-related sectors including water treatment projects. Regarding sanitation, 78% of Vietnam's population has access to "improved" sanitation—94% of the urban population and 70% of the rural population. However, there are still about 21 million people in the country lacking access to "improved" sanitation according to a survey conducted in 2015. In 2018, the construction ministry said the country's water supply, and drainage industry had been applying hi-tech methods and information technology (IT) to sanitation issues but faced problems like limited funding, climate change, and pollution. The health ministry has also announced that water inspection units will be established nationwide beginning in June 2019. Inspections are to be conducted without notice since there have been many cases involving health issues caused by poor or polluted water supplies as well unhygienic conditions reported every year.
Since the early 2000s, Vietnam has made significant progress in combating malaria. The malaria mortality rate fell to about five percent of its 1990s equivalent by 2005 after the country introduced improved antimalarial drugs and treatment. Tuberculosis (TB) cases, however, are on the rise. TB has become the second most infectious disease in the country after respiratory-related illness. With an intensified vaccination program, better hygiene and foreign assistance, Vietnam hopes to reduce sharply the number of TB cases and new TB infections. In 2004, government subsidies covering about 15% of health care expenses. That year, the United States announced Vietnam would be one of 15 nations to receive funding as part of its global AIDS relief plan. By the following year, Vietnam had diagnosed 101,291 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases, of which 16,528 progressed to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); 9,554 have died. The actual number of HIV-positive individuals is estimated to be much higher. On average between 40–50 new infections are reported daily in the country. In 2007, 0.4% of the population was estimated to be infected with HIV and the figure has remained stable since 2005. More global aid is being delivered through The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to fight the spread of the disease in the country. In September 2018, the Hanoi People's Committee urged the citizens of the country to stop eating dog meat and cat meat as it can cause diseases like rabies and leptospirosis. More than 1,000 stores in the capital city of Hanoi were found to be selling both meats. The decision prompted positive comments among Vietnamese on social media, though many still disagreed saying the meat is an irresistible habit.
Other uplanders in the north migrated from southern China between the 1300s and 1800s. Since the partition of Vietnam, the population of the Central Highlands was almost exclusively Degar (including over 40 tribal groups); however, the South Vietnamese government at the time enacted a program of resettling Kinh in indigenous areas. The Hoa people (ethnic Overseas Chinese) and Khmer Krom people are mainly lowlanders. Throughout Vietnam's history, many Chinese people, largely from South China, migrated to the country as administrators, merchants and even refugees. Since the reunification in 1976 an increase of communist policies nationwide resulted in the nationalisation and confiscation of property especially from the Hoa in the south and the wealthy in cities. This led many of them to leave Vietnam. Furthermore, with the deterioration of Sino-Vietnamese relations after the border invasion by Chinese government in 1979 many Vietnamese were wary of Chinese government's intentions. This indirectly caused more Hoa people in the north to leave the country.
A study also shows that rural-to-urban area migrants have a higher standard of living than both non-migrants in rural areas and non-migrants in urban areas. This results in changes to economic structures. In 1985, agriculture made up 37.2% of Vietnam's GDP; in 2008, that number had declined to 18.5%. In 1985, industry made up only 26.2% of Vietnam's GDP; by 2008, that number had increased to 43.2%. Urbanisation also helps to improve basic services which increase people's standards of living. Access to electricity grew from 14% of total households with electricity in 1993 to above 96% in 2009. In terms of access to fresh water, data from 65 utility companies shows that only 12% of households in the area covered by them had access to the water network in 2002; by 2007, more than 70% of the population was connected. Though urbanisation has many benefits, it has some drawbacks since it creates more traffic, and air and water pollution.
Many Vietnamese use for transportation since they are relatively cheap and easy to operate. Their large numbers have been known to cause traffic congestion and air pollution in Vietnam. In the capital city alone, the number of mopeds increased from 0.5 million in 2001 to 4.7 million in 2013. With rapid development, factories have sprung up which indirectly pollute the air and water. An example is the 2016 Vietnam marine life disaster caused by the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company illegally discharging toxic industrial waste into the ocean. This killed many fish and destroyed marine habitats in Vietnamese waters resulting in major losses to the country's economy. The government is intervening and attempting solutions to decrease air pollution by decreasing the number of motorcycles while increasing public transportation. It has introduced more regulations for waste handling by factories. Although the authorities also have schedules for collecting different types of waste, waste disposal is another problem caused by urbanisation. The amount of solid waste generated in urban areas of Vietnam has increased by more than 200% from 2003 to 2008. Industrial solid waste accounted for 181% of that increase. One of the government's efforts includes attempting to promote campaigns that encourage locals to sort household waste since waste sorting is still not practised by most of Vietnamese society.
Mahāyāna is the dominant branch of Buddhism among the Kinh majority who follow the religion, while Theravāda is practised in almost entirely by the Khmer minority. About 7% of the population is Christian—made up of six million Roman Catholics and one million Protestants. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam by Portuguese missionaries (Jesuits) from nearby Portuguese Macau and Malacca towards Annam, and from remnants of persecuted Japanese Catholics between the 16th and 17th centuries. French missionaries aided by Spanish Empire missionaries (Dominican Order) from neighbouring Spanish East Indies towards Tonkin actively sought converts in the 19th and 20th centuries. A significant number of Vietnamese people are also adherents of Caodaism, an indigenous folk religion, which has structured itself on the model of the Catholic Church together with another Buddhist section of Hoahaoism. Protestantism was only recently spread by American and Canadian missionaries throughout the modern civil war, where it was largely accepted among the highland Montagnards of South Vietnam. The largest Protestant churches are the Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV) and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam North (ECVN). Around 770,000 of the country's Protestants are members of ethnic minorities. Although it is one of the country's minority religions, and has a briefer history than Catholicism, Protestantism is the country's fastest-growing religion, expanding at a rate of 600% in recent decades. Several other minority faiths exist in Vietnam, these include: Bani, Sunni Islam and non-denominational sections of Islam which is practised primarily among the ethnic Cham people minority. There are also a few Kinh adherents of Islam, other minority adherents of Baha'i, as well as Hindus among the Cham's.
The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is spoken by many educated Vietnamese as a second language, especially among the older generation and those educated in the former South Vietnam, where it was a principal language in administration, education and commerce. Vietnam remains a full member of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (La Francophonie) and education has revived some interest in the language. Russian language, and to a lesser extent German language, Czech language and Polish language are known among some northern Vietnamese whose families had ties with the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. With improved relations with Western countries and recent reforms in Vietnamese administration, English language has been increasingly used as a second language and the study of English is now obligatory in most schools either alongside or in place of French. The popularity of Japanese and Korean language has also grown as the country's ties with other East Asian nations have strengthened.
The traditional focuses of Vietnamese culture are based on humanity ( nhân nghĩa) and harmony ( hòa) in which family and community values are highly regarded. Vietnam reveres a number of key cultural symbols, such as the Vietnamese dragon which is derived from crocodile and snake imagery; Vietnam's national father, Lạc Long Quân is depicted as a holy dragon. The lạc is a holy bird representing Vietnam's national mother Âu Cơ. Other prominent images that are also revered are the turtle, water buffalo and horse. Many Vietnamese also believe in the supernatural and spiritualism where illness can be brought on by a curse or witchcraft or caused by non-observance of a religious ethic. Traditional medical practitioners, and other forms of spiritual protection and religious practices may be employed to treat the ill person. In the modern era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and cultural programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences, especially those of Western origin, were shunned. But since the recent reformation, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to neighbouring Southeast Asian, East Asian as well to Western culture and media.
The main Vietnamese formal dress, the áo dài is worn for special occasions such as weddings and religious festivals. White áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across the country. Other examples of traditional Vietnamese clothing include: the áo tứ thân, a four-piece woman's dress; the áo ngũ, a form of the thân in five-piece form, mostly worn in the north of the country; the yếm, a woman's undergarment; the áo bà ba, rural working "pyjamas" for men and women; the áo gấm, a formal brocade tunic for government receptions; and the áo the, a variant of the áo gấm worn by grooms at weddings. Traditional headwear includes the standard conical nón lá and the "lampshade-like" nón quai thao. In tourism, a number of popular cultural tourist destinations include the former Imperial City of Huế, the World Heritage Sites of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Hội An and Mỹ Sơn, coastal regions such as Nha Trang, the caves of Hạ Long Bay and the Marble Mountains.
Bolero music has gained popularity in the country since the 1930s, albeit with a different style—a combination of traditional Vietnamese music with Western elements. However, the modern Vietnamese music industry, known as V-pop, is making its mark in the entertainment field. Many Vietnamese artists have started to collaborate with foreign artists and producers, especially South Korean, to facilitate the entrance of K-pop into the Vietnamese market while also promoting V-pop overseas. For example, in 2014, the South Korean seven-member boy band BTS (방탄소년단) collaborated with Vietnamese singer Thanh Bùi on the single called "Danger". In 2018, South Korean artist and idol Park Ji-yeon (박지연) collaborated with Soobin Hoàng Sơn on two versions of the title track called "Between Us" (Đẹp Nhất Là Em; 우리사이) to promote the two countries’ partnership in terms of the music industry. V Live, which is a South Korean live video streaming service, also collaborated with RBW Entertainment Vietnam (a subsidiary of the Korean entertainment company) to produce Vietnamese-based shows. V Live also launched special monthly mini-concerts called "V Heartbeat Live" to connect V-pop and K-pop idols. South Korean entertainment company SM Entertainment signed an agreement with IPP Group to move into the country's market and promote joint business. The company held its 2018 Global Audition in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in search for new talents among the Vietnamese youth.
Media and censorship