Vietnam (Việt Nam, , commonly abbreviated VN), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ( SRV), is a country in Southeast Asia. It is located at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of and population of 99 million, making it the world's fifteenth-most populous country. Vietnam share land borders with China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia through the South China Sea. Its capital is Hanoi and its largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (commonly referred to by its former name, Saigon).
Vietnam was inhabited by the Paleolithic age, with states established in the first millennium BC on the Red River Delta in modern-day northern Vietnam. The Han dynasty annexed Northern and Central Vietnam under Chinese rule from 111 BC, until the first dynasty emerged in 939. Successive monarchical dynasties absorbed Chinese influences through Confucianism and Buddhism, and expanded southward to the Mekong Delta, conquering Champa. The Nguyễn—the last imperial dynasty—surrendered to France in 1883. Following the August Revolution, the nationalist coalition Viet Minh under the leadership of communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam's independence in 1945.
Vietnam went through prolonged warfare in the 20th century. After World War II, France returned to reclaim colonial power in the First Indochina War, from which Vietnam emerged victorious in 1954. As a result of the treaties signed between the Viet Minh and France, Vietnam was also separated into two parts. The Vietnam War began shortly after, between the communist North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and China, and the anti-communist South Vietnam, supported by the United States. Upon the North Vietnamese victory in 1975, Vietnam reunified as a unitary state socialist state under the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in 1976. An ineffective planned economy, a trade embargo by the Western world, and wars with Cambodia and China crippled the country further. In 1986, the CPV initiated economic and political reforms similar to the Chinese economic reform, transforming the country to a market economy-oriented economy. The reforms facilitated Vietnamese reintegration into the global economy and global politics.
A developing country with a lower-middle-income economy, Vietnam is nonetheless one of the fastest-growing economies of the 21st century, with a GDP predicted to rival by 2050. Vietnam has high levels of corruption and censorship and a poor human rights record; the country ranks among the lowest in international measurements of civil liberties, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion and ethnic minorities. It is part of international and intergovernmental institutions including the ASEAN, the APEC, the CPTPP, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OIF, and the WTO. It has assumed a seat on the United Nations Security Council twice.
The form Việt Nam () is first recorded in the 16th-century oracular poem Sấm Trạng Trình. The name has also been found on 12 carved in the 16th and 17th centuries, including one at Bao Lam Pagoda in Haiphong that dates to 1558. In 1802, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (who later became Emperor Gia Long) established the Nguyễn dynasty. In the second year of his rule, he asked the Jiaqing Emperor of the Qing dynasty to confer on him the title 'King of Nam Việt / Nanyue' (南越 in Chinese character) after seizing power in Annam. The Emperor refused because the name was related to Zhao Tuo's Nanyue, which included the regions of Guangxi and Guangdong in southern China. The Qing Emperor, therefore, decided to call the area "Việt Nam" instead, meaning “South of the Viet” per Classical Chinese word order but the Vietnamese understood it as “Viet of the South” per Vietnamese word order. Between 1804 and 1813, the name Vietnam was used officially by Emperor Gia Long. It was revived in the early 20th century in Phan Bội Châu's History of the Loss of Vietnam, and later by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ). The country was usually called Annam until 1945, when the imperial government in Huế adopted Việt Nam.
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 in 939 after a millennium of Chinese domination. By the 960s, the dynastic Đại Việt ( Great Viet) kingdom was established, Vietnamese society 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 polity 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, the Vietnamese polity expanded southward in a gradual process known as Nam tiến ("Southward expansion"), eventually conquering the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Kingdom.
From the 16th century onward, civil strife and frequent political infighting engulfed much of Dai Viet. 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. Vietnam was divided into North (Trịnh) and South (Nguyễn) from 1600 to 1777. 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 helped Trịnh to end Nguyễn, they also established new dynasty and ended Trịnh. However, their rule did not last long, and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn lords, led by Gia Long. Nguyễn Ánh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.
Between 1862 and 1867, the southern third of the country became the French colony of Cochinchina. By 1884, the entire country was under French rule, with the central and northern parts of Vietnam separated into the two protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. The three 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 introduced new humanism values. Most French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina, particularly in Saigon, and in Hanoi, the colony's capital.
During the colonial period, guerrillas of the royalist Cần Vương movement rebelled against French rule and massacred around a third of Vietnam's Christian population. After a decade of resistance, they were defeated in the 1890s 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 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 split the independence movement, as many leading members converted to communism.
The French maintained full control of 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 the pro-Vichy France colonial administration continued. 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 killed up to two million people.
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.
But as the French were weakened by the German occupation, British Raj forces and the remaining Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group were used to maintain order and help France reestablish control through the 1945–1946 War in Vietnam. Hồ initially chose to take a moderate stance to avoid military conflict with France, asking the French to withdraw their colonial administrators and for French professors and engineers to help build a modern independent Vietnam. But 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 to negotiate a ceasefire from a favourable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.
The colonial administration was thereby ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 21 July 1954 into three countries—Vietnam, and the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos as well as 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 the elections. But 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 president of the Republic of Vietnam. This effectively replaced the internationally recognised State of Vietnam by the Republic of Vietnam in the south—supported by the United States, France, Laos, Republic of China and Thailand—and Hồ'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 sustained aerial bombing. 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 Laos.
The communists attacked South Vietnamese targets during the 1968 Tết Offensive. The campaign failed militarily, but shocked the American establishment and turned US public opinion against the war. During the offensive, communist troops massacred over 3,000 civilians at Huế. 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 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 North Vietnamese military occupation.
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. He and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới ("Renovation") that carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy". Although 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. Subsequently, Vietnam's economy achieved strong growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports, and foreign investment, although these reforms also resulted in a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.
According to British journalist Nick Davies, writing for The Guardian, the long wars against the French and Americans have failed to achieve their stated goals:
The reality now is that it has ended up with the worst of two systems: the authoritarian socialist state and the unfettered ideology of neoliberalism; the two combining to strip Vietnam’s people of their money and their rights while a tiny elite fills its pockets and hides behind the rhetoric of the revolution. That, finally, is the biggest lie of all. Victorious in war but defeated in peace, the claim by Vietnam’s leaders to be socialist looks like empty propaganda.
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 River are the largest lake and longest river in the country.
Most of Vietnam has tropical climate. Due to differences in latitude and the marked variety in topographical relief, Vietnam's climate tends to vary considerably for each region. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the Northeast along the Chinese coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains, especially in southern Vietnam compared to the north. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging from between over the year. In Hanoi and the surrounding areas of Red River Delta, the temperatures are much lower between . Seasonal variations in the mountains, plateaus, and the northernmost areas are much more dramatic, with temperatures varying from in December and January to in July and August. During winter, snow occasionally falls over the highest peaks of the far northern mountains near the Chinese border. Vietnam receives high rates of precipitation in the form of rainfall with an average amount from to during the monsoon seasons; this often causes flooding, especially in the cities with poor drainage systems. The country is also affected by tropical depressions, and . Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with 55% of its population living in low-elevation coastal areas.
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.
In Vietnam, wildlife poaching has become a major concern. In 2000, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Education for Nature – Vietnam was founded to instill in the population the importance of wildlife conservation in the country. In the years that followed, another NGO called GreenViet was formed by Vietnamese youngsters for the enforcement of wildlife protection. Through collaboration between the NGOs and local authorities, many local poaching syndicates were crippled by their leaders' arrests. A study released in 2018 revealed Vietnam is a destination for the illegal export of rhinoceros horns from South Africa due to the demand for them as a medicine and a status symbol.
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. The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 5.35/10, ranking it 104th globally out of 172 countries.
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 500 members. 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 state 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, 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 capitalist Western countries. It already had relations with communist Western countries in the decades prior. Relations with the United States began improving in August 1995 with both states upgrading their liaison offices to embassy status. As diplomatic ties between the two governments 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 in 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. Despite their historical past, today Vietnam is considered to be a potential ally of the United States, especially in the geopolitical context of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and in containment of Chinese expansionism.
22. Hòa Bình
7. Lai Châu
8. Lào Cai
16. Sơn La
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14. Bắc Kạn
10. Cao Bằng
9. Hà Giang
11. Lạng Sơn
17. Phú Thọ
21. Quảng Ninh
15. Thái Nguyên
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Red River Delta
3. Hai Phong (municipality)
19. Bắc Ninh
26. Hà Nam
24. Hải Dương
23. Hưng Yên
27. Nam Định
28. Ninh Bình
25. Thái Bình
18. Vĩnh Phúc
North Central Coast
30. Nghệ An
32. Quảng Bình
33. Quảng Trị
29. Thanh Hóa
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42. Đắk Nông
38. Gia Lai
37. Kon Tum
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South Central Coast
39. Bình Định
46. Bình Thuận
43. Khánh Hòa
45. Ninh Thuận
40. Phú Yên
35. Quảng Nam
36. Quảng Ngãi
51. Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu
49. Bình Dương
47. Bình Phước
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56. An Giang
62. Bạc Liêu
55. Bến Tre
63. Cà Mau
53. Đồng Tháp
59. Hậu Giang
58. Kiên Giang
52. Long An
61. Sóc Trăng
54. Tiền Giang
60. Trà Vinh
57. Vĩnh Long
Provinces are subdivided into provincial municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc tỉnh, 'city under province'), (thị xã) and county (huyện), which are in turn subdivided into (thị trấn) or communes (xã).
Centrally controlled municipalities are subdivided into (quận) and counties, which are further subdivided into wards (phường).
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. Under 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. Although the 1997 Asian financial crisis caused an economic slowdown to 4–5% growth per year, its economy began to recover in 1999, and grew at around 7% per year from 2000 to 2005, one of the fastest in the world.; 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 despite the late-2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010. Vietnam's year-on-year inflation rate reached 11.8% in December 2010 and the currency, the Vietnamese đồng, was 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. Although Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is 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 US bought the highest amount of Vietnam's exports, while goods from China were the most popular Vietnamese import.
Based on findings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022, the unemployment rate in Vietnam was 2.3%, the nominal GDP US$406.452 billion, and a nominal GDP per capita $4,086. Besides the primary sector economy, tourism has contributed significantly to Vietnam's economic growth with 7.94 million foreign visitors recorded in 2015.
In modern times, Vietnamese scientists have made many significant contributions in various fields of study, most notably in mathematics. Hoang Tuy pioneered the applied mathematics field of global optimisation in the 20th century, while Ngô Bảo Châu won the 2010 Fields Medal for his proof of fundamental lemma in the theory of automorphic forms. Since the establishment of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) by the government in 1975, the country is working to develop its first national space flight program especially after the completion of the infrastructure at the Vietnam Space Centre (VSC) in 2018. Vietnam has also made significant advances in the development of , such as the TOPIO humanoid model. One of Vietnam's main messaging apps, Zalo, was developed by Vương Quang Khải, a Vietnamese hacker who later worked with the country's largest information technology service company, the FPT Group.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Vietnam devoted 0.19% of its GDP to science research and development in 2011. Vietnam was ranked 44th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021, it has increased its ranking considerably since 2012, where it was ranked 76th. 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.
The most visited destinations in Vietnam is the largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, with over 5.8 million international arrivals, followed by Hanoi with 4.6 million and Hạ Long, including Hạ Long Bay with 4.4 million arrivals. All three are ranked in the top 100 most visited cities in the world. Vietnam is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2018, Travel + Leisure ranked Hội An as one of the world's top 15 best destinations to visit.
, 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 country's largest airport handling the majority of international passenger traffic. According to a government-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 .
Most of Vietnam's power is generated by either hydropower or fossil fuel power such as coal, oil and natural gas, while diesel fuel, small hydropower and renewable energy supplies the remainder. The Vietnamese government had planned to develop a nuclear reactor as the path to establish another source for electricity from nuclear power. The plan was abandoned in late 2016 when a majority of the National Assembly voted to oppose the project due to widespread public concern over radioactive contamination.
The household gas sector in Vietnam is dominated by PetroVietnam, which controls nearly 70% of the country's domestic market for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Since 2011, the company also operates five renewable energy power plants including the Nhơn Trạch 2 Thermal Power Plant (750 MW), Phú Quý Wind Power Plant (6 MW), Hủa Na Hydro-power Plant (180 MW), Dakdrinh Hydro-power Plant (125 MW) and Vũng Áng 1 Thermal Power Plant (1,200 MW).
According to statistics from British Petroleum (BP), Vietnam is listed among the 52 countries that have proven crude oil reserves. In 2015 the reserve was approximately 4.4 billion barrels ranking Vietnam first place in Southeast Asia, while the proven gas reserves were about 0.6 trillion cubic metres (tcm) and ranking it third in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Malaysia.
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 per cent 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 states 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 and 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 some noted that the consumption of dog meat will remain an ingrained habit among many people.
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 more than 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.
The majority of Vietnamese do not follow any organised religion, though many of them observe some form of Vietnamese folk religion. Confucianism as a system of social and ethical philosophy still has certain influences in modern Vietnam. Mahāyāna is the dominant branch of Buddhism, while Theravāda is practised mostly by the Khmer minority. About 8 to 9% of the population is Christian—made up of Roman Catholics and Protestants. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam in the 16th century and was firmly established by Jesuits missionaries (mainly Portuguese and Italians) in the 17th centuries from nearby Portuguese Macau. French people missionaries (from the Paris Foreign Missions Society) together with Spaniards missionaries (from the Dominican Order of the neighbouring Spanish East Indies) actively sought converts in the 18th, 19th, and first half of the 20th century. A significant number of Vietnamese people, especially in the South, are also adherents of two indigenous religions of syncretic Caodaism and quasi-Buddhist Hoahaoism. Protestantism was only recently spread by American and Canadian missionaries in the 20th century; the largest Protestant denomination is the Evangelical Church of Vietnam. Around 770,000 of the country's Protestants are members of ethnic minorities, particularly the highland Montagnards and Hmong people. Although it is one of the country's minority religions, Protestantism is the fastest-growing religion in Vietnam, 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.
Vietnam's minority groups speak a variety of languages, including: Tày, Muong language, Cham language, Khmer language, Chinese language, Nùng and Hmong language. The Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands also speak a number of distinct languages, some belonging to the Austroasiatic and others to the Malayo-Polynesian language families. In recent years, a number of sign languages have developed in the major cities.
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, Korean language, and Mandarin Chinese have also grown as the country's ties with other nations have strengthened. Third-graders can choose one of seven languages (English, Russian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German) as their first foreign language. In Vietnam's high school graduation examinations, students can take their foreign language exam in one of the above-mentioned languages.
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, italic=no is depicted as a holy dragon. The lạc is a holy bird representing Vietnam's national mother italic=no. 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, italic=no and italic=no, coastal regions such as Nha Trang, the caves of Hạ Long Bay and the Marble Mountains.