• Category: Govt & Politics
  • Words: 479
  • Grade: 100
Vietnam (vê-èt¹näm¹), officially Socialist Republic of

Vietnam, republic (1990 est. pop. 65,500,000), 128,401 sq

mi (332,559 sq km), SE Asia, bordered by Cambodia and

Laos (W), China (N), and the South China Sea (E, S).

Major cities are HANOI (the capital) and HO CHI MINH

CITY (formerly Saigon). The terrain is generally rugged; the

two principal regions, the Red R. delta in the north and the

Mekong R. delta in the south, are linked by a narrow,

mountainous strip. Agriculture, primarily the growing of rice,

is the basis of the economy, engaging more than 80% of the

work force; Vietnam is a major rice exporter. Peanuts, corn,

cassava, and sweet potatoes, and beans are also grown for

subsistence; cash crops include cotton, jute, coffee, and tea.

Fishing is also important. Mining, particularly of coal, heavy

industry, and most of the timber resources are concentrated

in the north. Offshore petroleum deposits have been

developed, and crude oil is exported. About 80% of the

population are Vietnamese. Significant minorities include

highland tribal peoples such as the Nungs and Meos and

Cambodians and Thais. Large numbers of ethnic Chinese

fled the country after a border clash with China in 1979.

Buddhism and Roman Catholicism are practiced, but religion

is discouraged by the government. History. The area that is

now Vietnam is composed of the historic regions of


traders arrived in the early 16th cent. The French captured

Saigon in 1859, organized the colony of Cochin China in

1867, and declared protectorates over Tonkin and Annam

in 1884. The three were merged with Cambodia in 1887 to

form French INDOCHINA. A nationalist movement arose

in the early 20th cent., gaining momentum during the

Japanese occupation in WORLD WAR II. After the

Japanese withdrew in 1945 the VIET MINH, a coalition of

nationalists and Communists, established a republic headed

by HO CHI MINH. French attempts to reassert control and

establish BAO DAI as emperor resulted in the French

Indochina War (1946"“54), which ended with the French

defeat at DIENBIENPHU. At the Geneva Conference of

1954 Vietnam was provisionally divided, pending nationwide

free elections, into Communist North Vietnam and nationalist

South Vietnam. Fearing a Communist victory, the regime of

Ngo Dinh DIEM refused to hold the scheduled elections and

declared the south an independent republic in 1955. The

VIETNAM WAR ensued, with the U.S. aiding South

Vietnam. A cease-fire was signed and U.S. troops

withdrawn in 1973, but the Communists overran the south in

1975, reunifying (1976) the country. The regime launched a

large-scale resettlement and reeducation program to

suppress continued opposition in the south. In 1978"“79 it

invaded Cambodia, overthrowing the regime of POL POT

and provoking a brief invasion of N Vietnam by China.

Continued political and social upheaval took its toll on the

economy and also prompted the flight of great numbers of

refugee BOAT PEOPLE. In the late 1980s economic failure

and food shortages, both exacerbated by a U.S. economic

embargo, led to decentralization and limited free enterprise,

but the party retained tight political control. In 1992 the U.S.

began to ease its embargo in response to Vietnam's support

for the Cambodian peace process and cooperation in the

search for missing American servicemen.
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