French rule of Vietnam ended in 1954. Divided at 17°N, the US-backed South fought the Communist North. Reunified after the North’s 1975 victory, it is run as a single-party state.
Geography: A heavily forested mountain range separates the northern Red River delta lowlands from the Mekong Delta in the south.
Climate: Cool winters in north; south is tropical, with even temperatures.
People and Society: Ethnic Vietnamese dominate; the Chinese minority was viewed as a corrupt bourgeoisie by the victorious Communists after the war. Mountain-based minorities (montagnards) were also sidelined; tensions persist over the settling of highlands by lowlanders. Women play an active role in society. There is no political or press freedom.
The Economy: Liberal economic policy (doi moi) from 1986: now one of fastest-growing economies. Major rice exporter. Cheap labour. Strong manufacturing: textiles, electrical goods. Diverse resource base.
Insight: Intense US bombing and defoliant spraying in the 1962–1975 Vietnam War has scarred the landscape
Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Date of Formation: 1976
Population: 88.1 million
Total Area: 127,243 sq. miles (329,560 sq. km)
Density: 701 people per sq. mile
Languages: Vietnamese*, Chinese, other
Religions: Nonreligious 81%, Buddhist 9%, Christian 7%, other 3%
Ethnic Mix: Vietnamese 86%, other 10%, Tay 2%, Thai 2%
Government: One-party state
Currency: Dông = 10 hao = 100 xu