Vietnam country profile

  • Published
Map of Vietnam

Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, has one of south-east Asia's fastest-growing economies and has set its sights on becoming a developed nation by 2020.

It became a unified country once more in 1975 when the armed forces of the Communist north seized the south.

This followed three decades of bitter wars, in which the Communists fought first against the colonial power France, then against South Vietnam and its US backers. In its latter stages, the conflict held the attention of the world.

The US joined the hostilities in order to stem the "domino effect" of successive countries falling to Communism.


Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Capital: Hanoi

  • Population 92 million

  • Area 329,247 sq km (127,123 sq miles)

  • Major language Vietnamese

  • Major religion Buddhism

  • Life expectancy 73 years (men), 81 years (women)

  • Currency dong

Getty Images


President: Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Image source, AFP/Getty Images

Nguyen Xuan Phuc was appointed to the largely ceremonial post of president by parliament in April 2021, taking over from Nguyen Phu Trong.

He had served as prime minister since April 2016, where his technocratic style was reflected in Vietnam's efficient handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Real power resides in the post of general-secretary of the Communist Party, which has been held by outgoing president Nguyen Phu Trọng since 2011.


Image source, Getty Images

The Communist Party has a strong grip on the media.

Media outlets and journalists risk sanctions for broaching sensitive topics and for criticising the government.

Online content deemed to threaten Communist rule is blocked.


Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ho Chi Minh (pictured in 1951) led the resistance against French colonial rule in the First Indochina War

1859-83 - France slowly colonises Indochina.

1940 - Japan takes control of Indochina.

1945 - Ho Chi Minh proclaims independence and establishes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

1946 - French seek to regain control. Anti-French resistance war - or the First Indochina War - spreads across country.

1954 - Vietnam is partitioned between North and South. Conflict between the two rival states rages for the next two decades, in what is known as the Vietnam War or the Second Indochina War. The US is heavily involved in support of the South.

1975 - Southern cities fall one by one until communist forces seize Saigon.

1976 - Vietnam is reunified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands flee abroad, including many "boat people".

1979 - Vietnam invades Cambodia and ousts the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The United States was heavily involved in the Vietnam War

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