Viet Nam (v-tnm, -nm, vt-, vyt-) Abbr. Viet.

A country of southeast Asia in eastern Indochina of the South China Sea. Ruled by China from 221 B.C. to A.D. 939 and from 1407 to 1428, it was occupied by the French in the 19th century. After the fall of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, it was partitioned into North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam. The country was reunited in April 30, 1975 after the end of the Viet Nam War. Hanoi is the capital and Saigon the largest city.




Land & Climate


329,707 sq km (127,301 sq mi)

Highest Point

Fan Si Pan; 3143 m (10,312 ft) above sea level

Lowest Point

Sea level along the coast

Average Temperatures

Hanoi: January 17 C 62 F; July 29 C 84 F


Saigon:January 26 C 79 F; July 27 C 81 F

Average Annual Precipitation

Hanoi: 1680 mm (66 in)


Saigon: 1980 mm (78 in)


On the E coast of the Indochinese Peninsula in SE Asia


China on N, Laos, Cambodia on W.


Europa World Year Book 1994

Rand McNally World Atlas

World Weather Guide


Viet Nam is long and narrow, with a 1,400-mi. coast. About 24% of country is readily arable, including the densely settled Red R. valley in the N, narrow coastal plains in center, and the wide, often marshy Mekong R. Delta in the S. The rest consists of semi-arid plateaus and barren mountains, with some stretches of tropical rain forest.

Land and Resources
Viet Nam occupies the easternmost part of the Indochinese Peninsula, a rugged, elongated S-shaped strip of mountains, coastal plains, and river deltas.

Physiographic Regions
Viet Nam may be divided into four major regions. In the northwest is the mountainous southern extension of China's Yunnan Plateau. The country's highest peak, Fan Si Pan (3143 m/10,312 ft), is located near the border with China. To the east of the highlands is the Red River (also known as the Song Hong) delta, a triangularly shaped lowland along the Gulf of Tonkin (an arm of the South China Sea). To the south the Annamese Highlands, which run northwest to southeast, and an associated coastal plain form the backbone of central Viet Nam. The fourth and southernmost region is the Mekong River delta, a depositional area of flat land.

The soils of the Red River and Mekong River deltas, the two major deltas of Viet Nam, are composed of rich alluvium except where damming for flood control has altered the stream flow. Soils in the uplands are poor as a result of leaching of nutrients from the ground by the abundant rainfall.

The Red River in the north and the Mekong River in the south are the two major freshwater streams. The Red flows almost directly southeast from the northwestern highlands, whereas the Mekong follows an irregular path from Cambodia, crosses southernmost Viet Nam, and empties in the South China Sea through a complex network of distributaries. Both rivers have been leveed to prevent flood damage.

Three basic climate types are found in Viet Nam. In the north, especially in the interior, the temperatures are subtropical. Shifting seasonal wind patterns result in dry winters and wet summers. The central and southeastern areas typify the tropical monsoon climate, with high temperatures and abundant precipitation. In the southwest, distinct wet and dry periods are evident, but temperatures are higher than in the north.

Vegetation and Animal Life
Abundant vegetation exists throughout Viet Nam except where the landscape has been denuded. Typical mixed stands in the rain forests contain a wide variety of pines, broadleaf trees, vines, and bamboos. Dense mangroves bordering the distributaries of the deltas often hinder access to the water's edge. The tropical rain forests are inhabited by large mammals such as elephants, deer, bears, tigers, and leopards. Smaller animals, including monkeys, hares, squirrels, and otters, are found throughout the country. Reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, as well as many species of birds, are also indigenous.

Mineral Resources
The northern highlands of Viet Nam contain valuable minerals, including iron, anthracite coal, phosphate, zinc, chromite, tin, and apatite. Petroleum and natural gas deposits lie offshore.



73,811,000 (1995 estimate)

224 persons/sq km (580 persons/sq mi) (1995 estimate)

Urban/Rural Breakdown & Largest Cities

20% Urban; 80% Rural (1995 estimate)

Ho Chi Minh City: 3,924,435

Hanoi: 3,056,146

Haiphong: 1,447,523 (1989 census)

Ethnic Groups

88%: Vietnamese (Kinh)

12%: Others including Chinese (Hoa), Tai, Khmer, Thai, Muong, and Nung


Official Language: Vietnamese

Other Languages: Khmer, Montagnard, Cham, and other minority languages; English, French


55%: Buddhism

45%: Other including Roman Catholicism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai


Book of Vital World Statistics

Europa World Year Book 1994

Statesman's Year-Book 1994-95

Whitakers Almanack 1994

World Factbook 1994

World Population Prospects: The 1992 Revision



Danh Muc Cac Thanh Phan DAN TOC VIET NAM
(xap theo so luong dan so)




Ra Glai


La Hu










Bru (Va Kieu)


Lo Lo


Hoa (Han)














You Tu


Pa Then




Gieo Trieng


Co Lao


Hmong (Meo)








Kho Mu


Bo Y


Gia Rai


Co O


Si La




Ta Oi


Pu Peo


E De


Cho Ro




Ba Na




O Du


Xo Dang


Xinh Mun


Ro Mam


San Chay (San Chi)


Ha Nhi




Co O


Chu Ru








San Diu


La Chi





La Ha





Phu La








The Vietnamese, related to the southern Chinese, constitute the largest ethnic group in Viet Nam and account for about 88 percent of the total population; the remainder are members of various ethnic groups. The size of the Chinese population, while still the largest minority, has decreased sharply with emigration.

Population Characteristics
The population of Viet Nam (1995 estimate) is about 73,811,000, yielding a population density of about 224 persons per sq km (about 580 per sq mi). The majority live in small villages, though the southern part of the country is more urbanized than the northern part. Most people live in the delta areas or along the coast. The population of Viet Nam is young: an estimated 37 percent of all Vietnamese people are less than 15 years of age, while 12 percent are over age 60. The population is increasing by about 2 percent annually.

Principal Cities
Most of the larger urban centers are located in southern Viet Nam. Of the major cities, only the capital city of Hanoi (population, 1989, 3,056,146) is not located on the coast. Other large cities are Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon (3,924,435); Haiphong (1,447,523), Hanoi's port; and Da Nang (369,734), near the ancient city of Hue (260,489). The government has attempted to reverse the rural-to-urban migration stream by establishing new economic zones in the countryside and encouraging city residents to relocate to them.

Vietnamese, the official language, is spoken by the majority of the population (see Austro-Asiatic Languages). The use of French, a remnant of colonial times, is declining. Some Vietnamese people who live in urban areas speak other languages, such as English and Russian. Khmer, Montagnard, and Cham are spoken primarily in the interior. With the exodus of the Chinese in the late 1980s, the once-common use of their language diminished.

Viet Nam contains a rich mixture of religions, reflecting the influences of many cultures. Traditional Vietnamese religion included elements from Indian beliefs and three Chinese religious systems: Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. A majority of adherents today follow Buddhism, including a wide variety of sects. Other religions include relatively new sects such as Hoa Hao, associated with Buddhism, and Caodaism, a synthesis of Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic church, claims as many as 6 million followers. Religious groups have often played important roles in the political development of Viet Nam.






Age distrib. (%)

<15: 39; 65+: 5

Pop. density

585 per sq. mi.



Ethnic groups

Vietnamese 8590%, Chinese 3%

Principal languages

Vietnamese (official), French, Chinese


Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Muslim


Television sets

1 per 28 persons


1 per 8.8 persons


1 per 563 persons

Daily newspaper circ.

9 per 1,000 pop.


Life expectancy at birth (1995)

64 male; 68 female

Births (per 1,000 pop.)


Deaths (per 1,000 pop.)


Natural increase


Hospital beds

1 per 329 persons


1 per 2,617 persons

Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births 1995)



Literacy (1994)






Food processing, textiles, cement, chemical fertilizers

Chief crops

Rice, rubber, fruits and vegetables, soybeans, coffee, tea, bananas


Phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, oil

Crude oil reserves (1994)

500 mln. bbls

Other resources


Arable land


Livestock (1993)

cattle: 3.3 mln.; pigs: 14.9 mln.

Fish catch (1992)

1.1 mln. metric tons

Electricity prod. (1992)

9 bln. kWh.

Labor force

65% agric.; 35% ind. and services


Monetary unit

Dong (Oct. 1994: 11,053 = $1 US)

Gross national product (1993)

$72 bln.*

Per capita GNP


Imports (1993)

$3.1 bln.; partners: Singapore 28%, Japan 14%

Exports (1993)

$2.6 bln.; partners: Japan 34%, Singapore 18%

Tourism (1992)

$80 mln.


Europa World Year Book 1994

Military Balance 1993-1994


Viet Nam's modern economy evolved under the burden of military actions and political upheavals. After partition in 1954, the nations of North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam each developed their own economic structure, reflecting different economic systems with different resources and different trading partners. The North operated under a highly centralized, planned economy, whereas the South maintained a free-market economy. With the reunification of Viet Nam in 1976, North Viet Nam's centrally planned economy was introduced into the South.

National Output
In 1992 Viet Nam had an estimated annual gross domestic product of $15.95 billion. To counteract economic stagnation, a development program in 1990 called for a doubling of per capita income, a 50 percent increase in the rice crop, and a fivefold increase in the value of exports by the year 2000. With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, Viet Nam lost its principal benefactor. However, measures taken earlier to end most controls on the production and marketing of agricultural products and a steady increase in petroleum production allowed Viet Nam to escape the effects of the collapse of the USSR, as well as to offset the effects of a trade embargo by the United States. The nation's economy was expanding by about 7 percent a year in the early 1990s, nearly three times the growth rate of its population.

The civilian labor force of Viet Nam in the early 1990s was estimated at nearly 33 million people. The largest labor federation is the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labor, which has a membership of about 3.8 million. Other labor organizations include the Viet Nam Agricultural and Food Industry Trade Union, with about 550,000 members.

The reunification of the country seriously affected the economic structure of Viet Nam in terms of the composition of the labor force. The ethnic Chinese who left Viet Nam were part of the cadre of trained administrators. Many of the workers in the south who fled or were sent to reeducation camps and collective farms had been part of the management of industries and businesses. Inexperienced workers were then placed in positions of authority, and as a result productivity dropped.

The leading sector of the Vietnamese economy is agriculture, which, with fishing and forestry, employs 73 percent of the labor force. The government has stimulated agricultural production through the removal of price controls and a series of reforms that gives farmers both long-term land leases and the right to keep profits from surplus production. In the early 1990s Viet Nam, which once imported rice, became the world's third largest exporter of the crop. The country's principal crops in the early 1990s (with annual output in metric tons) included rice, the staple food, 21.5 million; cassava, 3 million; sweet potatoes, 2.1 million; and sugarcane, 5.9 million. Cash crops included coffee, 65,000; tea, 35,000; soybeans, 87,000; and natural rubber, 65,000. Livestock included 12.1 million pigs, 3.1 million cattle, and 110 million poultry.

Forestry and Fishing
Although forests cover about 40 percent of Viet Nam's total land area, the growth of commercial forestry has been hindered by a lack of transportation facilities, as well as by the mixture of different species of trees, making it uneconomical to harvest a single species. Teak and bamboo are predominant. Most of the 29.5 million cu m (1.04 billion cu ft) of roundwood harvested annually in the early 1990s was used for fuel. In an attempt to preserve remaining forests, a ban on the export of logs and timber was imposed in 1992.

Viet Nam's extensive coastline and numerous streams are rich fishing sites. Most fish are taken from the South China Sea. Some fish farming has been undertaken in flooded inland areas. About 877,000 metric tons of fish and shellfish (including crabs, shrimp and prawns, and mollusks) were caught annually in the early 1990s, becoming a prinicipal export.

Most mining activities are confined to the northwest, where anthracite coal, phosphate rock, gypsum, tin, zinc, iron, antimony, and chromite are extracted. Coal and apatite, a phosphate rock, are extensively mined. In addition, large petroleum and natural gas deposits lie offshore. Petroleum has been extracted since 1975, mostly by a state-owned company. Production, which stood at 11 million barrels annually in the late 1980s, increased to 29 million barrels each year in the early 1990s and accounts for 32 percent of export revenues. The areas holding all of the petroleum and natural gas reserves are also claimed by China.

The major Vietnamese manufacturing plants, concentrated in the north, have been almost totally restored after receiving heavy bombing damage during the war. Privatization of state enterprises has been under way since the late 1980s. Industries dominating Viet Nam's economy manufacture paper, cement, textiles, food products, fertilizers, and electronics.

Viet Nam has not yet fully utilized its considerable hydroelectric power potential, although a facility with a generating capacity of 2000 kilowatts opened in Ha Bnh in 1989. Coal-powered plants remain the primary source of electricity. In the early 1990s some 9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were generated annually.

Currency and Banking
Following the reunification of Viet Nam, the piastre, the currency of the south, was abolished. The new dng is now the national monetary unit; the new dng is divided into 100 xu (10,858 new dng equal U.S.$1; 1994). The State Bank of Viet Nam (1951), headquartered in Hanoi, operated the only banking system within the country until 1990, when the government established four independent commercial banks and allowed foreign banks to operate. The Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam is authorized to handle foreign currencies.

Commerce and Trade
The industrialized north relies on the south for much of its agricultural needs, and since the dismantling of the free-market economy in the south, the north has provided manufactured goods for the south. Viet Nam's exports include petroleum, unprocessed agricultural and marine products (including rice), coal, clothing, footwear, ceramics, gemstones, and silk. Exports were valued at $2.6 billion annually in the early 1990s. Imports, dominated by petroleum products, steel products, railroad equipment, chemicals, medicines, raw cotton, fertilizer, and grain, were valued at $3.1 billion. Principal trading partners for exports were Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Japan, and South Korea; chief partners for imports were Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

During the late 1980s Viet Nam began to move toward integration with the world economy. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the country had reached cooperative agreements with several countries, including former adversaries Japan and France. In 1993 the United States had lifted its veto of International Monetary Fund assistance. In February 1994 the United States ended a trade embargo that had been imposed against North Viet Nam in 1964 and extended to all of Viet Nam on April 30, 1975, after the fall of South Viet Nam. Viet Nam and the United States moved closer to full diplomatic relations with the opening of a liaison office in Hanoi in early 1995. One of the benefits Viet Nam seeks from improved relations with the United States is an increase in tourism, which is growing in importance to the nation's economy. Less than 200,000 people visited the country in 1990; by 1993 that number had grown to 600,000.

The war years left a mark on the transportation system of Viet Nam. Since the end of the conflict, major efforts have been made to link the south and the north. Vehicular transportation, easiest along the coast, employs a network of about 85,000 km (about 53,000 mi) of roads, of which about 10 percent are paved. Railways have about 2835 km (about 1762 mi) of operable track and are concentrated in the north, except for the 1730-km (1075-mi) Hanoi-to-Ho Chi Minh City line. The long coastline of the country and the Mekong and Red rivers, as well as many smaller streams and canals, facilitate inexpensive transportation. The major ports used for international shipping are Haiphong, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Domestic flights link several of Viet Nam's cities, and Viet Nam Airline operates both internationally and domestically, and Pacific Airlines operates international routes. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have international airports. All transport facilities are government controlled.

Telecommunications in Viet Nam are under the control of the government or the Vietnamese Communist party. The Voice of Viet Nam broadcasts from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There are an estimated 7.1 million radios and 2.8 million televisions throughout the country. Of the five daily newspapers published in Viet Nam, Nhan Dan, the official paper of the Communist party, has the largest circulation (200,000).



Government & Education

Education and Cultural Activity
The long period of military conflict in Viet Nam seriously disrupted educational progress and cultural programs, especially those remnants that dated from the years of French rule. Curriculum reforms since 1979 have standardized lesson content throughout the country, strengthened socialist educational ideals, and increased the vocational aspects of higher education.

All schools in Viet Nam were nationalized following reunification, and by the mid-1990s nearly 15.5 million pupils were in attendance. Schooling is free and compulsory. Universities in Viet Nam include the University of Hanoi (1956) and the University of Ho Chi Minh City (1977). In 1989 Thang Long College opened in Hanoi, the country's first private college since 1954. About 88 percent of the adult population is literate.

The cultural life of Viet Nam was strongly influenced by that of China until French domination in the 19th century. At that time the traditional culture began to acquire an overlay of Western characteristics. The postwar government expressed its desire to rid Vietnamese life of Western influences.

The Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts (1966) in Hanoi includes an exhibition of the tools and costumes of more than 60 ethnic groups in Viet Nam. The National Library was established in Hanoi in 1919; a counterpart was founded in Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.