Flag of Vietnam

map (opens in new window)


The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. However, since the enactment of Vietnam's "doi moi" (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience protests from various groups - such as the Protestant Montagnard ethnic minority population of the Central Highlands and the Hoa Hao Buddhists in southern Vietnam over religious persecution. Montagnard grievances also include the loss of land to Vietnamese settlers.


Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia

Geographic coordinates:

16 00 N, 106 00 E

Map references:

Southeast Asia


total: 329,560 sq km
land: 325,360 sq km
water: 4,200 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly larger than New Mexico

Land boundaries:

total: 4,639 km
border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km


3,444 km (excludes islands)

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin


tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)


low, flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly, mountainous in far north and northwest

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m

Natural resources:

phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 20.14%
permanent crops: 6.93%
other: 72.93% (2005)

Irrigated land:

30,000 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta

Environment - current issues:

logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Geography - note:

extending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point


84,402,966 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 27% (male 11,826,457/female 10,983,069)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 28,055,941/female 28,614,553)
65 years and over: 5.8% (male 1,924,562/female 2,998,384) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 25.9 years
male: 24.8 years
female: 27.1 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.02% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

16.86 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

6.22 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.42 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.64 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 25.14 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.54 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 24.72 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.85 years
male: 68.05 years
female: 73.85 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.91 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.4% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

220,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

9,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are high risks in some locations
animal contact disease: rabies
water contact disease: leptospirosis
note: at present, H5N1 avian influenza poses a minimal risk; during outbreaks among birds, rare cases could occur among US personnel who have close contact with infected birds or poultry (2005)


noun: Vietnamese (singular and plural)
adjective: Vietnamese

Ethnic groups:

Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999 census)


Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)


Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.3%
male: 93.9%
female: 86.9% (2002)

Country name:

conventional long form: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
conventional short form: Vietnam
local long form: Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam
local short form: Viet Nam
abbreviation: SRV

Government type:

Communist state



Administrative divisions:

59 provinces (tinh, singular and plural) and 5 municipalities (thu do, singular and plural)
provinces: An Giang, Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Cao Bang, Dac Lak, Dac Nong, Dien Bien, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Ha Nam, Ha Tay, Ha Tinh, Hai Duong, Hau Giang, Hoa Binh, Hung Yen, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien-Hue, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc, Yen Bai
municipalities: Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh


2 September 1945 (from France)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 2 September (1945)


15 April 1992

Legal system:

based on communist legal theory and French civil law system


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly or Quoc-Hoi (498 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 19 May 2002 (next to be held 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - CPV 90%, other 10% (the 10% are not CPV members but are approved by the CPV to stand for election); seats by party - CPV 447, CPV-approved 51

Judicial branch:

Supreme People's Court (chief justice is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the president)

Economy - overview:

Vietnam is a densely-populated, developing country that in the last 30 years has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally-planned economy. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1997 in moving forward from an extremely low level of development and significantly reducing poverty. Growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy and temporarily allowed opponents of reform to slow progress toward a market-oriented economy. GDP growth averaged 6.8% per year from 1997 to 2004 even against the background of the Asian financial crisis and a global recession, and growth hit 8% in 2005. Since 2001, however, Vietnamese authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to economic liberalization and international integration. They have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. Vietnam's membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into force of the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 have led to even more rapid changes in Vietnam's trade and economic regime. Vietnam's exports to the US doubled in 2002 and again in 2003. Vietnam hopes to become a member of the WTO in 2006. Among other benefits, accession would allow Vietnam to take advantage of the phase out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Vietnam is working to promote job creation to keep up with the country's high population growth rate. However, high levels of inflation have prompted Vietnamese authorities to tighten monetary and fiscal policies.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$253.2 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$44.66 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

8.4% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$3,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 20.9%
industry: 41%
services: 38.1% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

44.39 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 56.8%
industry: 37%
services: 6.2% (July 2005)

Unemployment rate:

5.5% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

19.5% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3.6%
highest 10%: 29.9% (1998)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

36.1 (1998)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

8.4% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

38.7% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $11.64 billion
expenditures: $12.95 billion; including capital expenditures of $1.8 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

75.5% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry; fish, seafood


food processing, garments, shoes, machine-building; mining, coal, steel; cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, paper

Industrial production growth rate:

17.2% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

46.2 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

52 billion kWh (2004)

Oil - production:

400,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

216,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

600 million bbl (2005 est.)

Natural gas - production:

6.342 billion cu m (2005 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

6.342 billion cu m (2005 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

192.6 billion cu m (2005)

Current account balance:

-$1.695 billion (2005 est.)


$32.23 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes

Exports - partners:

US 20.1%, Japan 13.6%, China 9%, Australia 7%, Germany 5.9%, Singapore 4.8%, UK 4.6% (2004)


$36.88 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles

Imports - partners:

China 13.7%, Taiwan 11.3%, South Korea 10.8%, Japan 10.5%, Singapore 10.5%, Thailand 6.2%, Hong Kong 4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$7.503 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$19.17 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$2.8 billion in credits and grants pledged by international donors for 2000 (2004)

Currency (code):

dong (VND)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

10,124,900 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

4.96 million (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors
domestic: all provincial exchanges are digitalized and connected to Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City by fiber-optic cable or microwave radio relay networks; main lines have been substantially increased, and the use of mobile telephones is growing rapidly
international: country code - 84; satellite earth stations - 2 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 65, FM 7, shortwave 29 (1999)

Television broadcast stations:

6 (plus 61 provincial TV stations) (2006)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

3,611 (2005)

Internet users:

5.87 million (2005)


28 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 23
over 3,047 m: 7
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2005)


condensate/gas 432 km; gas 210 km; oil 3 km; refined products 206 km (2004)


total: 2,600 km
standard gauge: 178 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 2,169 km 1.000-m gauge
dual gauge: 253 km three-rail track combining 1.435 m and 1.000-m gauges (2004)


total: 215,628 km (2000)


17,702 km (5,000 km navigable by vessels up to 1.8 m draft) (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 235 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,290,526 GRT/1,961,403 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 21, cargo 176, chemical tanker 4, container 4, liquefied gas 5, petroleum tanker 21, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 1, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Denmark 1)
registered in other countries: 12 (Cyprus 1, Honduras 1, Mongolia 7, Panama 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City

Military branches:

People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN): Ground Forces, People's Navy Command (including Naval Infantry), Air and Air Defense Force, Coast Guard

Disputes - international:

southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; Cambodia and Laos protest Vietnamese squatters and armed encroachments along border; after years of Cambodia claiming Vietnam had moved or destroyed boundary markers, in 2005, after much domestic debate, Cambodia ratified an agreement with Vietnam that settled all but a small portion of the land boundary; establishment of a maritime boundary with Cambodia is hampered by unresolved dispute over offshore islands; in 2004, Laotian-Vietnamese boundary commission agrees to erect missing markers in two adjoining provinces; demarcation of the China-Vietnam boundary proceeds slowly and although the maritime boundary delimitation and fisheries agreements were ratified in June 2004, implementation has been delayed; China occupies Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; involved in complex dispute with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and possibly Brunei over the Spratly Islands; the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding "code of conduct" desired by several of the disputants; Vietnam continues to expand construction of facilities in the Spratly Islands; in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord to conduct marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands

Illicit drugs:

minor producer of opium poppy; probable minor transit point for Southeast Asian heroin; government continues to face domestic opium/heroin/methamphetamine addiction problems despite longstanding crackdowns