Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Journey to Planet Earth
Join us on:  You Tube  Facebook  Twitter
Plan B: Mobilizing to Save CivilizationState of the Planet's OceansState of the Ocean's AnimalsState of the Planet's WildlifeState of the PlanetFuture ConditionalHot ZonesSeas of GrassOn the BrinkLand of Plenty, Land of WantUrban ExplosionRivers of Destiny
   The Programs
   Stories of Hope
   Ecosystems

   Country Profiles

Back to Map

   Educational Resources
Country Profiles: Vietnam


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background France occupied all of Vietnam by 1884. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when they were defeated by Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, who took control of the north. U.S. economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but U.S. armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later North Vietnamese forces overran the south. Economic reconstruction of the reunited country has proven difficult as aging Communist Party leaders have only grudgingly initiated reforms necessary for a free market.
Location
Map of Vietnam
Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Area total: 329,560 sq km
land: 325,360 sq km
water: 4,200 sq km
Area - comparative slightly larger than New Mexico
Climate tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (mid-May to mid-September) and warm, dry season (mid-October to mid-March)
Terrain 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: Ngoc Linh 3,143 m
Natural resources phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Land use arable land: 17%
permanent crops: 5%
other: 78% (1998 est.)
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
Population 81,098,416 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 31.6% (male 13,259,152; female 12,392,089)
15-64 years: 62.9% (male 24,938,098; female 26,083,681)
65 years and over: 5.5% (male 1,749,531; female 2,675,865) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 1.43% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 29.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 69.86 years
female: 72.5 years (2002 est.)
male: 67.4 years
Ethnic groups Vietnamese 85%-90%, Chinese, Hmong, Thai, Khmer, Cham, mountain groups
Religions Buddhist, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, Christian (predominantly Roman Catholic, some Protestant), indigenous beliefs, Muslim
Languages Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.7%
male: 96.5%
female: 91.2% (1995 est.)
Government type Communist state
Capital Hanoi
Independence 2 September 1945 (from France)
Legal system based on communist legal theory and French civil law system
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description red with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center

Flag of Vietnam
Economy - overview Vietnam is a poor, densely populated country that 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 1996 in moving forward from an extremely low starting point - growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy but, rather than prompting reform, reaffirmed the government's belief that shifting to a market oriented economy leads to disaster. GDP growth of 8.5% in 1997 fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999. Growth then rose to 6.8% in 2000 and dropped back to 4.7% in 2001 against the background of global recession. These numbers mask some major difficulties in economic performance. Many domestic industries, including coal, cement, steel, and paper, have reported large stockpiles of inventory and tough competition from more efficient foreign producers. Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have moved slowly in implementing the structural reforms needed to revitalize the economy and produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement entered into force near the end of 2001 and is expected to significantly increase Vietnam's exports to the U.S.. The U.S. is assisting Vietnam with implementing the legal and structural reforms called for in the agreement.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $2,100 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 37% (1998 est.)
Labor force 38.2 million (1998 est.)
Unemployment rate 25% (1995 est.)
Industries food processing, garments, shoes, machine building, mining, cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, coal, steel, paper
Agriculture - products paddy rice, corn, potatoes, rubber, soybeans, coffee, tea, bananas, sugar; poultry, pigs; fish
Exports - commodities crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles

Back to Top

 

Site Credits | Contact | Pledge
Purchase | Newsletter Signup


Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization | State of the Planet's Oceans | State of the Ocean's Animals
State of the Planet's Wildlife | The State of the Planet | Future Conditional | On the Brink | Hot Zones
Seas of Grass | Land of Plenty, Land of Want | Urban Explosion | Rivers of Destiny


PBS Privacy Policy    © 2014 Screenscope, Inc.     All rights reserved