Vietnam, the world’s 14 most populous country, is a communist one party state. Vietnam is officially known in English as the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, sometimes abbreviated as SRV. The full name in Vietnamese is Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam. Vietnam is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest and the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia across the South China Sea to the east and southeast. Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976, with Ho Chi Minh City as a historical city as well.
Viet Nam is located on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It has a long land border of 4,550 km, bordering China to the North, Laos, and Cambodia to the West, and Eastern Sea (South China Sea) of Pacific Ocean to the East. The country’s diverse topography consists of hills, mountains, deltas, coastline and continental shelf, reflecting topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate, and strong weather exposure. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast. Three-quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. One-fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas. The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. Viet Nam’s territorial waters in the Eastern Sea extend to the East and Southeast, including the continental shelf, islands, and archipelagoes.
Viet Nam is located in the tropical zone. Its climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity all year round. The Northern part has more or less mainland climate.
Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to the highland, from North to South and from East to West.
There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam: (1) Northern Viet Nam (from Hai Van Pass northwards) has a highly humid tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) and is influenced by the Northeast and Southeast monsoon. (2) Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van Pass southwards) has a rather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoon and is characterized by dry and rainy seasons and warm weather all year round. The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and gradually increases from the North to the South. In the summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Hanoi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In the winter, the temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions like Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature sometimes reaches 0°C with snow. The annual average rainfall stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. Air humidity is around 80%. Viet Nam is prone to natural disasters like typhoons, floods, and droughts.
With 85,789,573 people (as of 1 April 2009), Viet Nam ranks 13th among the most populous countries in the world. 30% live in urban areas and 70% in rural areas. People aged 15 to 60 account for 60% of the country’s population. The total workforce in all economic sectors is around 45 million people (2008 figure). Ho Chi Minh City (7.1 million people) and Ha Noi (6.44 million people) are the most populous cities. Average life expectancy is 73.
Viet Nam is a multi-ethnic country with 54 ethnic groups coexisting peacefully, among which Kinh people account for 86% of the population. The majority of the other 53 ethnic groups are scattered over mountainous areas and the midland, particularly ones in Northern and Northern Central region. Ethnic minorities have uneven development levels. All ethnic groups have their own unique cultures. Their beliefs and religions are also diverse.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Foreign language learning, particularly English, is popular among young people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and other cities. Tourist guides can speak English, French, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.
Vietnam has been for much of its history a predominantly agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation. There is also an industry for bauxite mining in Vietnam, an important material for the production of aluminum. The collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital is a part of this central planning, with millions of people working in government programs.
Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth between 1990 and 1997, and the economy continued to grow at an annual rate of around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making Vietnam one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Growth remained strong even in the face of the late-2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010.
Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Though Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is currently the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, with a total 2011 output of 318,000 barrels per day. In 2010, Vietnam was ranked as the 8th largest crude petroleum producers in the Asia and Pacific region.