Vietnam Introduction - 2023



Vietnam's early history comprises of periods of occupation by outside forces and eventual power consolidation under Vietnamese dynastic families. Ancient Vietnam was centered on the Red River Valley and was ruled by a succession of Han Chinese emperors until approximately the 10th century. The Ly Dynasty (11th-13th century) ruled the first independent Vietnamese state, which was known as Dai Viet, and established their capital at Thang Long (Hanoi). Under the Tran Dynasty (13th-15th century), Dai Viet forces led by one of Vietnam’s national heroes, TRAN Hang Dao, fought off Mongol invaders in 1279. Following a brief Chinese occupation in the early 1400s, the leader of Vietnamese resistance, LE Thai To, made himself emperor and established the Le Dynasty, which lasted until the late 18th century, although not without decades of political turmoil, civil war, and division. During this period, Dai Viet expanded southward to the Central Highlands and Mekong Delta, reaching the approximate boundaries of modern-day Vietnam by the 1750s. Dai Viet suffered additional civil war and division in the latter half of the 18th century, but was reunited and renamed Vietnam under Emperor NGUYEN Phuc Anh (aka Gia Long) in 1802.

The Nguyen Dynasty would be the last Vietnamese dynasty before the conquest by France, which began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. Vietnam became part of French Indochina in 1887. It 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. Fighting erupted between the two governments shortly afterwards with the North supporting communist rebels in the South and eventually committing thousands of combat troops, while the US provided large amounts of economic and military assistance, including combat forces, to the South. The US military presence reached a peak strength of over 500,000 troops in 1968. US forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973.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. The conflict, known as the Second Indochina War (1955-1975), devastated the country, spilled over into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos, and is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of up to 3 million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of its diplomatic isolation, its conservative leadership policies, and the persecution and mass exodus of individuals, many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants. 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. Since implementation, the economy has seen strong growth, particularly in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports, and foreign investment. Increased tourism has also become a key component of economic growth. Nevertheless, the Communist Party maintains tight political and social control of the country and Vietnam faces considerable challenges including rising income inequality, corruption, inadequate social welfare, and a poor human rights record.

Since withdrawing its military occupation forces from Cambodia in the late 1980s and the end of Soviet aid by 1991, Vietnam has practiced a non-aligned foreign policy that emphasizes friendly ties with all members of the international community. Relatedly, Vietnam adheres to a security doctrine called the "Four Nos" (no alliances, no siding with one country against another, no foreign bases, and no using force in international relations). Despite longstanding tensions with Beijing regarding its expansive claims that overlap with Hanoi's own claimed maritime boundaries in the South China Sea, Vietnam puts a priority on stable relations with China, given its proximity, size, and status as Vietnam's largest trading partner.


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NOTE: The information regarding Vietnam on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Vietnam 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Vietnam 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 22 Aug 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.