By Cò&Sẻconcobebe. Tuesday, November 6, 2007 4:48:32 PM
Viet Nam has a diverse topography. The country’s territory is made up of hills, mountains, deltas, coastal lines and continental shelf, reflecting the long history of geology and topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate and a strongly weathered environment. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast, which is clearly shown in the flows of major rivers.
Three quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. Regions with elevations less than 1,000 metres above sea level make up 85% of the territory. Mountainous regions over 2,000 metres above sea level only account for 1%. Mountain ranges and hills form a large bow facing the Eastern Sea with 1,400 km length from the Northwest to the Southeast. The highest mountain ranges are all located in the West and Northwest. Fan Xi Pan peak, with a height of 3,143 metres, is considered the roof of Indochina. Nearer to the Eastern Sea the mountain range is lower and ends with a coastal strip of lowland. From Hai Van pass to the South, the topography is less complex. A long limestone mountain range is replaced by large granite mountains followed by a vast plateau known as the Central Highlands behind Truong Son range to the East.
Only one fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas separated in many regions by mountains and hills. There are two major deltas with fertile arable land in Viet Nam, which are the Red River delta, locally known as the Northern delta of 16,700 sq km, and the Mekong River delta or the Southern delta of 40,000 sq km. Between these two major deltas is a chain of small deltas located along the Central coast from the Ma River basin in Thanh Hoa province to Phan Thiet with a total area of 15,000 sq km.
Viet Nam faces the Eastern Sea to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the South and Southwest. 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 and many islands and archipelagoes. There is a group of 3,000 islands belonging to Viet Nam in the Tonkin Gulf, including Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long, Cat Hai, Cat Ba, Bach Long Vi, the Paracel and Spratley Islands. To the East and Southeast, there are groups of islands including Con Son, Phu Quoc and Tho Chu.
Climate: Viet Nam is located in the tropical and temperate zone. Viet Nam’s climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity all year round. North Viet Nam, under the impact of the Chinese mainland, has more or less mainland climate. In addition, the Eastern Sea also affects Viet Nam’s tropical monsoon climate. The monsoon climate does not spread evenly all over the Vietnamese territory, where there are different regions with different climates. Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to highland, from North to South and from East to West. Given the strong influence of the Northwest monsoon, the average temperature in Viet Nam is lower than many Asian countries located at the same latitude.
There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam. Northern Viet Nam (from Mong Cai to Hai Van pass) has a tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and is influenced by the highly-humid Northwest monsoon from the Asian mainland and Southeast monsoon from Thailand and Laos and the Eastern Sea. Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van pass to Ha Tien) has arather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoons and is characterized by dry and rainy seasons and warm weather all year round.
In addition, given the topographical structure, there are some sub-climate regions in Viet Nam including regions with temperate climate, such as Sa Pa (Lao Cai province), Da Lat (Lam Dong province) and regions with mainland climate such as Lai Chau, Son La, all of which are ideal places for tourism.
The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and increases from the North to the South. In summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Ha Noi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In winter, temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions such as Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature is sometimes down to 0°C with snow.
Viet Nam’s climate is also characterized by a considerable amount of sunshine with the number of sunny hours varying between 1,400 and 3,000 per year. The average rainfall each year stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. Air humidity is 80%. Given the influence of monsoon and complex topography, Viet Nam is often prone to natural disasters such as storms, floods and droughts (each year, the country suffers from 6 to 10 tropical storms).
Average temperature in 12 months (degree Celsius )
Rivers: Viet Nam has a dense network of rivers and streams (2,360 rivers of more than 10 km in length), flowing in two main directions of Northwest and Southeast in a bow shape. The Red River and the Mekong River, the two largest rivers in Viet Nam, create two vast and fertile deltas. Each year, the river and stream network is supplied with 310 billion cubic metres of water. The water supply for rivers and streams depends on the flood and drought seasons. 70%-80% of the annual water volume is provided in the flood season.
Land, flora and fauna:
Vietnam’s soil is diverse with high fertility, thus providing very favourable conditions for the development of agriculture and forestry.
Viet Nam is also endowed with abundant and diverse flora, including 14,600 species of vegetation. Viet Nam’s flora is mainly covered by tropical forests with plants and trees adapted to much sunshine, high temperature and high humidity.
The fauna in Viet Nam is as abundant and diverse as the flora. There exists a variety of precious species listed in the World Red Book. At present, there are 275 species of mammals, 800 species of birds, 180 species of reptiles, 80 species of amphibians, 2,400 species of fish and 5,000 species of insects. Dense forests, limestone mountain forests, and multi-canopied forests provide habitats of different species of monkeys, languors, gibbons and wild cats. Vietnamese forests have typical monkey species such as white-headed languors, delacours languors and black languors. Likewise, there are valuable species of birds such as pheasants and pheinardia ocellata. The high mountains in the North have many furred wild animals like selenartos, small bears, big black squirrels, foxes, otters and civet cats.
Viet Nam preserves some precious national parks of high biodiversity, such as Hoang Lien Son National Park (in Fan Xi Pan mountain, Lao Cai Province), Cat Ba National Park (Quang Ninh Province), Cuc Phuong National Park (Ninh Binh Province), Pu Mat National Park (Quang Binh Province), Bach Ma National Park (Thua Thien Hue), Con Dao National Park (Ba Ria Vung Tau), and Cat Tien National Park (Dong Nai Province), etc. While remaining eco-tourism attractions, these national parks are ideal places for Vietnamese and foreign scientists to conduct research.
HISTORY IN BRIEF
Aspects of National development
Viet Nam is located in a region considered a cradle of mankind, one of the earliest agricultural centres practicing wet rice farming, where the stone and metallurgical revolutions took place. On the basis of socio-economic development in the time of the Dong Son culture and given the struggle with nature and against aggression, Van Lang State, the first State in Viet Nam was established in the 7th century B.C. Thanks to their hard work and creativeness, Van Lang (and then Au Lac) residents created a civilization that influenced the entire Southeast Asian region. Together with the formation of the first State in Viet Nam’s history was the evolution of a diverse economy and advanced culture known as the Red River civilization (or Dong Son civilization) symbolized by Dong Son bronze drum, a heritage reflecting the quintessence of the lifestyle, traditions and culture of the ancient Vietnamese.
In the cause of national building, the Vietnamese also had to cope with the foreign aggression. During 12 centuries from the resistance against the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century B.C until late 20th century, the Vietnamese had to endure hundreds of wars and uprisings against foreign aggression. The tactic, as stated in the Proclamation of Victory over the Wu “Binh Ngo Dai Cao,”... Relying on surprises, we placed our weak forces before much stronger ones; In skillful ambushes, our few troops destroyed large units,” has become the rule of thumb for the wars to safeguard the Fatherland of the Vietnamese.
Since the 2nd century B.C, Viet Nam had been dominated by different Chinese dynasties for more than a thousand years. During this period, the existence of the nation had been challenged which helped give rise to the spirit of indomitability and staunchness of the Vietnamese in the struggle to maintain the nation’s vitality, preserve and build on the quintessence of its culture and the determination to gain national independence.
Despite many vicissitudes, from Van Lang, Au Lac to Van Xuan, Dai Co Viet and Dai Viet, the Vietnamese nation continued to develop in all fields, reflecting its strong vitality and unceasing evolution.
A typical feature of Vietnamese culture is the village culture. It is Vietnamese villages that have nurtured and fostered the quintessence of the traditional culture, the spirit of unity among the Vietnamese in the struggle against the domination of the North and the policy of assimilation of Northern dynasties to gain national independence, maintaining the nation’s traditions and cultures.
The Bach Dang victory in 938 opened up a new era in Viet Nam’s history – the era of development of an independent feudal state, national construction and defense. As a result, the centralized-administration state was established under the Ngo (938-965), Dinh (969-979) and earlier Le (980 - 1009) dynasties.
Then, Viet Nam entered the period of renaissance and development under the Ly (1009-1226), Tran (1226-1400), Ho (1400-1407) and Le So (1428-1527) dynasties. Dai Viet, the name of the country under the Ly-Tran-Le So dynasties, was known as a prosperous country in Asia. This period marked the golden age of Viet Nam’s history. Economically, this period saw the development of agriculture, irrigation (with the construction of the Red River dike) and the formation of traditional handicrafts. In terms of religion, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism were considered the three co-existing official religions exerting great influence on people’s life. One important achievement in the Ly-Tran dynasties was the introduction of Nom scripts, Viet Nam’s own writing system based on the reform of Chinese Han scripts. In addition, this period also marked the splendid development of education, science, culture, art, history and law etc (such as the establishment of Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam– the first university of Viet Nam, the introduction of Hong Duc Code and Complete History of Dai Viet etc). This period was called the Civilized Age of Dai Viet. Thang Long (the old name of Ha Noi capital) was officially recognized as the imperial city of Dai Viet according to the Proclamation on the transfer of the capital to Hanoi in 1010 by Ly Thai To.
From the 16th century, the backwardness and weakness of the feudal regime under Confucius ideology were revealed, feudalism fell into a decline. While many nation states in Europe were moving to capitalism, Dai Viet was bogged down in internal wars and divisions, which heavily impeded the country’s evolution despite certain developments in the economy and culture, the establishment of towns and ports and the growth of trade and exchanges between the 16th and 18th century.
In the 19th century, Western capitalist countries entered the period of imperialism and colonialism. Through missionaries and trade, the French gradually dominated Viet Nam. For the first time in history, the Vietnamese nation had to cope with the invasion of a Western country. In that context, some Vietnamese intellectuals were aware of the need to carry out reforms in an effort to bring the country out of stagnation and save national independence. Many plans of reform were proposed, yet rejected by the Nguyen dynasty. Subsequently, the country was driven into backwardness and deadlock. Viet Nam became a semi-feudal colony for nearly 100 years from 1858 to 1945.
After setting up the colonist rule in Viet Nam, the French colonialists quickly began large-scale exploitation in the country. Capitalist production relations infiltrated in Viet Nam, stimulating the formation and evolution of internal capitalist factors, and as a result, narrowing and breaking up the existing feudal production relations. Viet Nam’s economy thus moved from a backward and self-sufficient economy to a colonized one totally controlled by the French capitalists. A new social structure evolved along the line of capitalism, and subsequently the division between landlords and farmers was deepened while new forces, such as the working class, the bourgeoisies and petit bourgeoisies gradually came into being. Eventually, the struggle against the French colonialists was initiated by two forces i.e. the bourgeoisies (represented by Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang and Yen Bai revolt in early 1930) and the proletarians led by the Communist Party of Viet Nam.
The formation of the Communist Party of Viet Nam marked the prevailing strength of the working class and revolutionary movements led by the proletarians. In August 1945, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Nguyen Ai Quoc (later known as President Ho Chi Minh), the Vietnamese people and the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation (now the People’s Army) successfully launched a general uprising to seize power. With the Proclamation of Independence on 2nd September 1945, the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam came into being.
The globe-shaking victory of Dien Bien Phu (May 1954) and the Geneva Accord (July 1954) put an end to the war of resistance against the French colonialists, opening up a new era of independence and freedom for the Vietnamese nation in which North Viet Nam embarked upon the transitional period towards socialism. According to the Geneva Agreement, South Viet Nam was under the temporary control of the French and the Americans in the run-up to the general elections. Nevertheless, the general elections could never be held due to the interference of the United States. The Republic of South Viet Nam headed by Ngo Dinh Diem was established by the United States. Viet Nam continued to be divided for more than 20 years.
Between 1954 and 1975, Viet Nam had to fight another war for national liberation and unification. With untold hardships, the war came to a successful end following the victory of the historic Ho Chi Minh Operation in 1975. Since then, the unified Viet Nam has ushered into a new era of peace, unification and national construction.
However, in the first ten years of this period, many socio-economic targets were not achieved due to both internal and external reasons. Viet Nam’s economy fell into crisis and stagnation and people’s lives were difficult.
At the 7th Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, the Doi Moi (reform) policy was launched with the focus on economic reform. This marked an important milestone in the new stage of development of the Vietnamese nation. The Doi Moi policy was consistently reaffirmed throughout the later Party Congresses. With the implementation of four five-year socio-economic development plans, Viet Nam, from a food importing country, has become the second largest rice exporter in the world. Viet Nam also exports a lot of other commodities with well-known brands. The economy attained high growth rate in the late 20th century and the early years of the 21st century, people’s lives have been significantly improved; social policy received greater attention, the legal system has become increasingly complete and social management based on the rule of law put into place.
Looking back on the formation and development of the Vietnamese nation, we can see that patriotism, self-reliance, tradition of unity and the willpower to fight for the righteous cause of the nation are the most important features and the moral standards of the Vietnamese. The tradition of industriousness, creativeness and patience originated from the life full of hardship of the Vietnamese people. The need to stand united to cope with difficulties and challenges has created close bonds between the people and the nature and among the people in the family and in the community in the family-village-nation relations. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have been characterized by the traditions of mutual assistance, ethic-based lifestyle, benevolence, one-mindedness and sharing of hardships in needy times, flexible ways of behaviour, the tradition of eagerness to learn, respect for righteousness and tolerance. These are the powerful and endless endogenous strengths for the Vietnamese nation to embark on the cause of national construction towards the goals of strong country, prosperous people, just, democratic and advanced society.
Vietnam has an age-long and special culture that is closely attached to the history of the formation and development of the nation.
Historians have shared a common view that Vietnam has got a fairly large cultural community that was formed around the first half of the first millenium before Christ and flourished in the middle of this millenium. That was Dong Son cultural community. This culture attained a degree of development higher than that of others at that time in the region and had its own characteristics but still bore the features of Southeast Asian culture because of the common South Asian racial root (Southern Mongoloid) and the water rice culture. Different development routes of local cultures in various areas (in the deltas of Hong (Red) river, Ma (Horse) river, Ca river and so on...) joined together to form Dong Son culture. This was also the period of the very "embryonic" state of Vietnam in the form of inter- and super-village community, which come into being and existed in order to resist invaders and to build and maintain dykes for rice cultivation. From this pattern of "embryo" state, primitive tribes grew into nations.
The period of Van Lang-Au Lac culture (lasting for nearly 3,000 years up to the end of the first millenium before Christ) in the early Bronze Age with 18 Hung kings was regarded as the first apogee in the history of the Vietnamese culture, which was typified by the Dong Son bronze drum and stable technique of cultivating water rice.
The post-Chinese domination period was characterized by the two parallel trends of Han assimilation and anti-Han assimilation. The Dai Viet (Great Vietnam) period was the second apogee of the Vietnamese culture. Throughout the time of independent feudal states, milestoned by the Ly-Tran and Le dynasties, the Vietnamese culture underwent comprehensive restoration and quick boom, under the tremendous influence of Buddhism and Taoism.
After the chaotic Le-Mac and Trinh-Nguyen period, when the country was separated, and since the Tay Son dynasty reunited the country and territory, the Nguyen dynasty tried to restore Confucian culture. They, however, failed because Confucianism had already been fading and the Western culture started to penetrate into the country. The period up to the end of French domination was marked by a cultural mix brought about by two opposite trends - i.e. of Europeanization and anti-Europeanization; that presents, the fight between patriotic culture and colonialist culture.
The period of modern Vietnamese culture has gradually taken shape since the 30s and 40s of this century under the banner of patriotism and Marxism-Leninism. Vietnamese culture, with the increasingly intensive integration into the world modern civilization and the preservation and enhancement of the national identity, promises to reach a new historical peak.
It can be said that there were three layers of culture overlapping each other during the history of Vietnam: local culture, the culture that mixed with those of China and other countries in the region, and the culture that interacted with Western culture. The most prominent feature of the Vietnamese culture is that it was not assimilated by foreign cultures thanks to the strong local cultural foundations. On the contrary, it was able to utilize and localize those from abroad to enrich the national culture.
The Vietnamese national culture emerged from a concrete living environment: a tropical country with many rivers and the confluence of great cultures. The natural conditions (temperature, humidity, monsoon, water-flows, water-rice agriculture ...) exert a remarkable impact on the material and spiritual life of the nation, the characteristics and psychology of the Vietnamese. However, social and historical conditions exert an extremely great influence on culture and national psychology. Thus, there are still cultural differences between Vietnam and other water-rice cultures like Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, India and so on. Though sharing the same Southeast Asian cultural origin, the Vietnamese culture was transformed and bore East Asian cultural characteristics because of the long domination of the Chinese Han dynasty and the imposition of its culture on Vietnam.
The Vietnamese nation was formed early in the history and often had to carry out wars of resistance against foreign invaders, which created a prominent cultural feature: a patriotism that infiltrated and encompassed every aspect of life. Community factors with primitive origin were amalgamated early in the history and became the foundations for the development of patriotism and national consciousness. Continual wars were the major cause of the vicissitudes of the Vietnamese social development history. All the social and economic structures were often dismantled by wars, so the social development could hardly reach its peak. Also because of the destruction of wars, Vietnam has virtually no gigantic cultural and artistic construction, or if any, they could not have been preserved intact.
Vietnam has 54 ethnicities living across the country. Each ethnicity has its own cultural colour, thus, the Vietnamese culture is a diversified unification. Apart from the typical Viet-Muong culture, there are other cultural groups like Tay-Nung, Thai, Cham, Hao-Ngai, Mon-Khmer, HMong-Dao, and especially Tay Nguyen groups that still maintain fairly diverse and comprehensive traditions of a purely agricultural society that is closely attached to forests and mountains.
Philosophy and ideologies
The Vietnamese have ways of living and ideologies suitable to its nation.
At the start, with primitive and rudimentary cognition of materialism and dialectics, Vietnamese thought was mixed with beliefs. However, originating from agricultural culture that differs from nomadic culture by the appreciation of stillness over movement and closely related to natural phenomena, the Vietnamese philosophy paid special attention to relations that was typified by doctrine of yin and yang and the five basic elements (not exactly the same as the Chinese doctrine) and manifested by the moderate lifestyle tending towards harmony.
Afterwards, the influence of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, that were conciliated and Vietnamized, contributed to the development of the Vietnamese society and culture. Particularly, Zen-Buddhists in the Tran dynasty came up with the interpretation of most philosophical subjects that was set forth by Buddhism (Heart- Buddha, being or not being, life and death) in an original and distinguished way. Although Confucianism flourished afterward, many famous Vietnamese confucianists did not stick blindly to Confucianism and Mencianism, but rather adopted the spirit of Buddhism and Taoism to make their ideology more open, closer to the people and more harmonious with the nature.
Under autocratic dynasties, deep feudal ideologies were imposed on farmers and bound women, however, village democracy and primitive community still existed on the basis of self-supplied agriculture. Farmers thoughts that penetrated deeply into the Vietnamese agricultural society had many positive and typical features of the traditional Vietnamese. Farmers were the core of wars of resistance and uprisings against foreign invaders. Many talented generals, topped by Quang Trung Nguyen Hue - the hero of the common people in the 18th century, came from farmers.
The policy that facilitated agriculture and restrained trade, prevailing in the Nguyen dynasty, blocked the development of city-dweller's consciousness. In the past, the Vietnamese ranked agriculture and education as their first and second priorities of occupations, while having a low opinion of business people. Other trades were regarded as minor ones, including cultural activities.
In the 19th century when Vietnamese feudalism faded and Chinese civilization declined, Western culture started to penetrate our countries, following the colonialists guns. The working class formed at the start of the 20th century as a result of the colonial exploitation programs. Marxism-Leninism was introduced in Vietnam in the '20s and '30s, combining with patriotism to become a momentum of historical changes, which led the country up to independence, democracy and socialism. The person representing this era was Ho Chi Minh, who was recognized by the international community and UNESCO as Vietnamese hero of national liberation and great man of culture.
The agricultural society is characterized by the village community with many prolonged primitive vestiges that have formed the specific characteristics of the Vietnamese. Those were the thoughts of dualism, a concrete way of thinking that was tilted to emotional experiences rather than rationalism and preferred images to concepts. However, it was also a flexible, adaptable, and conciliatory way of thinking. This was a way of living that highly valued emotional ties and attachment to relatives and the community (because "there would be no home in a lost country" and "the whole village rather than a sole roof would be engulfed by flood"). This was a way of behaving toward conciliatory, equilibrium and relations-based settlement of conflicts and disputes. This way of living could cope accordingly with the situation, which many times in the history was successful in using suppleness to prevail over firmness and weakness to resist strength.
On the scale of spiritual values, the Vietnamese highly appreciate "Benevolence" and closely combined it with "Righteousness" and "Virtues"; no benevolence and righteousness are tantamount to no virtues. Nguyen Trai once described the Vietnamese concept of Benevolence and Righteousness as the opposition to fierce violence, which was enhanced to the foundation for the policy of ruling as well as saving the country. The Vietnamese understood that Loyalty meant being loyal to the nation, which was higher than the loyalty to the ruler, and respected Piety without being so bound with the framework of family. Happiness was also among the top social values; people often make compliments on the happiness of a family rather than wealth and social position.
Customs and practices
The Vietnamese eating habit tends towards vegetarianism; rice and vegetables are the main course of the meal that may be diversified by aquatic products. Boiling is a special way of cooking of the Vietnamese people. Vietnamese people like a synthetic food processing style that involves many materials and ingredients. Today, although meat and fish are the main dishes of the meal, the Vietnamese do not forget pickled egg-plant.
The Vietnamese preferred to wear light, thin, well-ventilated kind of clothing that originated from plants and was suitable for such a tropical country as Vietnam, with grey, indigo and black colours. Mens clothing changed from loin-cloth with bare upper half of the body to short jackets and Vietnamese traditional trousers (re-designed from Chinese trousers). In the past, women often wore brassieres, skirts and four-piece long dresses that were later modified to the modern ao dai. In general, Vietnamese women adorned themselves subtly and secretively in a society where "virtue is more important than appearance". Old/time clothing also paid attention to kerchiefs, hats and belts.
The old-style Vietnamese house was related to the watery environment (stilted house with curved roof). Then came thatch-roofed house with clay walls, which were built mostly from wood and bamboo. This kind of house did not stand too high to avoid high winds and storms, and more importantly, the house should face to the South direction to be free from hot and cold weathers. The interior of the house was also not so spacious to leave room for the courtyard, pond, and garden. Also, the Vietnamese thought that "spacious home was no better than sufficient food". Sizeable ancient architectures were often built shrouded and in harmony with natural environment.
The traditional means of transport is waterways. Ship of all types together with the river and the wharf, are familiar in the Vietnamese geological and humanitarian images.
Vietnamese customs of weddings, funerals, holidays and rituals all are attached to village community. Marriages not only reflecte the lovers desire but also had to meet the interests of the family lines, the village; thus, the choice for future bride or bridegroom was done very carefully, which had to go through many formalities from the plighting ceremony, the official proposal to the brides family, the wedding to the marriage tie, the ritual of sharing bridal cup of wine, the newly-weds first visit to the brides family. Besides, the bride had to pay a fine in order for her to be accepted as a new member of the village. Funeral service is also proceeded very thoroughly to express the grief and see off the relative into the other world. The family of the deceased does not have to take care of the service by themselves, they are also given a helping hand by the neighbors.
Vietnam is the country of festivities which take place all year round, especially in spring when there is little farming work. The major festivities are Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year ), Mid-First month , Han thuc (cold food) , Doan Ngo (double five) , Mid-Seventh month , Mid-Autumn Festival, Ong tao (the god of the kitchen) etc... Each region has its own ritual holidays, the most important of which are agricultural rituals (such as the rituals of praying for rain, getting down to the rice field, and new rice...) and tradess rituals (like the rituals of copper casting, forging, making fire crackers, and boat racing...). Besides, there are also rituals dedicating to national heroes and religious and cultural services (e.g, Buddhist rituals). Ritual holidays are usually divided into two parts: the service is carried out for blesses and thanksgivings, the holiday is the cultural activities of the community consisting of many folk games and contests.
Overview: Viet Nam embarked on the Doi Moi (reform) policy in 1986. Since then, the country has seen dramatic changes, first and foremost in the economic thinking. The centrally-planned economy was replaced by the socialist-oriented market economy; national industrialization and modernization were initiated together with the policy of multilateralization and diversification of external economic relations, openness and international integration. The Doi Moi process helped Vietnam rapidly escape hunger and poverty and lay the initial foundation for an industrialized economy, as well as maintaining a high growth rate and a relatively equal society.
The 1987 Foreign Investment Law was the first legal document that helped form the legal framework for the Vietnamese market economy. In 1991, the Private Enterprise Law and Corporate Law were introduced. The amended 1992 Constitution affirmed the existence and development of a multi-sector economy under a market mechanism, including the foreign-invested sector. This was followed by the promulgation of a number of laws essential for the formation of the market economy, including Land Law, Tax Law, Bankruptcy Law, Environment Law, and Labour Code etc. Hundreds of ordinances and decrees were enacted by the Government to guide the implementation of these laws, which help ensure national socio-economic development.
Along with the law-making process, market economy institutions have also been established. It is Government policy to eliminate the central planning mechanism, emphasize monetary - market relations, focus on economic management measures and establish an array of financial institutions, banks and basic markets for money, labour, goods and land, etc. The administrative reform was promoted so as to improve economic competitiveness and to help create a more favourable business environment and mobilize all resources for economic growth. The political will of the Vietnamese Government is also reflected in the strategy for administrative reform in 2001-2010, which emphasizes the simplification of administrative procedures, amendment of laws and improvement of economic management. These changes will help establish a dynamic institution to meet the development requirements of the country in the new context.
Overall, tremendous economic reforms taking place over nearly two decades of Doi Moi have yielded encouraging results. Vietnam has created an ever more competitive and dynamic economic environment. The multi-sector economy has been encouraged to develop, thus mobilizing effectively all social resources for economic growth. External economic relations have been expanded and the flow of foreign direct investment increased. Export of goods and labour, tourism industry and remittances from overseas Vietnamese have been strongly promoted to generate increasing foreign earnings for Vietnam.
During 20 years of Doi Moi, GDP of Vietnam saw a sustained growth, which stood at 8.2% in 1991-1995 as compared to 3.9% in 1986-1990. This rate dropped to 7.5% in 1996-2000 due to the impacts of the Asian financial crisis. Since 2001, GDP growth recovered on a year-on-year basis, reaching 6.9%, 7%, 7.3% and 7.7% for 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively. The figure for 2005 was 8.4%. Vietnam has now succeeded in gradually replacing the centrally-planned economy, bureaucracy and a subsidy mechanism by a socialist-oriented market economy with growing dynamism. The GDP growth rate of 7 to 8% has been sustained, along with stronger industrialization and expanded integration with the world and regional economy. Vietnam has enjoyed a sharp rise in trade volume, especially exports, and an increase of foreign investment and income.
The proportion of the industry and construction rose from 38.13% in 2001 to 41.03% in 2005; the service from 36.63% up to 38.08%; and only the agriculture, forestry and fishery from 23.24% to respectively.
As Vietnam’s GDP continuously increases, the economic structure has also witnessed notable changes. From 1990 to 2005, the contribution of agriculture sector dropped from 38.7% to 20.89% , whilst that of the industry and construction was up from 22.7% to 41.03% . The service sector stayed relatively constant, 38.6% in 1990 and 38.08% in 2005. In each sector, the structure has also positively shifted. The agriculture sector has seen a decline in the role of agriculture and forestry from 84.4% to 77.7% during the period 1990-2003, while fishery gained a higher share. In the industrial sector, the proportion of the processing industry was up from 12.3% in 1990 to 20.8% in 2003 with improved product quality. In the service sector, the share of high-quality services such as finance, banking, insurance and tourism, etc. is increasing rapidly.
The economy is well on the road to a multi-sector model operating according to market mechanism and state regulations. This means that the private sector enjoys freedom to develop in all areas not specifically forbidden by law. The legal framework has been revised to facilitate gradual shift from the former centrally-planned economy to a market one, which unleashes production capacity, mobilizing resources effectively and creating a momentum for economic growth and development.
Upon the amendment of the Enterprise Law in 2000, private businesses have enjoyed strong encouragement for development. This Law institutionalized the freedom of all individuals to do business in areas not prohibited by law. It also removed administrative obstacles that hampered enterprises such as complex licensing procedures or fees, etc. In the 2000-2004 period, 73,000 private enterprises were registered, up by 3.75 times against the period 1991-1999. By 2004, the total number of private enterprises operating under the Enterprise Law amounted to 150,000 with the total capital of VND 182 billion. From 1991 to 2003, the private sector’s share in GDP was up from 3.1% to 4.1%; other non-state sectors increased from 4.4% to 4.5%; and foreign-invested sector from 6.4% to 14%; and the household sector was down from 35.9% to 31.2%.
With a view to raising the productivity of the state-owned sector, policies were formulated with concrete measures to adjust and reorganize SOEs. The management of SOEs' finance and state equity in SOEs was strengthened and the process of SOEs’ equitization well monitored. As the multi-sector economy has further developed, the proportion of SOEs in GDP decreased from 40.1% in 1991 to 38.3% in 2003. The collective sector dropped from 10.2% to 7.9% during the same period. In 2002 and 2003, 1,655 SOEs were listed for reorganization and reform. The figure for 2004 and 2005 were 882 and 413 respectively.
Vietnam has succeeded in translating economic achievements into social progress. Benefits of the Doi Moi process, for instance, are delivered to the majority of the population on a relatively equal basis. Economic growth is combined with the improvement of life quality and development of health care and education. The Human Development Index of Vietnam increased from 0.583 in 1994 with a rank of 120/174 to 108/177 in 2005. The average life expectancy was raised from around 50 in the 1960s to 70.5 at present. The poor household ratio dropped from 70% in 1980 to below 7% in 2005s.
Foreign trade and international economic integration: The policy of openness and industrialization has opened up new opportunities for Vietnam to make full use of its inherent comparative advantages, i.e. vast natural resources, and an abundant and inexpensive workforce. These advantages are being exploited to raise Vietnam’s exports, which generate an increasing flow of foreign income for economic growth and industrialization. Over the years of the Doi Moi process, Vietnam's export growth has averaged 20%. From around US$ half a million before the introduction of the Doi Moi policy, the total export volume of Vietnam reached US$ 26 billion in 2004 and US$32.23 billion in 2005. This foreign earning is a significant resource for the national industrialization and modernization.
The structure of exports has also seen a positive change. During the 1991-1995 period, major exports of Vietnam were crude oil, fishery products, rice, textiles, coffee, forestry products, rubber, peanut and cashew nuts. By 2005, apart from crude oil, textiles, rice and coffee, Vietnam was mainly exporting namely crude oil, garment and textile, footwear, seafood, woodwork, electronics appliances, and rice. This structure reflects the rise in processing and manufactured products and decline in unprocessed products, including agricultural, fishery, forestry products and minerals. Despite this shift, unprocessed export products still make up a large proportion. Therefore, greater efforts are needed to rapidly raise the proportion of industrial exports.
The policy of "multilateralization and diversification" of international relations has helped Vietnam integrate more deeply into the world and regional economy. Before 1990, Vietnam had trade relations with only 40 partners. Now with the foreign policy of openness, which is to befriend and cooperate with all countries in the world on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 167 countries, and has signed multilateral and bilateral trade agreements with over 80 nations. The country has been granted MFN status by more than 70 countries and territories, including countries and regions with large capital resources, high technologies and vast markets, such as the United States, Japan, the EU and newly industrialized countries in East Asia.
Following the introduction of Doi Moi, Vietnam signed an economic and trade cooperation agreement with the EU in 1992, joined ASEAN in 1995, AFTA in 1996 and APEC in 1998. Vietnam also signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement with the United States in 2000. Vietnam started negotiations for WTO accession in 1995 and is expected to become a member of this organization by the end of 2006.
Foreign Direct Investment: In December 1987, the Foreign Direct Investment Law of Vietnam was introduced to help form the basic legal framework for foreign investment activities in Vietnam. To better respond to business requirements and feedback from foreign investors, this Law was amended and supplemented several times, notably in 1996 and 2002, which created a more open and attractive environment to draw foreign investors into crucial industries such as export-oriented processing and manufacturing, and key economic zones of the country.
In recent years and especially in 2005, the Vietnamese Government made a number of adjustments and conducted reforms to create more incentives for foreign investors. They are now supported in tackling business obstacles. The Law on Personal Income Tax has been amended in favour of the tax payers. The one-stop-shop policy has been promoted, telecommunication tariffs lowered to gain competitiveness over other countries in the region. Infrastructure has been improved. More areas, including those previously closed to foreign investors, such as telecommunication, insurance and supermarkets, etc. are now open to investment. As such, Vietnam has become an attractive venue for foreign investment.
The aforesaid measures were conducive to recovery and rapid increase of the FDI inflows in 2005. The sharp rise of FDI is also attributed to political, economic and security stability, high economic growth rate, continuation of economic reform in accordance with market economy principles, improved living standards leading to higher domestic demand, greater international integration and the emergence in the international market of Vietnamese trademarks and Vietnam’s growing reputation.
Over the past years, Vietnam has drawn increasing inflows of FDI. From a negligible figure of 1986, FDI into Vietnam reached US$ 3.2 billion in 1997. Due to the negative impacts of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the FDI flow then saw a drop during 1998-2000 period, with only US$ 1.58 billion in 1999. In the past few years, Vietnam has enjoyed a recovery of FDI, from US$ 2.6 billion in 2001 to US$ 4.1 billion in 2004. FDI not only generates profits for foreign investors but also represents a significant capital source which comes along with technology transfer and advanced managerial skills. FDI helps better tap national potential, creates tens of thousands of jobs and raises professional skills for Vietnamese workers.
Viet Nam is a multi-ethnic country with 54 ethnic groups coexisting peacefully, among which the Kinh people account for 86% of the population. Among ethnic minorities, the most populous are Tay, Thai, Muong, Hoa, Khmer, and Nung with a population of around 1 million each, while the least populous are Brau and Odu with several hundred people each. The Kinh people mainly inhabit in the low land and deltas. The majority of the other 53 ethnic groups are scattered over mountainous areas and the midland spreading from the North to the South. Most ethnic groups coexist in the same regions, particularly the ethnic minorities in Northern and Central Northern region.
The ethnic minorities have uneven development levels. In the Northern midland and mountainous regions, ethnic groups such as Muong, Thai, Tay, and Nung engage in paddy farming techniques. They also grow upland rice and raise cattle and poultry. Some go hunting, fishing and collecting while others make sophisticated traditional handicrafts. Ethnic minorities living in the South are more separated. Except for the Cham, Chinese and Khmer people living in the Central coast and Southern Viet Nam which have high development level, most ethnic minorities living in the Central Highlands reside in clusters of hamlets and subsist mainly on nature. All ethnic groups have their own diverse and unique cultures. Beliefs and religions of Vietnamese ethnic groups are also disparate.
Copyright by Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs