Republic of Vietnam is located in Southeastern Asia. Its eastern and southern boundaries
are largely coastline. To the north is China; Laos and Cambodia are to the west.
Vietnam is approximately 331,688 km2 in area (not including the Hoang Sa and Truong
Sa islands), larger than Italy and almost the size of Germany. The topography consists
of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20%.
The result of
the 2009 Census found the population of Vietnam to be 85.8 million on April 1. The
Kinh are the dominant ethnic group numbering 73.6 million, accounting for 85.8%
of the population. Their population is concentrated in the alluvial deltas and coastal
plains of the country. There are 54 ethnic minority groups throughout the country.
Most ethnic minorities, such as the Muong, closely related to the Kinh, are found
mainly in the highlands covering two-thirds of the territory. The Hoa (ethnic Chinese)
and Khmer Krom are mainly lowlanders. The largest ethnic minority groups include
the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, and Nung.
Figure 1-1 Map of Vietnam
There are 63
provinces and centrally administered cities grouped into eight regions: Red River
Delta, Eastern North Vietnam, Western North Vietnam, Northern Central Vietnam, Southern
Central Vietnam, Southern Central Highlands, Eastern South Vietnam and Cuu Long
River Delta. Some 70% of the population resides in rural areas. The lowest administrative
division is the commune of which there are 9,121.
The 2009 Census
found the literacy rate for the population aged 15 and older to be 94.0%, up from
90.3% in 1999. This ranks Vietnam fourth among the Association of South East Nations
(ASEAN) (Figure 1-2, top). However the United Nations Development Programme calculates
that Vietnamese ages 25 and older have on average only 5.5 years of schooling, one
of the lowest rates in ASEAN (Figure 1‑3,
Vietnam has been an agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation. The
Vietnam War destroyed much of the country's economy. Upon taking power, the Government
created a planned economy for the nation. Collectivization of farms, factories and
economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government
programs. For a decade, united Vietnam's economy was plagued by inefficiency, underproduction
and restrictions on economic activities. It also suffered from the trade embargo
by the United States and most of Europe after the Vietnam War. Subsequently, trade
partnerships with the Communist bloc began to erode.
Figure 1-2 Literacy and years of adult schooling, ASEAN, 2010
(Source: UNDP, Human Development Report Indicators)
In 1986, the
Sixth Party Congress introduced significant economic reforms with free market economy
elements as part of a broad economic reform package called "đổi
mới" (Renovation), resulting
in a Socialist-oriented market economy. Private ownership was encouraged in industry,
commerce and agriculture.
In 2010, the nominal GDP reached US$ 104
billion, with per capita income of US$ 1,100.2 Vietnam achieved around
7.5% annual GDP growth from 1993 to 2002 and continued between 5.3-8.4% a year between
from 2003 to 2010, making it one of the world's fastest growing economies. Growth
was 6.8% in 2010. Foreign investment and domestic savings have grown dramatically.
Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries form a large and
fast-growing part of the national economy. Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the
oil business, but today it is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with
output of 400,000 barrels per day. Vietnam is one of Asia's most open economies:
two-way trade is around 160% of GDP, more than twice the ratio for China and over
four times India's.
As a result of
several land reform measures, Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts
with a one-third global share, the largest producer of black pepper accounting for
one-third of the world's market and second largest rice exporter in the world after
Thailand. Besides rice, key exports are coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products.
However, agriculture's share of economic output has declined, falling as a share
of GDP from 42% in 1989 to 20% in 2006, as production in other sectors of the economy
defined as a percent of the population living under $1 per day, has declined significantly
and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Much can be attributed
to equitable economic policy that aimed at improving living standards and preventing
the rise of inequality; this included egalitarian land distribution at the initial
stages of đổi mới, investing in poor remote areas and subsidizing
education and health fees for the poor.
Vietnam has applied
sequenced trade liberalization, using a two-track approach by opening some sectors
of the economy to international markets while protecting others. Vietnam was accepted
into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on November 7, 2006. Among steps taken in
the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam has updated its intellectual
property legislation to comply with the WTO’s Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual