Vietnam (also written as Viet Nam, Vietnamese: Việt Nam, [vîət nāːm] (listen)) officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam[9] (Vietnamese: Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is a country in mainland Southeast Asia. Vietnam shares land borders with Laos, China, Cambodia and maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through the South China Sea.[n 5] Its capital city is Hanoi and its most populous city is Ho Chi Minh City.

Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa
Việt Nam
Motto: Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc
"Independence – Liberty – Happiness"
Anthem: Tiến Quân Ca
(English: "Army March")
Location of Vietnam (green)

in ASEAN (dark grey)   [Legend]

21°2′N 105°51′E
Largest cityHo Chi Minh City
10°48′N 106°39′E
National languageVietnamese[n 1]
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
Nguyễn Phú Trọng[n 3]
Đặng Thị Ngọc Thịnh
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Trương Hòa Bình
Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân
Nguyễn Hòa Bình
LegislatureNational Assembly
c. 7th century BC
1 June 1802
6 June 1884
2 September 1945
21 July 1954
 Socialist Republic
2 July 1976
28 November 2013[n 4]
331,699 km2 (128,070 sq mi) (66th)
 Water (%)
 2020 census
97,793,803 (16th)
295.0/km2 (764.0/sq mi) (29th)
GDP (PPP)2020 estimate
$1,047.318 billion[6] (23rd)
 Per capita
$10,755[6] (106th)
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
$340.602 billion[6] (35th)
 Per capita
$3,498[6] (115th)
Gini (2020) 33.4[7]
HDI (2020) 0.708[8]
high · 117th
Currencyđồng (₫) (VND)
Time zoneUTC+07:00 (Vietnam Standard Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Mains electricity220 V – 50 Hz
Driving sideright
Calling code+84
ISO 3166 codeVN

A state which was centered on the Red River valley and nearby coastal areas was annexed by the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC which subsequently made it a division of Imperial North for over a millennium. A monarchy emerged in the 10th century AD. This paved the way for successive imperial dynasties until the Indochina Peninsula was colonised by the French in the 19th century. North Vietnam was born upon the Proclamation of Independence from France in 1945 and following the First Indochina War, two rival states were established. Conflicts intensified in the Vietnam War which ended with North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

After North and South Vietnam were unified under a unitary socialist government in 1976, the country became more economically and politically isolated until 1986 when the Communist Party initiated a series of economic and political reforms that facilitated Vietnamese integration into world politics and the global economy. As a result of the reforms, Vietnam has undergone a higher GDP growth rate. The state faces issues including corruption, pollution, poverty, inadequate social welfare and a scrutinized human rights record including increasing persecution of religious groups and human rights advocates and intensifying restrictions on civil liberties.[11] By 2010, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 178 countries. It is a member of such international organisations as the UN, ASEAN, APEC and WTO.


The name Việt Nam (Vietnamese pronunciation: [viə̀t naːm], chữ Hán: 越南) is a variation of Nam Việt (南越; literally "Southern Việt"), a name that can be traced back to the Triệu dynasty of the 2nd century BC.[12] The word Việt originated as a shortened form of Bách Việt (百越), the name of a group of people then living in southern China and Vietnam.[13] The form Việt Nam (越南) is first recorded in the 16th-century oracular poem Sấm Trạng Trình. The name has also been found on 12 steles carved in the 16th and 17th centuries including one at Bao Lam Pagoda in Hải Phòng that dates to 1558.[14] In 1802, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (who later became Emperor Gia Long) established the Nguyễn dynasty. In the second year of his rule, he asked the Jiaqing Emperor of the Qing dynasty to confer on him the title 'King of Nam Việt / Nanyue' (南越 in Chinese character) after seizing power in Annam. The Emperor refused since the name was related to Zhao Tuo's Nanyue which included the regions of Guangxi and Guangdong in southern China. The Qing Emperor therefore decided to call the area "Việt Nam" instead.[n 6][16] Between 1804 and 1813, the name Vietnam was used officially by Emperor Gia Long.[n 6] It was revived in the 20th century in Phan Bội Châu's History of the Loss of Vietnam.[17] In 1945, the imperial government in Huế adopted Việt Nam.[18]


Clockwise from top: Hạ Long Bay, Yến River and Bản-Giốc Waterfalls

Vietnam is located on the Indochinese Peninsula between the latitudes and 24°N and the longitudes 102° and 110°E. It covers a total area of approximately 331,212 km2 (127,882 sq mi).[n 7] The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi) and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long.[19] At its narrowest point, the country is as little as 50 kilometres (31 mi) across, though it widens to around 600 kilometres (370 mi) in the north.[20] Specific mountains account for 40% of the country's land area[21] and tropical forests cover around 42%.[22] The Red River Delta in the north covers 15,000 km2 (5,792 sq mi),[23] is smaller but somewhat more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta in the south. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in over the millennia by alluvial deposits.[24][25] The delta, covering about 40,000 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is no more than 3 metres (9.8 ft) above sea level at any point. It is criss-crossed by a maze of rivers and canals which carry so much sediment that the delta advances 60 to 80 metres (196.9 to 262.5 ft) into the sea every year.[26][27] The exclusive economic zone of Vietnam covers 417,663 km2 (161,261 sq mi) in the South China Sea.[28]

Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain range, a part of the Fansipan which is the highest summit on the Indochinese Peninsula.

Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, the mountains of the Annamite Range and extensive forests. Comprising five plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land.[29] The soil in parts of the southern part of Vietnam is lower in nutrients as a result of cultivation.[30] Several earthquakes have been recorded. Most have occurred near the northern border while some have been recorded offshore of the central part of the country.[31][32] The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Fansipan which is located in Lào Cai Province is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high.[33] From north to south, the country also has islands; Phú Quốc is the largest.[34] The Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave is considered the largest known cave passage in the world since its discovery in 2009. The Ba Bể Lake and Mekong River are the largest lake and longest river in the country.[35][36][37]


Due to differences in latitude and the marked variety in topographical relief, the climate may vary for each region.[38] During the winter or dry season extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds may blow from the northeast along the Chinese coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up moisture.[39] The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains, especially in the south. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging from between 21 and 35 °C (69.8 and 95.0 °F) over the year.[40] In Hanoi and the surrounding areas of Red River Delta, the temperatures are lower between 15 and 33 °C (59.0 and 91.4 °F).[40] Seasonal variations in some mountains, plateaus and areas are different with temperatures varying from 3 °C (37.4 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August.[41] Vietnam receives certain rates of precipitation in the form of rainfall with an average amount from 1,500 mm (59 in) to 2,000 mm (79 in) during the monsoon seasons; this may causes flooding.[42] The country is also affected by tropical depressions, tropical storms and typhoons.[42] Vietnam is a vulnerable country to climate change.[43][44]


Clockwise from top-right: crested argus, a peafowl, red-shanked douc, Indochinese leopard, saola.

Located within the Indomalayan realm, Vietnam is one of 25 countries considered to possess a "uniquely high level" of biodiversity. This was noted in the National Environmental Condition Report in 2005.[45] It is ranked 16th worldwide in biological diversity, being home to approximately 16% of the world's species. 15,986 species of flora have been identified in the country of which 10% are endemic. Vietnam's fauna includes: 307 nematode species, 200 oligochaeta, 145 acarina, 113 springtails, 7,750 insects, 260 reptiles and 120 amphibians. 840 birds and 310 mammals are found in Vietnam of which 100 birds and 78 mammals are endemic.[45] Vietnam has two World Natural Heritage Sites, the Hạ Long Bay and Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park together with nine biosphere reserves including Cần Giờ Mangrove Forest, Cát Tiên, Cát Bà, Kiên Giang, the Red River Delta, Mekong Delta, Western Nghệ An, Cà Mau and Cu Lao Cham Marine Park.[46][47][48]

The pink lotus, regarded by some as the national flower of Vietnam.[49][50][n 8]

Vietnam is home to 1,438 species of freshwater microalgae constituting 9.6% of all microalgae species, as well as 794 aquatic invertebrates and 2,458 species of sea fish.[45] 13 genera, 222 species and 30 taxa of flora have been described at some time in Vietnam.[45] Mammal species including the saola, giant muntjac and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey have also been discovered along with one bird species, the Edwards's pheasant.[52] In the 1980s, a population of Javan rhinoceros was found in Cát Tiên National Park. The last individual of the species in Vietnam was reportedly shot in 2010.[53] In agricultural genetic diversity, Vietnam is one of the 12 original cultivar centres. The Vietnam National Cultivar Gene Bank preserves 12,300 cultivars of 115 species.[45] The Vietnamese government spent US$49.07 million on the preservation of biodiversity in 2004 alone and has established 126 conservation areas including 30 national parks.[45]


Sa Pa mountain hills with agricultural activities

In 2000, a NGO was founded to instill in the population the importance of wildlife conservation in the country.[54] Another NGO called GreenViet was formed for the enforcement of wildlife protection. Through collaboration between the NGOs and local authorities, some local poaching syndicates were crippled by their leaders' arrests.[54] A study released in 2018 revealed Vietnam is a destination for the illegal export of rhinoceros horns from South Africa.[55][56]

The legacy of the use of the chemical herbicide Agent Orange continues to cause birth defects and health problems in the population. In the southern and central areas affected most by the chemical's use during the Vietnam War, nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people have been exposed to it.[57][58][59] In 2012,[60] the US began a US$43 million joint clean-up project in the former chemical storage areas in Vietnam to take place in stages.[58][61] Following the completion of the first phase in Đà Nẵng,[62] the US announced its commitment to clean other sites especially in the site of Biên Hòa which is four times larger than the previously treated site.[63]

The Vietnamese government spends over VNĐ10 trillion each year ($431.1 million) for monthly allowances and the physical rehabilitation of victims of the chemicals.[64] In 2018, the Shimizu Corporation working with Vietnam's military built a plant for the treatment of soil polluted by Agent Orange. Plant construction costs were funded by the company itself.[65][66] One of the plans to restore southern Vietnam's damaged ecosystems is through the use of reforestation efforts. Vietnam's government began doing this starting by replanting mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta regions and in Cần Giờ outside Hồ Chí Minh City where mangroves are to ease (though not eliminate) flood conditions during monsoon seasons.[67]

Apart from herbicide problems, arsenic in the ground water in the Mekong and Red River Deltas has also become a concern. [68][69] Unexploded ordnances (UXO) may pose dangers to humans and wildlife.[70] As part of the campaign to demine/remove UXOs, some international bomb removal agencies[71][72][73][74] have been providing assistance. Vietnam's government spends over VNĐ1 trillion ($44 million) annually on demining operations and additional hundreds of billions of đồng for treatment, assistance, rehabilitation, vocational training and resettlement of the victims of UXOs.[75]



A Đông Sơn bronze drum, c.800 BC.

Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of humans in the area as early as the Paleolithic age. Homo erectus fossils dating to around 500,000 BC have been found in caves in Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An.[76] The oldest Homo sapiens fossils from mainland Southeast Asia are of Middle Pleistocene provenance and include isolated tooth fragments from Tham Om and Hang Hum.[77][78][79] Teeth attributed to Homo sapiens from the Late Pleistocene have been found at Dong Can[80] and from the Holocene at Mai Da Dieu,[81][82] Lang Gao[83][84] and Lang Cuom.[85] By about 1,000 BC, the development of wet-rice cultivation in the Ma River and Red River floodplains led to the change in Đông Sơn culture.[86][87] At this point, the kingdoms of Văn Lang and Âu Lạc appeared and the culture's influence spread to other parts of Southeast Asia throughout the first millennium BC.[88][89]


Territorial change, 1009–1898

The Hồng Bàng dynasty of the Hùng kings was established in 2879 BC (then known as Xích Quỷ and later Văn Lang) in the area.[90][91] In 257 BC, the last Hùng king was defeated by Thục Phán who consolidated the Lạc Việt and Âu Việt tribes to form the Âu Lạc.[92] In 179 BC, a general named Zhao Tuo defeated Thục Phán and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue.[87] Nanyue was itself incorporated into the empire of the Han dynasty in 111 BC after the Han–Nanyue War.[16][93] For the next thousand years, what is now northern Vietnam remained mostly under Northern rule.[94][95] Some independence movements were successful for a time such as those of the Trưng Sisters, Lady Triệu[96][97] and Anterior Lý dynasty.[98][99][100] In the 10th century, an area had gained autonomy but not sovereignty under the Khúc family.[101]

In AD 938, the lord Ngô Quyền defeated the forces of Southern Han and achieved independence for a new state,[102][103][104] renamed Đại Việt (Great Viet), subsequently went under the Lý and Trần dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled some Mongol invasions.[105][106] Meanwhile, the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism became the state religion.[104][107] Following the 1406–7 Ming–Hồ War which overthrew the Hồ dynasty, the state's independence was interrupted by the Ming dynasty but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê dynasty.[108] These successive dynasties "reached their zenith" in the Lê dynasty of the 15th century particularly during the reign of Lê Thánh Tông (1460–1497).[109][110] Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the dynasties expand southward,[111] eventually conquering Champa and part of the Khmer Kingdom.[112][113][114]

From the 16th century onward, civil strife and political infighting engulfed parts of Vietnam. First, the Mạc dynasty challenged the Lê dynasty's power.[115] After the Mạc dynasty was defeated, the Lê dynasty was nominally reinstalled. Actual power was divided between the northern Trịnh lords and the southern Nguyễn lords who engaged in a war for more than four decades before a truce was called in the 1670s.[116] The Nguyễn expanded into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Central Highlands and the Khmer lands in the Mekong Delta.[112][114][117] The division of the area ended a century later when the Tây Sơn brothers established a dynasty but their rule were subverted by the remnants of the Nguyễn lords led by Nguyễn Ánh aided by the French.[118] Nguyễn Ánh unified an area and established the Nguyễn dynasty.[117]

French Indochina

French Indochina circa 1930.

In the 1500s, the Portuguese began to involve themselves in trade with Hội An where traders and Catholic missionaries set foot in the kingdom.[119] Then came the Dutch East India Company in 1637[120] and by 1672, the British within Tonkin.[121] Between 1615 and 1753, Frenchs engaged in trade in the area around Đàng Trong and dispersed missionaries.[122][123] Đàng Trong began to feel threatened by Christianisation activities.[124] Following the detention of some missionaries, the French Navy received approval to intervene in Vietnam in 1834 with the aim of freeing imprisoned Catholic missionaries from a kingdom that was perceived as xenophobic.[125] The dynasty's sovereignty was eroded by France which was aided by the Spanish and Catholic militias for at least once in a series of military conquests between 1859 and 1885.[126][127]

The established entities of Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin were formally integrated into the union of French Indochina in 1887.[128][129] The French administration imposed political and cultural changes.[130] A Western-style system of education introduced some humanist values into Vietnam.[131] The French developed a plantation economy to promote the export of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee.[132]

The Grand Palais built for the 1902–1903 world's fair as Hanoi became French Indochina's capital.

Guerrillas of the royalist Cần Vương movement massacred around a third of Vietnam's Christian population during the colonial period as part of their rebellion against French rule.[133][134] They were defeated in the 1890s after a decade of resistance by the Catholics in reprisal for their earlier massacres.[135][136] Another rebellion, the Thái Nguyên uprising, was also suppressed.[137] A political movement emerged with leaders like Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi and Hồ Chí Minh fighting or calling for independence.[138] The 1930 Yên Bái mutiny by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ) was quashed. The mutiny caused a split in the independence movement that resulted in some members of the organisation becoming communist converts.[139][140][141]

The French maintained full control over their colonies until the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1940. The Japanese Empire was allowed to station its troops while permitting the pro-Vichy French colonial administration to continue.[142][143] Japan exploited colonial natural resources to support its military campaigns, culminating in a full-scale takeover of the country in March 1945. This led to the Vietnamese Famine of 1945.[144][145]

Situation of the First Indochina War at the end of 1954.

In 1941, the Việt Minh movement emerged under Hồ Chí Minh sought independence from France and the end of the Japanese occupation.[146][147] Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of the Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, anarchy, rioting and murder were spreaded as Saigon's administrative services had collapsed.[148] The Việt Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government which asserted national independence on 2 September.[147] Earlier, in July 1945, the Allies had decided to divide Indochina at the 16th parallel to allow the Republic of China to receive the Japanese surrender in the north while Britain's Lord Louis Mountbatten received their surrender in the south. The Allies agreed that Indochina still belonged to France.[149][150] British-Indian forces together with the remaining Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group were used to maintain order and to help France re-establish control through the 1945–1946 War in Vietnam.[151] Hồ Chí Minh initially chose to take a moderate stance to avoid military conflict with France[147] but the Provisional Government of the French Republic did not act on his requests including the idea of independence and dispatched the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to restore colonial rule. This resulted in the Việt Minh launching a guerrilla campaign against the French in 1946.[146][147][152] The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954. The defeat of pro-French forces in the battle of Điện Biên Phủ allowed Hồ Chí Minh to negotiate a ceasefire from a more favourable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.[147][153]

Partition of French Indochina after the 1954 Geneva Conference


The colonial administration ended and an area was divided into North and South administrative regions at the Demilitarised Zone, pending elections scheduled for July 1956.[n 9] The partition by the Geneva Accords was not intended to be permanent but in 1955, the southern State of Vietnam's prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled Bảo Đại in a "fraudulent" referendum and proclaimed himself the president of the Republic of Vietnam. At that point the State of Vietnam ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Vietnam and Democratic Republic of Vietnam.[158]

Three US Fairchild UC-123B aircraft spraying Agent Orange during the Operation Ranch Hand as part of an overall herbicidal warfare operation, c. 1962–1971.

Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms resulted in political repression[159] including executions.[160] In the South, Diệm countered subversion by detaining suspected communists and also some "non-communists" in "political re-education centres".[161][162][163] The pro-Hanoi Việt Cộng began a guerrilla campaign in South Vietnam to overthrow Diệm's government.[164] In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm's regime erupted into demonstrations leading to a government crackdown[165] and the coup in which Diệm was assassinated.[166] The era was followed by more than a dozen successive military governments until 1965.[167] During this, pro-Hanoi forces began to gain ground. To support South Vietnam's struggle, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers[168] and became involved in combat operations by 1965.[169][170] Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union provided North with materiel aid and combat advisers.[171][172][173]

The 1968 Tết Offensive by pro-Hanoi forces affected the American establishment and partly turned US public opinion against the war.[174] A 1974 US Senate subcommittee estimated nearly 1.4 million Vietnamese civilians were killed or wounded between 1965 and 1974.[175] Facing an increasing casualty count, rising domestic opposition to the war and growing international condemnation, the US began withdrawing from ground combat roles in the 1970s. This process also entailed an effort to strengthen and stabilise South Vietnam.[176] In December 1974, North Vietnam captured the province of Phước Long and started a full-scale offensive culminating in the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.[177] South Vietnam was ruled by a provisional government while under military occupation by North Vietnam.[178]

Socialist Republic

On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic.[179] In the aftermath of the war, under Lê Duẩn's administration, up to 300,000 South Vietnameses were sent to re-education camps.[180] The government embarked on a campaign of collectivisation of farms and factories.[181] In 1978, in response to the Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia ordering massacres of Vietnamese residents in the border villages,[182] the Vietnam's military invaded Cambodia including Phnom Penh and removed them from power[183] resulting in the establishment of a new pro-Vietnam socialist government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea.[184] This action worsened relations with China which had supported the Khmer Rouge. China later launched an incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979 causing Vietnam to rely more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid while mistrust towards the Chinese government began to escalate.[185]

At the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in December 1986, reformist politicians replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership.[186][187] The reformers were led by Nguyễn Văn Linh who became the party's new general secretary.[186] Linh and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms known as Renovation which "carefully" managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy".[188][189] Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation and foreign investment while maintaining control over some industries.[189][190] The economy subsequently achieved higher growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports and foreign investment, although these reforms also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.[191][192][193]


Vietnam is a unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party socialist republic.[194] Although remains officially committed to socialism, its economic policies have grown increasingly capitalist[195][196] with The Economist characterising its leadership as "ardently capitalist communists".[197] Under the constitution, the Communist Party asserts their role in all branches of the politics and society.[194] The president is the elected head of state and the commander-in-chief of the military, serving as the chairman of the Council of Supreme Defence and Security and holds the second highest office in Vietnam as well as performing executive functions and state appointments and setting policy.[194]

The general secretary of the CPV performs certain administrative functions, controlling the party's national organisation.[194] The prime minister is the head of government presiding over a council of ministers composed of five deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions. Only political organisations affiliated with or endorsed by the CPV are permitted to contest elections in Vietnam. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and worker and trade unionist parties.[194]

The National Assembly of Vietnam building in Hanoi

The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral state legislature composed of 498 members.[198] Headed by a chairman, it is superior to both the executive and judicial branches with all government ministers being appointed from members of the National Assembly.[194] The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam headed by a chief justice is the country's highest court of appeal, though it is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People's Court stand the provincial municipal courts and local courts. Military courts possess special jurisdiction in matters of national security. Vietnam maintains the death penalty for certain offences.[199]

Foreign relations

President Trần Đại Quang with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 19 November 2016.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accompanies US President Donald Trump to a commercial deal signing ceremony with Vietnamese President on 12 November 2017.

Some of the former dynasties's foreign relationships has been with various Northern dynasties.[200] Following the partition in 1954, North Vietnam maintained relations with the Eastern Bloc, South Vietnam maintained relations with the Western Bloc.[200] The dynasties in Vietnam's sovereign principles and insistence on cultural independence have been laid down in certain documents over the centuries. These include the 11th-century poem "Nam quốc sơn hà" and the 1428 proclamation "Bình Ngô đại cáo". Territorial tensions remain between China and others including Vietnam over the South China Sea.[201] Vietnam holds membership in 63 international organisations including the United Nations (UN), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), International Organisation of the Francophonie (La Francophonie) and World Trade Organization (WTO). It also maintains relations with over 650 non-governmental organisations.[202] As of 2010 Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 178 countries.[203]

Vietnam's current foreign policy is to consistently implement a policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, co-operation and development as well openness and diversification/multilateralisation with international relations.[204][205] The country declares itself a friend and partner of all countries in the international community regardless of their political affiliation by actively taking part in international and regional cooperative development projects.[189][204] Since the 1990s, Vietnam has taken steps to restore diplomatic ties with Western countries.[206] Relations with the United States improved in August 1995 with both nations upgrading their liaison offices to embassy status.[207] As diplomatic ties between the two grew, the United States opened a consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City while Vietnam opened its consulate in San Francisco. Full diplomatic relations were also restored with New Zealand which opened its embassy in Hanoi in 1995;[208] Vietnam established an embassy in Wellington in 2003.[209] Pakistan also reopened its embassy in Hanoi in October 2000 with Vietnam reopening its embassy in Islamabad in December 2005 and trade office in Karachi in November 2005.[210][211] In May 2016, US President Barack Obama further normalised relations with Vietnam after he announced the lifting of an arms embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam.[212]


Examples of the Vietnam People's Armed Forces weaponry assets. Clockwise from top right: T-54B tank, Sukhoi Su-27UBK fighter aircraft, Vietnam Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter and Vietnam People's Army chemical corps with Type 56.

The People's Armed Forces consists of the People's Army (VPA), the People's Public Security and the Civil Defence Force. The VPA is the official name for the active military services of Vietnam and is subdivided into the Vietnam People's Ground Forces, the Vietnam People's Navy, the Vietnam People's Air Force, the Vietnam Border Defence Force and the Vietnam Coast Guard. The VPA has an active manpower of around 450,000 but its total strength including paramilitary forces may be as high as 5,000,000.[213] In 2015, Vietnam's military expenditure totalled approximately US$4.4 billion equivalent to around 8% of its total government spending.[214] Joint military exercises and war games have been held with Brunei,[215] India,[216] Japan,[217] Laos,[218] Russia,[219] Singapore[215] and the US.[220] In 2017, Vietnam signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[221][222]

Administrative divisions

Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces (Vietnamese: tỉnh, from the Chinese , shěng).[223] There are five municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc trung ương) which are administratively on the same level as provinces.

The provinces are subdivided into provincial municipalities (thành phố trực thuộc tỉnh), townships (thị xã) and counties (huyện) which are in turn subdivided into towns (thị trấn) or communes (). The centrally controlled municipalities are subdivided into districts (quận) and counties which are further subdivided into wards (phường).

Human rights and sociopolitics

A Communist Party propaganda poster in Hanoi

Under the current constitution, the CPV is the only party allowed to rule, the operation of all other political parties being outlawed. Other human rights issues concern freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In 2009, Vietnamese lawyer Lê Công Định was arrested and charged with the capital crime of subversion; some of his associates were also arrested.[224][225] Amnesty International described him and his arrested associates as prisoners of conscience.[224]

Vietnam is "predominantly a source country" for trafficked persons who are exploited for labour.[226] A number of citizens primarily women from all ethnic groups and foreigners have been victims of sex trafficking.[227][228]


Share of world GDP (PPP)[6]
Year Share
Tree map showing Vietnam's exports in 2012

Throughout history, the economy has been somewhat based on agriculture—primarily wet rice cultivation.[229] Bauxite, a material in the production of aluminium, is mined in Vietnam.[230] Since unification, the country's economy is shaped primarily by the CPV through Five Year Plans decided upon at the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and national congresses.[231] The collectivisation of farms, factories and capital goods was carried out as part of the establishment of central planning with millions of people working for state enterprises. The economy is said to be plagued by "inefficiency", corruption in state-owned enterprises, "poor" quality and underproduction.[232][233][234] With the decline in economic aid from its trading partner, the Soviet Union, following the erosion of the Eastern bloc and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the impacts of the post-war trade embargo imposed by the United States,[235][236] Vietnam began to liberalise its trade by devaluing its exchange rate to increase exports and embarked on a policy of economic development.[237]

In 1986, the Sixth National Congress of the CPV introduced socialist-oriented market economic reforms as part of the Đổi Mới reform program. Private ownership began to be encouraged in industry, commerce and agriculture and state enterprises were restructured to operate under market constraints.[238][239] This led to the five-year economic plans being replaced by the socialist-oriented market mechanism.[240] As a result of these reforms, Vietnam achieved approximately 8% annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth between 1990 and 1997.[241][242] The United States ended its economic embargo against Vietnam in 1994.[243] Despite the 1997 Asian financial crisis affecting Vietnam by causing an economic slowdown to 4–5% growth per annum, its economy began to recover in 1999[238] with growth at an annual rate of around 7% from 2000 to 2005.[244][245] According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO), growth remained "strong" even in the face of the 2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010, although Vietnam's year-on-year inflation rate hit 11.8% in December 2010 with the country's currency, the Vietnamese đồng being devalued three times.[246][247]

Deep poverty defined as the percentage of the population living on less than $1 per day has declined in Vietnam.[248] This decline can be attributed to equitable economic policies aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality.[249] These policies have included egalitarian land distribution during the initial stages of the Đổi Mới program, investment in some areas and subsidising of education and healthcare.[250][251] Since the 2000s, Vietnam has applied sequenced trade liberalisation, a two-track approach opening some sectors of the economy to international markets.[249][252] Vietnam is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia with a total 2011 output of 318,000 barrels per day (50,600 m3/d).[253] In 2010, Vietnam was ranked as the eighth-largest crude petroleum producer in the Asia and Pacific region.[254] The United States purchased the highest amount of Vietnam's exports[255] while goods from China were the most popular Vietnamese import.[256]

According to a December 2005 forecast by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy will become the world's 21st-largest by 2025,[257] with an estimated nominal GDP of $436 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $4,357.[258] Based on findings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2012, the unemployment rate in Vietnam stood at 4.46%. That same year, Vietnam's nominal GDP reached US$138 billion with a nominal GDP per capita of $1,527.[6] The HSBC predicted that Vietnam's total GDP would surpass those of Norway, Singapore and Portugal by 2050.[258][259] Another forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008 stated Vietnam could be the fastest-growing of the world's emerging economies by 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10% per annum in real dollar terms.[260] Apart from the primary sector economy, tourism has contributed to Vietnam's economic growth with 7.94 million foreign visitors recorded in 2015.[261]


Terraced rice fields in Sa Pa

As a result of some land reform measures, Vietnam has become an exporter of agricultural products. It is the world's largest producer of cashew nuts, with a one-third global share;[262] the largest producer of black pepper, accounting for one-third of the world's market[263] and the second-largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand since the 1990s.[264] Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of coffee.[265] The country has the highest proportion of land use for permanent crops together with other nations in the Greater Mekong Subregion.[266] Other exports include tea, rubber and fishery products. Agriculture's share of Vietnam's GDP has fallen declining from 42% in 1989 to 20% in 2006 as production in other sectors of the economy has risen.

Science and technology

A TOPIO 3.0 humanoid ping-pong-playing robot displayed during the 2009 International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo.[267][268]

In 2010, the total state spending on science and technology amounted to roughly 0.45% of GDP.[269] Since the dynastic era, scholars have developed academic fields. The area has a millennium-deep legacy of analytical histories such as the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư of Ngô Sĩ Liên. Monks led by the abdicated Emperor Trần Nhân Tông developed the Trúc Lâm Zen branch of philosophy in the 13th century.[270] Arithmetic and geometry have been taught in Vietnam since the 15th century using the textbook Đại thành toán pháp by Lương Thế Vinh. Lương Thế Vinh introduced Vietnam to the notion of zero while Mạc Hiển Tích used the term "hidden number" to refer to negative numbers. Scholars produced some encyclopaedias such as Lê Quý Đôn's Vân đài loại ngữ.

Hoàng Tụy pioneered the applied mathematics field of global optimisation in the 20th century[271] while Ngô Bảo Châu won the 2010 Fields Medal for his proof of fundamental lemma in the theory of automorphic forms.[272][273] Since the establishment of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) in 1975, the country is working to develop its first national space flight program.[274][275] Advances in the development of robots include the TOPIO humanoid model.[267][268] One of the messaging apps, Zalo, was developed by Vương Quang Khải, a hacker who later worked with the FPT Group.[276]

Science students working on an experiment in their university lab.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Vietnam devoted 0.19% of its GDP to science research and development in 2011.[277] Between 2005 and 2014, the number of Vietnamese scientific publications recorded in Thomson Reuters' Web of Science increased at a rate above the average for Southeast Asia.[278] Publications focus on life sciences (22%), physics (13%) and engineering (13%).[278] Almost 77% of all papers published between 2008 and 2014 had at least one international co-author. The autonomy which Vietnam's research centres have experienced since the 1990s has enabled some of them to operate as quasi-private organisations providing services such as consulting and technology development.[278] Some have 'spun off' from the larger institutions to form their own semi-private enterprises, fostering the transfer of public sector science and technology personnel to these semi-private establishments. The Tôn Đức Thắng University built in 1997 has set up 13 centres for technology transfer and services that together produce 15% of university revenue. Some of these research centres serve as intermediaries bridging public research institutions, universities and firms.[278]


Tourism is an element of economic activity contributing 7.5% of the gross domestic product. There are over 12.9 million visitors in 2017, an increase of 29.1% over the previous year. 9.7 million of them came from Asia. China (4 million), South Korea (2.6 million) and Japan (798,119) made up half of all international arrivals in 2017.[279] Vietnam also attracts a number of visitors from Europe with almost 1.9 million visitors in 2017. Russia (574,164) and the United Kingdom (283,537) followed by France (255,396) and Germany (199,872) were the largest source of international arrivals from Europe. Other international arrivals by nationality include the United States (614,117) and Australia (370,438).[279]

The most visited destinations in Vietnam are Ho Chi Minh City with 5.8 million international arrivals followed by Hanoi with 4.6 million and Hạ Long including Hạ Long Bay with 4.4 million arrivals. All three are ranked in the top 100 most visited cities in the world.[280] Vietnam is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia. In 2018, Travel + Leisure ranked Hội An as one of the world's top 15 best destinations to visit.[281]



Some transportation network can trace roots to the French colonial era when it was used to facilitate the transportation of raw materials to the ports. It was expanded and modernised following the partition of Vietnam.[282] The road system includes national roads administered at the central level, provincial roads managed at the provincial level, district roads managed at the district level, urban roads managed by cities and towns and commune roads managed at the commune level.[283] In 2010, Vietnam's road system had a total length of about 188,744 kilometres (117,280 mi) of which 93,535 kilometres (58,120 mi) are asphalt roads comprising national, provincial and district roads.[283] The length of the national road system is about 15,370 kilometres (9,550 mi) with 15,085 kilometres (9,373 mi) of its length paved. The provincial road system has around 27,976 kilometres (17,383 mi) of paved roads while 50,474 kilometres (31,363 mi) district roads are paved.[283]

Bicycles, motorcycles and motor scooters remain some of the forms of road transport in the country, though the number of privately owned cars has been increasing.[284] Public buses operated by private companies are used to travel. About road accidents, an average of 30 people losing their lives daily.[285] Traffic congestion is a problem in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.[286][287] A cross-country rail service is the Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, a distance of nearly 1,726 kilometres (1,072 mi).[288] From Hanoi, railway lines branch out to the northeast, north and west. In 2009, Vietnam and Japan signed a deal to build a railwayshinkansen—using Japanese technology[289] but plans for the rail line have been postponed after the Vietnam's government decided to prioritise the development of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City metros and expand road networks instead.[288][290][291]

The port of Hai Phong.

Vietnam operates civil airports in which Tan Son Nhat is the one handling the majority of international passenger traffic.[292] According to a state-approved plan, Vietnam will have another seven international airports by 2025. The planned Long Thanh International Airport will have an annual service capacity of 100 million passengers once it becomes fully operational.[293] Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned national airline, maintains a fleet of 86 passenger aircraft.[294] Some private airlines also operate in Vietnam. As a coastal country, Vietnam has sea ports. Further inland, the network of rivers plays a role in transportation with over 47,130 kilometres (29,290 mi) of navigable waterways carrying ferries, barges and water taxis.[295]


Sơn La Dam in northern Vietnam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Southeast Asia.[296]

The energy sector is dominated by the Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN). As of 2017, EVN made up about 61.4% of the country's power generation system with a total power capacity of 25,884 MW.[297] Other energy sources are PetroVietnam (4,435 MW), Vinacomin (1,785 MW) and 10,031 MW from build–operate–transfer (BOT) investors.[298]

Most of the power in Vietnam is generated by either hydropower or fossil fuel power such as coal, oil and gas while diesel, small hydropower and renewable energy supplies the remainder.[298] The government had planned to develop a nuclear reactor as the path to establish another source for electricity from nuclear power. The plan was abandoned in 2016 when a majority of the National Assembly voted to oppose the project due to concern over radioactive contamination.[299]

The household gas sector in Vietnam is dominated by PetroVietnam which controls nearly 70% of the country's domestic market for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).[300] Since 2011, the company also operates five renewable energy power plants including the Nhơn Trạch 2 Thermal Power Plant (750 MW), Phú Quý Wind Power Plant (6 MW), Hủa Na Hydro-power Plant (180 MW), Dakdrinh Hydro-power Plant (125 MW) and Vũng Áng 1 Thermal Power Plant (1,200 MW).[301]

According to statistics from British Petroleum (BP), Vietnam is listed among the 52 countries that have proven crude oil reserves. In 2015 the reserve was approximately 4.4 billion barrels ranking Vietnam first place in Southeast Asia while the proven gas reserves were about 0.6 trillion cubic meters (tcm) and ranking it third in Southeast Asia.[302]


Telecommunications services are wholly provided by the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications General Corporation (now the VNPT Group) which is a state-owned company.[303] The VNPT retained its monopoly until 1986. The telecom sector was reformed in 1995 when the government began to implement a competitive policy with the creation of two domestic telecommunication companies, the Military Electronic and Telecommunication Company (Viettel which is wholly owned by the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence) and the Saigon Post and Telecommunication Company (SPT or SaigonPostel), with 18% of it owned by VNPT.[303] VNPT's monopoly was finally ended by the government in 2003 with the issuance of a decree.[304] By 2012, the top three telecom operators in Vietnam were Viettel, Vinaphone and MobiFone. The remaining companies included EVNTelecom, Vietnammobile and S-Fone.[305] With the shift towards a more market-orientated economy, the telecommunications market is being reformed to attract foreign investment, which includes the supply of services and the establishment of telecom infrastructure.[306]

Water supply and sanitation

Piped water systems are operated by a variety of institutions including a national organisation, people committees (local government), community groups, co-operatives and private companies.

There are 2,360 rivers with an average annual discharge of 310 billion . The rainy season accounts for 70% of the year's discharge.[307] Based on a 2008 survey by the Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association (VWSA), existing water production capacity exceeded demand. Most of the clean water supply infrastructure is available to a proportion of the population with about one third of 727 district towns having some form of piped water supply.[308] There is concern over the safety of existing water resources for water supply systems. Most industrial factories release their untreated wastewater directly into the water sources. Where the government does not take measures to address the issue, most domestic wastewater is discharged, untreated, back into the environment and alters the surface water.[308]

There have been some efforts and collaboration between local and foreign universities to develop access to safe water in the country by introducing water filtration systems. There is a concern over the public health issues associated with water contamination as well as the levels of arsenic in groundwater sources.[309] The government of Netherlands has been providing aid focusing its investments mainly on water-related sectors including water treatment projects.[310][311][312] Regarding sanitation, 78% of Vietnam's population has access to "improved" sanitation. There are about 21 million people in the country lacking access to "improved" sanitation according to a survey conducted in 2015.[313] In 2018, the construction ministry said the country's water supply and drainage industry had been applying hi-tech methods and information technology (IT) to sanitation issues but faced limited funding and climate change.[314] The health ministry has announced that water inspection units will be established nationwide beginning in June 2019. Inspections are to be conducted without notice since there have been cases involving health issues caused by water supplies as well certain conditions reported every year.[315]


By 2015, 97% of the population had access to "improved" water sources.[316] In 2016, the life expectancy stood at 80.9 years for women and 71.5 for men and the infant mortality rate was 17 per 1,000 live births.[317][318][319] Malnutrition is an issue.[193] Since the partition, North Vietnam has established a public health system that has reached down to the hamlet level.[320] After the unification in 1975, a nationwide health service was established.[193] In the 1980s, healthcare changed in quality to some degree as a result of budgetary constraints, a shift of responsibility to the provinces and the introduction of charges.[250] In 2000, Vietnam had 24.7 hospital beds per 10,000 people before declining to 23.7 in 2005 as stated in the annual report of Vietnamese Health Ministry.[321] The use of herbicides as a chemical weapon by the US military during the war left impacts.[322][323] For instance, it led to three million people of Vietnam experiencing health problems, one million birth defects caused directly by exposure to the chemical and 24% of Vietnam's land being defoliated.[324]

The malaria mortality rate fell to about 5% of its 1990s equivalent by 2005 after the country introduced "improved" antimalarial drugs and treatment.[325] Tuberculosis (TB), on the other hand, has become the second most infectious disease in the country after respiratory-related illness.[326] With an intensified vaccination program, varied hygiene and foreign assistance, there are hopes to reduce the number of TB cases and new TB infections.[327] In 2004, government subsidies covering about 15% of health care expenses.[328] That year, the United States announced Vietnam would be one of 15 nations to receive funding as part of its global AIDS relief plan.[329] By the following year, Vietnam had diagnosed 101,291 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases of which 16,528 progressed to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); 9,554 have died.[330] The actual number of HIV-positive individuals is estimated to be higher. On average between 40–50 new infections are reported daily in the country. In 2007, 0.4% of the population was estimated to be infected with HIV.[331] More global aid is being delivered through The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to fight the spread of the disease.[327] In September 2018, the Hanoi People's Committee urged the citizens to stop eating dog and cat meat as it can cause diseases like rabies and leptospirosis. More than 1,000 stores in Hanoi were found to be selling both meats. The decision prompted comments among Vietnameses on social media with some noted that the consumption of dog meat will remain an ingrained habit among some people.[332]


There is a state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities and a number of privately run and partially privatised institutions. General education is divided into five categories: kindergarten, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and universities. A number of public schools have been constructed across the country to raise the literacy rate which stood at 90% in 2008.[333] Most universities are located in cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with the country's education system undergoing a series of reforms by the government. Some families may have trouble paying tuition fees for their children without some form of public or private assistance.[334] The number of colleges and universities increased in the 2000s from 178 in 2000 to 299 in 2005. In higher education, the government provides subsidised loans for students through the national bank, although there are concerns about access to the loans as well the burden on students to repay them.[335][336] Since 1995, enrolment in higher education has grown tenfold to over 2.2 million with 84,000 lecturers and 419 institutions of higher education.[337] A number of foreign universities operate private campuses in Vietnam, including Harvard University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 2018, a decree on university autonomy allowing them to operate independently without ministerial control is in its final stages of approval. The government "will continue" investing in education with a focus for some to have access to basic education.[338]


As of 2018, the population stands at approximately 95.5 million people.[339] Per the 1979 census, the population is 52.7 million.[340] According to the 2019 census, 65.6% of the population are living in "rural" areas while 34.4% in "urban" areas. The average growth rate of the "urban" population has increased which is attributed partly to migration and urbanisation.[3] The Kinh ethnic group constitute 82,085,826 people or 85.32% of the population.[3] Most of their population is concentrated in the country's alluvial deltas and coastal areas.[341] Vietnam is also home to 54 other ethnic groups including the Hmong, Dao, Tày, Thai and Nùng.[342] Ethnic minorities such as the Muong who are somewhat related to the Kinh dwell in the highlands.[343]

Other uplanders in the north migrated from southern China between the 1300s and 1800s.[344] The population of the Central Highlands has a higher percentage of Degar before the South Vietnamese government at the time enacted a program of resettling Kinh in indigenous areas.[345][346] The Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Khmer Krom people are mainly lowlanders.[341][344] Throughout history, some Chinese people largely from South China migrated to the country as administrators, merchants and refugees.[347] Since the unification in 1976 an increase of policies resulted in the nationalisation and confiscation of property especially from the Hoa in the south. This led a number of them to leave Vietnam.[348][349] Furthermore, the deterioration of Sino-Vietnamese relations after the border invasion by Chinese government in 1979 indirectly caused more Hoa people in the north to leave the country.[347][350]


District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

The number of people who live in urbanised areas in 2019 is 33,122,548 people (with the urbanisation rate at 34.4%).[3] Since 1986, the urbanisation rates have surged more rapidly after the government implemented the Đổi Mới program changing the system into a socialist one and liberalising property rights. As a result, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City increased their share of the total urban population from 8.5% and 24.9% to 15.9% and 31% respectively.[351] The government through its construction ministry forecasts the country will have a 45% urbanisation rate by 2020 although it was confirmed to be 34.4% according to the 2019 census.[3] Ho Chi Minh City has received a number of migrants partly due to new weather and economic opportunities.[352]

A study shows that rural-to-urban area migrants have a higher standard of living than both non-migrants in rural areas and non-migrants in urban areas. This results in changes to economic structures. In 1985, agriculture made up 37.2% of the GDP; in 2008, that number had declined to 18.5%.[353] In 1985, industry made up 26.2% of Vietnam's GDP; by 2008, that number had increased to 43.2%. Urbanisation helps to alter some services which alter people's standards of living. Access to electricity grew from 14% of total households with electricity in 1993 to above 96% in 2009.[353] In terms of access to fresh water, data from 65 utility companies shows that 12% of households in the area covered by them had access to the water network in 2002; by 2007, more than 70% of the population was connected. Urbanisation also creates more traffic.[353]

Some people use mopeds for transportation. Their numbers have been known to cause traffic congestion. In the capital city, the number of mopeds increased from 0.5 million in 2001 to 4.7 million in 2013.[353] Factories have sprung up which indirectly alter the air and water. An example is the 2016 Vietnam marine life disaster.[354] The government is intervening and attempting solutions to decrease air pollution by decreasing the number of motorcycles while increasing public transportation. It has introduced more regulations for waste handling by factories. Although the authorities also have schedules for collecting different types of waste, waste disposal is another problem caused by urbanisation. The amount of solid waste generated in urban areas of Vietnam has increased by more than 200% from 2003 to 2008. The government attempts to promote campaigns that encourage locals to sort household waste since waste sorting is still not practised by most.[355]


Religion in Vietnam (2019)[356]

  Vietnamese folk religion or no religion (86.32%)
  Buddhism (4.79%)
  Catholicism (6.1%)
  Protestantism (1.0%)
  Hoahaoism (1.02%)
  Caodaism (0.58%)
  Islam (0.07%)
  Others (0.12%)

Under Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution, all citizens have freedom of belief and religion.[357] All religions are equal before the law and each place of worship is protected under state law. Religious beliefs cannot be misused to undermine state law and policies.[357][358] According to a 2007 survey 81% of Vietnamese people did not believe in a god.[359] Based on government findings in 2009, the number of religious people increased by 932,000.[360] The official statistics presented by the Vietnamese government to the United Nations special rapporteur in 2014 indicate the overall number of followers of recognised religions is about 24 million of a total population of almost 90 million.[361] According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam in 2019, Buddhists account for 4.79% of the total population, Catholics 6.1%, Protestants 1.0%, Hoahao Buddhists 1.02% and Caodaism followers 0.58%.[356] Other religions includes Islam, Bahaʼís and Hinduism representing less than 0.2% of the population.

Confucianism as a system of social and ethical philosophy still has certain influences. Mahāyāna is the dominant branch of Buddhism while Theravāda is practised mostly by the Khmer minority. About 8 to 9% of the population is Christian—made up of Roman Catholics and Protestants. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam in the 16th century and was established by Jesuits missionaries (mainly Portuguese and Italian) in the 17th centuries from Portuguese Macau.[362] French missionaries (from the Paris Foreign Missions Society) together with Spanish missionaries (from the Dominican Order of the neighbouring Spanish East Indies) actively sought converts in the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century.[363][364][365] A number of Vietnamese people especially in the South are also adherents of two indigenous religions of syncretic Caodaism and quasi-Buddhist Hoahaoism.[366] Protestantism was spread by American and Canadian missionaries in the 20th century;[367] the largest Protestant denomination is the Evangelical Church of Vietnam. Around 770,000 of the country's Protestants are members of ethnic minorities[367] particularly some Montagnards[368] and Hmong people. Protestantism is the fastest-growing religion in Vietnam expanding at a rate of 600% for certain decades.[367][369] Some other minority faiths exist in Vietnam include Bani, Sunni and non-denominational sections of Islam which is practised primarily among the ethnic Cham minority.[370] There are also Kinh adherents of Islam, other minority adherents of Baha'i as well as Hindus among the Cham's.[371][372]


The national language of the country is Vietnamese, a tonal Austroasiatic language (Mon–Khmer). Earlier, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters (chữ Hán) before a different meaning set of these characters known as chữ Nôm developed between the 7th–13th century.[373][374][375] The folk epic Truyện Kiều by Nguyễn Du was written in chữ Nôm.[376] Chữ Quốc ngữ, the Romanised Vietnamese alphabet, was developed in the 17th century by Jesuit missionaries such as Francisco de Pina and Alexandre de Rhodes by using the alphabets of the Romance languages particularly the Portuguese alphabet which later became used through institutions during the colonial period.[373][377] Vietnam's minority groups speak a variety of languages. The Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands also speak a number of languages, some belonging to the Austroasiatic and others to the Malayo-Polynesian language families.[378] A number of sign languages have developed in the cities.

Vietnamese calligraphy in chữ Quốc ngữ.

The French language is spoken by some as a second language, especially among the older generation and those educated in the former South Vietnam where it was a principal language in administration, education and commerce. Vietnam remains a full member of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (La Francophonie) and education has revived some interest in the language.[379] Russian and to a lesser extent German, Czech and Polish are known among some northern Vietnamese whose families had ties with the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.[380] With altered relations with Western countries and reforms in administration, English has been increasingly used as a second language and the study of English is now obligatory in most schools either alongside or in place of French.[381][382] The popularity of Japanese and Korean has also grown as the country's ties with other East Asian nations have strengthened.[383][384][385]


The Municipal Theatre (Saigon Opera House) in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam's culture has developed over the centuries from indigenous Đông Sơn culture with wet rice cultivation as its economic base.[86][88] Some elements of the culture have Chinese origins drawing on elements of Confucianism, Mahāyāna Buddhism and Taoism in its political system and philosophy.[386][387] The society is structured around làng (ancestral villages);[388] Vietnamese may mark an ancestral anniversary on the tenth day of the third lunar month.[389][390] The influence of Chinese culture such as the Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Hainanese cultures is more evident in the north where Buddhism is somewhat entwined with popular culture.[391] There are Chinatowns in the south such as in Chợ Lớn where some Chinese have intermarried with Kinh.[392] In the central and southern parts, traces of Champa and Khmer culture are evidenced through the remains of ruins, artefacts as well within their population as the successor of the Sa Huỳnh culture.[393][394] Western cultures have set foot among newer generations.[387]

The áo dài with the addition of Asian conical hat.

Some focuses of culture here are based on humanity (nhân nghĩa) and harmony (hòa) in which family and community values are regarded.[391] Vietnam reveres a number of cultural symbols[395] such as the dragon which is derived from crocodile and snake imagery; Vietnam's "national father", Lạc Long Quân is depicted as a holy dragon.[389][396][397] The lạc is a holy bird representing Vietnam's "national mother" Âu Cơ. Some other images that are also revered are the turtle, buffalo and horse.[398] Some believe in the supernatural and spiritualism where illness can be brought on by a curse or sorcery or caused by non-observance of a religious ethic. Some medical practitioners, amulets and other forms of spiritual protection and religious practices may be employed to treat the ill person.[399] The cultural life has been somewhat influenced by government-controlled media and cultural programs.[387] For some decades, foreign cultural influences especially those of Western origin were shunned. But since the reformation, the area has seen a greater exposure to neighbouring Southeast Asian, East Asian as well to Western culture and media.[400]

A Vietnamese formal dress, áo dài, may be worn for occasions such as weddings and religious festivals. White áo dài is the required uniform for female students in some high schools. Other examples of clothing include: áo tứ thân, a four-piece woman's dress; áo ngũ, a form of the thân in five-piece form mostly worn in the north; yếm, a woman's undergarment; áo bà ba, working "pyjamas"; áo gấm, a formal brocade tunic for government receptions; and áo the, a variant of the áo gấm worn by grooms at weddings.[401][402] Some headwear includes the conical nón lá and the "lampshade-like" nón quai thao.[402][403] In tourism, a number of cultural tourist destinations include the Imperial City of Huế, the World Heritage Sites of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Hội An and Mỹ Sơn, coastal regions such as Nha Trang, the caves of Hạ Long Bay and the Marble Mountains.[404][405]


Vietnamese dragon on Emperor Khải Định's c.1917 scroll in British Library collection.

The literature has centuries-deep history and a tradition of folk literature based on the six–to-eight-verse poetic form called ca dao focuses on village ancestors and heroes.[406] Written literature has been found dating back to the 10th century Ngô dynasty with authors including: Nguyễn Trãi, Trần Hưng Đạo, Nguyễn Du and Nguyễn Đình Chiểu. Some literary genres play a role in theatrical performance such as hát nói in ca trù.[407] Some poetic unions have also been formed such as the tao đàn. Literature in Vietnam has been influenced by Western styles with the first literary transformation movement of thơ mới emerging in 1932.[408] Vietnamese folk literature is an intermingling of certain forms. It is not only an oral tradition but a mixing of three media: hidden (only retained in the memory of folk authors), fixed (written) and shown (performed). Folk literature exists in various versions passed down orally and may has unknown authors. Myths consist of stories about supernatural beings, heroes, creator gods and reflect the viewpoint about human life.[409] They consist of creation stories, stories about their origins (Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ), culture heroes (Sơn Tinh and Thủy Tinh) which are referred to as a mountain and water spirit respectively and other folklore tales.[392][410]


Ca trù trio performance in northern Vietnam

The music varies between the country's northern and southern regions.[411] Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest musical form. The origins of the classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions in the 13th century when a Chinese opera troupe is captured.[412] Throughout history, the music has been most impacted by the Chinese musical tradition along with those of Japan, Korea and Mongolia.[413] Nhã nhạc is a form of imperial court music, Chèo is a form of generally satirical musical theatre while Xẩm or hát xẩm (xẩm singing) is a type of Vietnamese folk music. Quan họ (alternate singing) is practiced in the former Hà Bắc Province and across Vietnam. Another form of music called Hát chầu văn or hát văn is used to invoke spirits during ceremonies. Nhạc dân tộc cải biên is a form of Vietnamese folk music which arose in the 1950s while ca trù (also known as hát ả đào) is a folk music. can be thought of as the southern style of Quan họ. There is a range of instruments including the đàn bầu (a monochord zither), the đàn gáo (a two-stringed fiddle with coconut body) and the đàn nguyệt (a two-stringed fretted moon lute). There have been efforts at mixing folk music with other music to educate some generations about some musical instruments and singing styles.[414]

Bolero music has gained more popularity in the country since the 1930s albeit with a different style—a combination with Western elements.[415] The music industry V-pop is making its mark in the entertainment field. Some Vietnamese artists have started to collaborate with other artists and producers like South Korean ones to facilitate the entrance of K-pop into Vietnam's market while also promoting V-pop overseas.[416] In 2014, the boy band BTS collaborated with Vietnamese singer Thanh Bùi on the single called "Danger".[416][417] In 2018, South Korean artist Park Ji-yeon collaborated with Soobin Hoàng Sơn on two versions of the title track called "Between Us" to promote the countries’ partnership in terms of the music industry.[418] V Live, a South Korean live video streaming service, also collaborated with RBW Entertainment Vietnam (a subsidiary of the Korean entertainment company) to produce shows. V Live also launched monthly "mini-concerts" called "V Heartbeat Live" to connect V-pop and K-pop idols.[419] The SM Entertainment company signed an agreement with IPP Group to move into the country's market and promote joint business.[420] The company held its 2018 Global Audition in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in search for new talents.[421]


Clockwise from top-right: phở noodle, chè thái fruit dessert, chả giò spring roll and bánh mì sandwich.

A part of the cuisine is based around five taste "elements" (Vietnamese: ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth).[422] Some ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. The recipes use: lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chilli, lime and basil leaves.[423] Some cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil and reliance on herbs and vegetables.[424] The use of meats such as pork, beef and chicken was more limited at some point in the past. Instead freshwater fish, crustaceans (particularly crabs) and molluscs became more used. Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce and limes are among the flavouring ingredients. There is a street food culture with various dishes found throughout the country.[425] Some dishes such as gỏi cuốn (salad roll), bánh cuốn (rice noodle roll), bún riêu (rice vermicelli soup) and phở noodles originated in the north and were introduced to central and southern Vietnam by migrants.[426][427] Local foods in the north may be less spicy than southern dishes as the colder northern climate limits the production and availability of spices.[428] Black pepper may be used in place of chillis to produce spicy flavours. The drinks in the south may be served with ice cubes; in contrast, in the north hotter drinks may be used in a colder climate. Some examples of drinks include: cà phê đá (iced coffee), cà phê trứng (egg coffee), chanh muối (salted pickled lime juice), cơm rượu (glutinous rice wine), nước mía (sugarcane juice) and trà sen (lotus tea).[429]


Vietnam Television (VTV), a state television

Vietnam's media sector is regulated by the government under the 2004 Law on Publication.[430] It has been perceived that the country media sector is controlled by the government and follows the official communist party line, though some newspapers are outspoken.[431][432] The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) is the official state-run national radio broadcasting service broadcasting internationally via shortwave using rented transmitters in other countries and providing broadcasts from its website while Vietnam Television (VTV) is the national television broadcasting company. Since 1997, Vietnam has regulated public internet access using both legal and technical means. The resulting lockdown may be referred to as the "Bamboo Firewall".[433] The collaborative project OpenNet Initiative classifies Vietnam's level of online political censorship to be "pervasive"[434] while Reporters Without Borders (RWB) considers Vietnam to be one of 15 global "internet enemies".[435] Though the government of Vietnam maintains that such censorship is necessary to safeguard the country against obscene or sexually explicit content, some political and religious websites that are deemed to be undermining state authority are also blocked.[436]

Holidays and festivals

Tết decoration during the holiday

The country has 11 national recognised holidays including: New Year's Day on 1 January; Tết's New Year from the last day of the last lunar month to fifth day of the first lunar month; Hung Kings Commemorations on the 10th day of the third lunar month; Reunification Day on 30 April; International Workers' Day on 1 May and National Day Celebration on 2 September.[437][438][439] During Tết, some from the cities will return to their villages for family reunions and to pray for dead ancestors.[440][441] Older people might give the younger a lì xì (red envelope) while holiday food such as bánh chưng (rice cake) in a square shape together with variety of dried fruits are presented in the house for visitors.[442] Some other festivals are celebrated throughout the seasons including the Lantern Festival (Tết Nguyên Tiêu), Mid-Autumn Festival (Tết Trung Thu) and various temple and nature festivals.[443] In the highlands, Elephant Race Festivals are held annually during the spring; riders will ride their elephants for about 1.6 km (0.99 mi) and the winning elephant will be given sugarcane.[444] Traditional Vietnamese weddings may be celebrated.[445] Wedding dress has been influenced by Western styles with the wearing of white wedding dresses and black jackets; however, there are also some who still prefer to choose other Vietnamese wedding costumes for ceremonies.[446]


The Vovinam, kim ke and bình định martial arts are practiced in Vietnam.[447][448] Western-introduced sports such as association football, badminton, tennis, volleyball, ping-pong and chess are played. Vietnam has participated in the Summer Olympic Games since 1952 when it competed as the State of Vietnam. After the partition of the country in 1954, only South Vietnam competed in the games sending athletes to the 1956 and 1972 Olympics. Since the unification of Vietnam in 1976, it has competed as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam attending every Summer Olympics from 1988 onwards. The Vietnam Olympic Committee was formed in 1976 and recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1979.[449] Vietnam has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games. In 2016, Vietnam won their first gold medal at the Olympics.[450] Basketball has become more popular in Vietnam like in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Soc Trang.[451]

See also


  1. The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam states that Vietnamese is the "national language" rather than the "official language"; Vietnamese is the only language used in official documents and legal proceedings de facto.[1]
  2. Also called Kinh people.[2]
  3. Nguyễn Phú Trọng is also Secretary of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The first priority political position in one party communist state, Vietnam is General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, not President of Vietnam.
  4. In effect since 1 January 2014.[5]
  5. The South China Sea is referred to in Vietnam as the East Sea (Biển Đông).[10]
  6. At first, Gia Long requested the name "Nam Việt" but the Jiaqing Emperor refused.[12][15]
  7. See List of countries and dependencies by area.
  8. The national symbol of Vietnam is officially recognised in the country's legal documents including in the Constitution which establishes the national flag, national emblem and national anthem. There is no document recognising Vietnam's national flower. Other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and all of Vietnam's neighbours have national flowers. The Lotus has been chosen by India as its national flower. Some countries have chosen the same flower as their national flower; for example, the rose is the national flower of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.[51]
  9. Neither the American government nor Ngô Đình Diệm's State of Vietnam signed anything at the 1954 Geneva Conference. A Vietnamese delegation objected to any division of Vietnam; the French accepted the Việt Minh proposal[154] that Vietnam be united by elections under the supervision of "local commissions".[155] The United States with the support of South Vietnam and the United Kingdom countered with the "American Plan"[156] which provided for United Nations-supervised unification elections. The plan was rejected by Soviet and some other delegations.[157]


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Further reading


  • Goscha, Christopher (2016). Vietnam: A New History. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-09436-3.
  • Dror, Olga (2018). Making Two Vietnams: War and Youth Identities, 1965–1975. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-47012-4.
  • Nguyen, Duy Lap (2020). The Unimagined Community: Imperialism and Culture in South Vietnam. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-1-5261-4396-9.
  • Nguyen, Lien-Hang T. (2012). Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3551-7.
  • Richardson, John (1876). A school manual of modern geography. Physical and political. Publisher not identified.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Thái Nguyên, Văn; Mừng Nguyẽ̂n, Văn (1958). A Short History of Viet-Nam. Vietnamese-American Association.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Chesneaux, Jean (1966). The Vietnamese Nations: Contribution to a History. Current Book Distributors.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Heneghan, George Martin (1969). Nationalism, Communism and the National Liberation Front of Vietnam: Dilemma for American Foreign Policy. Department of Political Science, Stanford University.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gravel, Mike (1971). The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decision-making on Vietnam. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-0526-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • anon. (1972). Peasant and Labour. Publisher not identified.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Yue Hashimoto, Oi-kan (1972). Phonology of Cantonese. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-08442-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Jukes, Geoffrey (1973). The Soviet Union in Asia. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-02393-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Turner, Robert F. (1975). Vietnamese communism, its origins and development. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. ISBN 978-0-8179-6431-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Phan, Khoang (1976). Việt sử: xứ đàng trong, 1558–1777. Cuộc nam-tié̂n của dân-tộc Việt-Nam. Nhà Sách Khai Trí (in Vietnamese). University of Michigan.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Vu, Tu Lap (1979). Vietnam: Geographical Data. Foreign Languages Publishing House.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Lewy, Guenter (1980). America in Vietnam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-991352-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Holmgren, Jennifer (1980). Chinese colonisation of northern Vietnam: administrative geography and political development in the Tongking Delta, first to sixth centuries A.D. Australian National University, Faculty of Asian Studies: distributed by Australian University Press. ISBN 978-0-909879-12-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Taylor, Keith Weller (1983). The Birth of Vietnam. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-04428-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leonard, Jane Kate (1984). Wei Yuan and China's Rediscovery of the Maritime World. Harvard Univ Asia Center. ISBN 978-0-674-94855-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • anon. (1985). Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie. E. Schweizerbart'sche.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Khánh Huỳnh, Kim (1986). Vietnamese Communism, 1925–1945. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-9397-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Miller, Robert Hopkins (1990). United States and Vietnam 1787–1941. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7881-0810-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • McLeod, Mark W. (1991). The Vietnamese Response to French Intervention, 1862–1874. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-93562-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Joes, Anthony James (1992). Modern Guerrilla Insurgency. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-275-94263-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Miettinen, Jukka O. (1992). Classical Dance and Theatre in South-East Asia. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-588595-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Adhikari, Ramesh; Kirkpatrick, Colin H.; Weiss, John (1992). Industrial and Trade Policy Reform in Developing Countries. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-3553-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Akazawa, Takeru; Aoki, Kenichi; Kimura, Tasuku (1992). The evolution and dispersal of modern humans in Asia. Hokusen-sha. ISBN 978-4-938424-41-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Cortada, James W. (1994). Spain in the Nineteenth-century World: Essays on Spanish Diplomacy, 1789–1898. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-27655-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Jones, John R. (1998). Guide to Vietnam. Bradt Publications. ISBN 978-1-898323-67-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Page, Melvin Eugene; Sonnenburg, Penny M. (2003). Colonialism: An International, Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-335-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Hiẻ̂n Lê, Năng (2003). Three victories on the Bach Dang river. Nhà xuất bản Văn hóa-thông tin.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Protected Areas and Development Partnership (2003). Review of Protected Areas and Development in the Four Countries of the Lower Mekong River Region. ICEM. ISBN 978-0-9750332-4-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Trieu Dan, Nguyen (2017). A Vietnamese Family Chronicle: Twelve Generations on the Banks of the Hat River. McFarland Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7864-8779-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Tran, Tri C.; Le, Tram (2017). Vietnamese Stories for Language Learners: Traditional Folktales in Vietnamese and English Text (MP3 Downloadable Audio Included). Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4629-1956-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Tran, Anh Q. (2017). Gods, Heroes, and Ancestors: An Interreligious Encounter in Eighteenth-Century Vietnam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-067760-2.
  • Cosslett, Tuyet L.; Cosslett, Patrick D. (2017). Sustainable Development of Rice and Water Resources in Mainland Southeast Asia and Mekong River Basin. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-981-10-5613-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Zhu, Ying; Ren, Shuang; Collins, Ngan; Warner, Malcolm (2017). Business Leaders and Leadership in Asia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-56749-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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  • Lamport, Mark A. (2018). Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4422-7157-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dinh Tham, Nguyen (2018). Studies on Vietnamese Language and Literature: A Preliminary Bibliography. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-1-5017-1882-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dayley, Robert (2018). Southeast Asia in the New International Era. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-429-97424-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Chen, Steven (2018). The Design Imperative: The Art and Science of Design Management. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-3-319-78568-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wilcox, Wynn, ed. (2010). Vietnam and the West: New Approaches. Ithaca, NY: SEAP Publications, Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-87727-782-8.

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