Vietnam has a population of around 95 million people making it the 9th largest country by population in Asia and the 3rd in South East Asian ASEAN group of countries behind Indonesia and the Philippines, but ahead of Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.
Vietnam has land borders with Laos, Cambodia and China, with Thailand and Myanmar a few hours away by road.
Vietnam remains a non-democratic country and is one of only four countries in the world which still maintains a single-party system espousing Communist political value, the other three countries are China, Laos and Cuba.
History of Vietnam
Vietnam has had a troubled history marked by centuries of occupation by different invaders from what are modern day China, Mongolia, Thailand, Myanmar, Europe, North America, Cambodia and probably a few other countries such as India which some believe the ancient Cham has it origins. This history of struggle for nationhood and independence is a defining aspect of Vietnam culture and society and a key explanatory background to understanding the revolution under the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh and the establishment of Vietnam as an independent socialist state.
Mountain road to Da Nang
The recorded history of Vietnam is generally divided into four time periods according the type of regime which was in power at the time:
2879–111 BC (Early dynastic epoch): A period of nearly three millennia when the land that now comprises modern Vietnam was split into a number of different kingdoms, with the ruling families of those kingdom frequently being displaced by foreign invaders and rulers of neighbouring kingdom, with the result that the separate territories became joined together into larger kingdom.
111 BC – 939 AD (Period of Chinese rule): In 111 BC armies under the command of the Han Chinese Dynasty invaded and took control of much what is modern Vietnam. The indigenous ruling elite made attempts to force the Chinese out over a period of more than 1,000 years with little success until the sea Battle of Bach Bang in 938 when the Han Chinese fleet was destroyed by the rebellious Vietnamese forces which they came to conquer.
939–1945 AD (Late dynastic epoch): Chinese rule had changed Vietnam and this period of Vietnamese was relatively peaceful with Vietnamese rulers adopting much the same role as the Chinese rulers before and governing the country in the same way. The most dramatic change came towards the end of the period with the expansion of European interests in Vietnam and the creation of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam’s ruling dynasty remained in place but had an uneasy relationship with their French overlords with several members of the royal family being sent into exile for involvement with independence movements within Vietnam.
1945 AD to the present day (Era of the Republic): In September 1945 the last ruling dynasty of Vietnam stepped and the Communist government of the North declared Vietnam a republic. The French colonial ruler attempted to re-establish a former Emperor as the ruler of a separate Vietnamese Kingdom although this was short lived as North Vietnamese forces under Ho Chi Minh drove the French out of Vietnam in 1954 and then fought with the forces of Southern Vietnam, backed by the United States of America, until achieving victory in 1975 and unifying the country under a single party socialist dictatorship. Following a period of political, religious and economic repression in the 1970s and 1980s Vietnam has slowly started to relax state control allowing its citizens additional religious and economic freedoms. and since 2000 Vietnam has moved towards closer political and military alliances with democratic regimes in the West.
Tourism in Vietnam
There are a lot fewer foreign visitors to Vietnam than one might expect given the country’s rich culture, natural resources, great food, infrastructure and abundant range of historical sites. For example, the official ASEAN estimates of the total number of tourists visiting Vietnam in 2015 was 7,944,000 compared to 29,881,000 visiting Thailand in the same period and 25,721,000 visiting Malaysia. 2.9 million of the tourists visiting Vietnam in 2015 were from China and South Korea; Vietnam is not yet a popular destination for mass tourism from the West and there are a number possible reasons for that. One explanation is that Vietnam has done a very poor job of marketing itself as a tourist destination. Another possible explanation is cultural, with the attitude and behaviour of some Vietnam people towards foreign visitors being perceived as unwelcoming and unpleasant. Whichever explanation is true, Vietnam has some way to go before it fully utilises it rich resources to generate improved revenues from tourism. Vietnam is a country with tremendous growth potential and in the future perhaps a serious competitor to countries like Thailand and Malaysia in terms of attracting foreign visitors.