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Cộng hoà Xã hội Chủ nghĩa Việt Nam
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Flag of Vietnam
Coat of arms of Vietnam
flag emblem
Motto : Độc LAP Tự do, Hạnh phúc
(independence, freedom, happiness)
Official language Vietnamese
Capital Hanoi
State and form of government Socialist republic with a one-party system
Head of state President
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Head of government Prime Minister
Phạm Minh Chinh
surface 331,690 km²
population 96.5 million ( 15th ) (2019)
Population density 308 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 1.0% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 330 billion ( 40th )
  • $ 1.0 trillion ( 28. )
  • 3,416 USD ( 129. )
  • 10,538 USD ( 116. )
Human Development Index 0.704 ( 117th ) (2019)
currency Đồng (VND)
independence Declared by France on September 2, 1945, recognized in 1954
National anthem Tiến Quân Ca
National holiday September 2nd
Time zone UTC +7
License Plate VN
ISO 3166 VN , VNM, 704
Internet TLD .vn
Phone code +84
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Vietnam ([ vi̯ɛtˈna [ː] m ], Vietnamese Việt Nam [in Hanoi viɜʔt̚˧ˀ˨ʔ naːm˧˧ ], meaning " Viet of the South", officially Socialist Republic of Vietnam , Vietnamese Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam , Chữ Nôm共和 社會主義 越南 [in Hanoi kɜwŋ͡m˧ˀ˨ʔ hwaː˨˩ s̪aː˦ˀ˥ hoj˧ˀ˨ʔ ṯɕu˧˩ ŋiɜ˦ˀ˥ viɜʔt̚˧ˀ˨ʔ naːm˧˧ ]) is an elongated coastal state in Southeast Asia . It borders China , Laos , Cambodia , the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea .

The first historically documented kingdom in what is now Vietnam was established in the 1st millennium BC. Then a peaceful coexistence developed between the Yues and the Han during the Trieu dynasty . 111 BC The dynasty came under the control of the Han Chinese as a province of the Han dynasty and remained so - interrupted by brief periods of independence - until 938 AD, when it gained independence after the battle of the Bạch Đằng River . This was followed by a heyday of culture, society, economy and politics. In the centuries that followed, Vietnam expanded south. In the 19th century, the area gradually came under French colonial rule as part of French Indochina .

Japan occupied the region during World War II . From 1946 to 1954 France tried unsuccessfully in the First Indochina War to restore its colonial rule. As a result of the French defeat in 1954 Tonkin and the northern part of Annams became socialist North Vietnam with the capital Hanoi, and Cochinchina and the southern part of Annams became South Vietnam, supported by the Western powers , with the capital Saigon . From 1964 to 1973 the United States of America failed in the Vietnam War to defeat North Vietnam and the allied National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam . Instead, the two Vietnamese states were reunited in 1976 under communist leadership. Market economy reforms have been underway since 1986 as part of the Đổi mới , but so far these have only led to a rudimentary political liberalization . Hanoi became the capital of the reunified Vietnam in 1976, the largest city in terms of inhabitants is Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); Haiphong , Cần Thơ and Đà Nẵng are also important metropolises in the country.


Vietnam's area is roughly 93% that of Germany . The land includes the vast plains of the river deltas of the Red River and Mekong , the entire eastern coast of mainland Southeast Asia and the long mountain ranges and plateaus of the hinterland. The north-south extension is about 1650 km, the east-west width up to 600 km, while the narrowest point in Central Vietnam is only 50 km wide.

The geography of Vietnam is also described as a “bamboo pole with two rice bowls”: In the north and south there are two fertile rice-producing river deltas , in between a narrow, rather barren area characterized by forest and mountains. All in all, three quarters of Vietnam is covered by mountains and plateaus.


Five landscapes are distinguished from north to south:

  • Yunnan highlands : mountainous landscape in the north, where Vietnam borders on China and its highest mountain, Phan-xi-păng (3144 m). This region is the settlement area of ​​many ethnic minorities, with the city of Sa Pa at the foot of the Phan-xi-păng attracting most of the tourists.
  • Red River Delta : This fertile area around the capital Hanoi (Hà Nội) extends to the Gulf of Tonkin (Bắc Bộ). Tourist attractions here are the limestone cliffs around Ninh Bình south of Hanoi, and Halong Bay east of the capital.
  • Annamite highlands : The mountainous, sparsely populated hinterland of central and southern Vietnam is primarily a settlement area for ethnic minorities.
  • Annamite coastal strip : the narrow, relatively densely populated coastal area between the mountains and the South China Sea in central and southern Vietnam. The biggest cities of Annam are Huế and Da Nang .
  • Mekong Delta : fertile, densely populated alluvial plain, on the northeastern edge of which is the megacity of Ho Chi Minh City ( Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh , until 1976 Saigon).


Hai Van Pass (Cloud
Pass )

The climate differs significantly between North and South Vietnam. The north has a moderate tropical climate , there is a cool season from November to April and a hot one from May to October. The south is tropical : warm to very hot throughout the year, a little cooler from November to January, hot from February to May and with a rainy season between May and October. The cloud pass north of Đà Nẵng forms the weather divide between these areas .

During the rainy season, typhoons often rage , which can cause flooding , particularly in the Mekong Delta , but also in other coastal regions.


Working elephant on the banks of the Perfume River in central Vietnam

Vietnam has a species-rich fauna, but it is threatened by the ongoing destruction of forests and poaching. According to recent estimates, only around 200 tigers and fewer than 60 Asian elephants live there, and their survival is questionable. The Java rhinos , which in Vietnam were restricted to the area of ​​the Cat Tien National Park for a long time , were exterminated as early as 2010 through poaching. Outside of Vietnam, the rare animals only live in the Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java . Other mammals include primates ( gibbons , slow loris , langurs , macaques ), predators (including sun bears , marbled cats and several civets species ), cloven-hoofed animals ( Kant Chile , barking deer , deer , Bantengrinder , Gaure ) and numerous bat - and rodent species . The bird world is also rich in species, including pheasants , hornbills , owls , birds of prey , herons and numerous songbirds . Even crocodiles , snakes , lizards and frogs are native to this country, to countless species of insects and invertebrates . Several new species of Vietnam were described in the 1990s, including the Vu Quang beef and several muntja cards . The Vu Quang beef is protected in the Vu Quang National Park.


The use of environmental toxins by the USA during the Vietnam War caused lasting damage to Vietnamese nature. Above all, dioxin-containing herbicides such as Agent Orange , of which the US Air Force sprayed over 45 million liters over the country, are still having an effect in large areas because they decompose very slowly and have a half-life of around a decade. About half of the mangrove swamps that cannot regenerate themselves were destroyed during the war . The defoliated slopes in the interior of the country can still not be afforested, because only very resistant grasses can grow, which are very susceptible to wildfires during the dry season. In the rainy season there is therefore extremely heavy erosion in these regions .

The long-term effects of the use of dioxins are not only still felt by those who came into direct contact with it at the time (skin burns, chloracne , cancer ). The poison also found its way into the food chain, which, due to the damage it causes to the genetic make-up, leads to significantly higher numbers of miscarriages, stillbirths and abortions.

In addition to environmental toxins, a large number of duds and landmines can also be found in rural areas . As before, farmers and scrap metal hunters are killed or injured by exploding ammunition every year.

Millions of hectares of tropical forests that previously suffered from herbicides have been destroyed by slash and burn since the 1960s . The north, which is sometimes difficult to access, is particularly affected by this. The government is trying to put a stop to this, but the pressure of the rapidly growing population and the poverty in the mountain provinces are causing the population to burn down forests to gain arable land. Tropical woods such as teak are still illegally extracted in Vietnam, as in the whole of Southeast Asia, in spite of strict legal regulations in the meantime, in order to manufacture furniture for the European, US and Japanese markets.

There are programs with, in some cases, large amounts of foreign aid, which are intended to raise the environmental awareness of the Vietnamese. Government and environmental organizations have high hopes for the development of ecotourism . They have already established several national parks - the oldest of them as early as 1962 - and some of the country's landscapes are under special protection by UNESCO .

Administrative structure

Vietnam is divided into 58 provinces and five municipalities. Cities, districts and villages follow below this level. The people's councils of the provinces and municipalities report directly to the central government. There are also elected people's councils at district and community level, to which the local authorities are bound to a certain extent. The People's Councils also elect the People's Committees, which are the regional governments.


Colonial-style town hall of Ho Chi Minh City

The two most important cities by far are the capital Hanoi ( Hà Nội ) and the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City ( Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh , formerly Saigon ). While the latter is one of the fastest growing boom cities in the world and is understood as the economic center of ASEAN , Hà Nội has a reputation for being quieter and more elegant. In fact, when it comes to economic matters, Hà Nội is quite far behind the southern metropolis.

The port cities of Đà Nẵng , Hải Phòng and Nha Trang are partly strongly French in their cityscape. This can be seen, among other things, in the churches and villas in the cities. The cities of Huế as the capital during the last imperial dynasty and the imperial summer residence Đà Lạt in the southern highlands are of great historical importance and attract many visitors. The trading town of Hoi An is also interesting for tourists , as its old town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site , is very well preserved. Purely industrial cities, on the other hand, are Vinh , Ninh Bình , M oder Tho or Bến Tre .

The entire coast is littered with beaches, some of which are undeveloped for tourists. Examples are Mũi Né , Long Hải and Vũng Tàu on the South China Sea and Hà Tiên on or the island of Phú Quốc in the Gulf of Thailand.

In 2016, 34.2% of the population lived in cities or urban areas. The 5 largest cities are (as of 2016):

  1. Ho Chi Minh City : 6,642,000 inhabitants
  2. Hanoi : 3,442,000 inhabitants
  3. Da Nang : 915,000 inhabitants
  4. Hai Phong : 842,000 inhabitants
  5. Bien Hoa : 821,000 inhabitants



Age pyramid in millions of inhabitants

Vietnam had an estimated 96.5 million inhabitants in 2019. The population is on average very young: nationwide, around 32% of people were under 14 years of age in 2005 and only around 5.6% are over 65. Population growth is estimated at 1.3% to 1.4%. The birth rate tends to fall (2005: 17.07 births per 1000 and 1.94 children per woman), while the death rate is also falling due to improved medical conditions (2005: 6.2 per 1000). Life expectancy in the period from 2010 to 2015 was a total of 75.7 years (70.7 years for men and 80.3 years for women).

While the Vietnamese population is perceived as consistently young by Western observers, Vietnam is beginning to adjust to the fact that the population has entered a phase of aging. On April 1, 2010, the number of people over the age of 60 reached 8.1 million; that is 9.4% of the total population and means an increase of 4% compared to 2009. Vietnam is one of the countries with an exceptionally fast aging of the total population. While it took 85 years in Sweden, 26 years in Japan and 22 years in Thailand to achieve the status of an aging population according to the guidelines of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), it only took 20 years in Vietnam. The rapid aging of the population is due to the fact that the fertility rate has fallen from over 5 children per woman in the 1970s to 2.0 children today.

The majority of the population lives in the densely populated areas of the Red River and Mekong estuary deltas, where agriculture is predominant. Despite the agrarian character, around 34% of the Vietnamese already lived in the urban regions of the big cities in 2016 (in the 1980s it was only 15%), and immigration from the economically underdeveloped rural areas is steadily increasing. In addition, there is migration from north to south. In Vietnam itself there is no private ownership of land. The Vietnamese state grants land use rights, the average approved useful life of which is around 50 years.

Almost 2.5 million live abroad, most of them fled during the Vietnam War or had to leave the country due to political persecution. Almost 1.3 million of them live in the United States and 125,000 in the former colonial power France. The remittances of the exiled Vietnamese are an extremely important source of income for the relatives in their homeland. In Vietnam itself, only 0.1% of the population were born abroad, making the country one of the most homogeneous in the world.

Population development over time

Population development in millions of inhabitants
year population year population
1950 24,810,000 1990 68,210,000
1955 28,148,000 1995 75,199,000
1960 32,671,000 2000 80,286,000
1965 37,860,000 2005 84,309,000
1970 43,407,000 2010 88,473,000
1975 48,729,000 2019 96,462,000
1980 54,373,000 2030 106,284,000
1985 61,049,000 2050 114,630,000

Source: UN, figures for 2030 and 2050 are forecasts


Dance of Cham women in front of their temple

About 88% of the population are ethnic Vietnamese ( Việt or Kinh ). In addition, 53 ethnic minority groups are recognized. The largest of these are the " overseas Chinese " ( Vietnam .: Hoa ), whose number is estimated at around 1.2 million. The majority of them are descendants of immigrants who came to the country in 1644 after the collapse of the Ming Dynasty . Other ethnic groups are Thái , Khmer (especially in the south, the region of the Mekong Delta, which belonged to Cambodia for centuries) and the inhabitants of the mountain regions known under the collective name of Montagnards ("mountain peoples"). The latter, who are considered the original inhabitants of continental Southeast Asia, were displaced in the course of history in Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos by the immigrant majority peoples from the more fertile regions of the river plains and coasts into the inaccessible mountain regions.

Since some members of the "hill tribes" fought on the side of France and the USA in the Indochina War and the Vietnam War , there was repression against these peoples after the reunification of Vietnam and they are sometimes not well respected in Vietnamese society. But minority peoples who fought on the Vietnamese side hardly receive any positive attention either. To this day, these peoples are largely cut off from the country's economic development and live in comparative poverty. The culture and language of the minorities are usually very different from that of the Vietnamese.


Orange: Original Vietnamese words;
green: Chinese-Vietnamese words

The official language is Vietnamese , which 88% of the population speak as their mother tongue. The Vietnamese language has been written in its own Latin-based script since 1945 . From the Vietnamese point of view, the numerous ethnic minorities are recognized, the languages ​​of the minorities are allowed and also promoted.

The French language gradually lost its official status after the French colonial era, but it is still very important as it is taught as the first foreign language in many schools. Vietnam is also a full member of the Francophone Community . Many Vietnamese emigrated to France during the Indochina Wars, where they form a French-speaking diaspora . Russian  - and to a lesser extent German , Czech and Polish  - are mastered by many Vietnamese who studied or worked in the Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War . In the meantime, Russian and French have been pushed out of public and school life by English, because many tourists come from the Anglo-Saxon region and trade with the former “archenemy” USA is increasing. Learning English is now compulsory in most schools, although French is still offered in some educational institutions.


Cao Dai Temple in Tây Ninh

It is difficult to provide precise information on religious affiliation in Vietnam. The vast majority of Vietnamese do not profess any faith. According to a study published in 2004, 81.5 percent of Vietnamese are atheists . It is estimated that there are around 20 million Buddhists and 6 million Catholics. Other denominations are Cao Dai (2 million followers), Hoa Hao (1 million), Protestantism (500,000) and Islam (50,000). In the Vietnamese understanding of religion, there is no strict separation of different denominations. Religiousness is mostly a historically grown mixture with many aspects of different religious origins. It is not uncommon for Vietnamese people to regularly visit Buddhist pagodas and worship their ancestors.

The everyday religiosity - or rather, the way of life - is generally most likely by the Theravada - and Mahayana -Buddhismus, the Taoism , the Confucianism and animist ideas and especially one ancestor worship affected without this leading to dogma. Belief in ghosts is widespread. Ritual elements of action of the different influences can occur in the individual depending on the everyday situation. In the folk religions Volkso Mẫu and Cao Đài , which were originally Confucianist , there are still city shamans (dong) who perform various rituals of sacrifice and inspiration. The Lên đồng ritual , in which the shaman asks the spirits in a trance for health and prosperity for the hosts of the ritual, is particularly popular with all Vietnamese regardless of their denomination . The costume plays an important role: It reflects the classic court costume of the premodern and is “attracted” to the spirit in order to honor it in this way. The spirit then contacts those present through the medium to receive offerings and enjoy the music.

In contrast to other Asian countries, there has also been a central association of religious and lay people from all Buddhist schools in (South) Vietnam since 1963, the " Congregation of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Church " (KVVBK).

The constitution of Vietnam generally provides for freedom of religion or belief. Since religious institutions always compete with the state's influence on the population, religion and its institutions have been treated with suspicion by the Communist Party of Vietnam, at least in the past .

The Catholic faith first came to the country in the 16th century with French, Spanish and Portuguese missionaries. It was spread under pressure from French colonial rule. After Catholicism was actively opposed in the first years of communist rule, the government is now trying to improve relations with the Holy See. The visit of the then Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng to Pope Benedict XVI. 2007 has raised hopes of further opening up to greater religious freedom, but the Catholic Church continues to be viewed as "reactionary".


University of Medicine in Hanoi

In 2000, it is estimated that 92% of all children went to school. However, only two thirds completed the five years of primary school. In rural areas in particular, many children leave school prematurely, the reasons being the costs of school supplies, books and uniforms and the need to earn money to support the family. There are huge regional differences: in some rural areas only 10 to 15% of children go to school for more than three years, while in Ho Chi Minh City 96% of students finish primary school. Only 62.5% of children start middle school. In Vietnam, the mean school attendance of those over 25 increased from 3.9 years in 1990 to 8 years in 2015. The current educational expectation is already 12.6 years.

About 6% of the population over the age of 15 are illiterate; Illiteracy affects 3.7% of men and 7.2% of women, and overall it is 4.5% (as of 2015). There is no compulsory education in Vietnam . Since the education itself has to be paid for and some families do not have enough money for it, they do not send their children to school. In the 2015 PISA ranking , Vietnamese students ranked 22nd out of 72 countries in mathematics, 8th in science and 30th in reading comprehension. Vietnam achieved an exceptionally good result for a developing country.

The elementary school goes up to the 5th grade, the middle school up to the 9th grade; then you have to pass an exam to get into high school (10th, 11th and 12th grade). If this is not passed, you stay seated again and again. This applies to grammar school and secondary school (provided that you do not break off the training).

If you attend a grammar school or a secondary school, you cannot and may not change any more.

There are state and private universities , the most prestigious of which are Ha Nội State University and Ho Chi Minh City State University; Access is regulated by an entrance examination at the respective university. The Vietnamese-German University has also been located in Ho Chi Minh City since 2008 .

The most common foreign language in Vietnam today is English. For reasons related to the history of the country and its earlier integration into the Eastern Bloc, one often meets people who speak French, Russian or German; around 100,000 Vietnamese have studied, worked or enjoyed an apprenticeship in the GDR. More and more Vietnamese are also learning Japanese and Chinese.


Tam Duc Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City
Development of child mortality (deaths per 1000 births)

In 2001 the government spent 0.9% of GDP on the health system. In 2000 there were 14.8 hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants, which is also a very low figure for Asia. 80% of all expenses for the health system come from the patients themselves.

After diseases such as malaria , tuberculosis , dengue fever , typhoid and cholera were major problems in the 1980s and 1990s , Vietnam accepted foreign aid and largely suppressed these epidemics. The official HIV prevalence in 2005 was 0.35%, which is the global average. HIV / AIDS patients are socially ostracized, which makes fighting the epidemic more difficult.

A health study from 2007 shows that 87% of Vietnamese in the 60 to 69 age group suffer from illnesses. The disease rate is even higher in the older sections of the population.

After the numerous wars in Vietnam's past, 5 million Vietnamese or 6% of the population are disabled.

The proportion of the undernourished population was reduced from 24.3% in 2000 to 10.7% in 2015.

Development of life expectancy since 1950
Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950-1955 53.5 1985-1985 69.8
1955-1960 57.3 1990-1990 71.2
1960-1965 60.5 1995-2000 72.7
1965-1970 62.3 2000-2005 73.8
1970-1975 57.8 2005-2010 74.7
1975-1980 66.1 2010-2015 75.6
1980-1985 68.1

Source: UN



Dong Son drum

The earliest traces of human activity in what is now Vietnam can be dated back to 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. The oldest known culture in this region was the more than 30,000 year old Dieu culture south of Hanoi, from where the 16,000 year old Hoa Binh culture spread widely. The last Paleolithic culture in the region was the Bac-son culture (approx. 10,000 BC), which also made ceramics. The irrigation of rice was cultivated from around 3000 BC. Known.

The Bronze Age began here around 1500 BC. With the Sa-Huynh culture , whose members populated the coastal region. At the same time, the Dong Son culture existed in the Red River delta , best known for its richly decorated bronze drums. From this culture emerged in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. BC the first known kingdom of the Việt ( Chinese, Pinyin Yuè ), which comprised most of what is now North Vietnam.  

In the 3rd century BC Âu Việt immigrated from what is now southern China and mingled with the local Lạc Việt. In 258 BC . Founded BC Thuc Phan , the Kingdom of Âu Lạc (from the union of Âu Việt and Lạc Việt) and declared himself king. After a long war with the Qín , he was defeated in 208 BC. Defeated by the Qín general趙佗 / 赵佗, Zhào Tuó (Vietnamese: Triệu Đà). He proclaimed himself king and named his kingdom Nam Việt (南越, Nányuè = Südviệt or Südyuè ).

In 111 BC Nam Việt was conquered by Hàn Wǔdì's troops and incorporated into the Chinese Empire as prefecture (, jùn (quận))交趾, Jiāozhǐ (Giao Chỉ). Under this rule, technical achievements in rice cultivation, animal husbandry and architecture were adopted. But there were also numerous uprisings and short phases of independence. In 679 the prefecture was renamed An Nam (安南, Ān Nán  - "peaceful south").

Early dynasties

Citadel and Forbidden City in Huế

At the beginning of the 10th century, the Tang Dynasty collapsed in China . Annam used the weak phase to evade Chinese power. The first Vietnamese state was established in 938 under the strategist Ngô Quyền . Until 968 the state was consolidated under Đinh Bộ Lĩnh ; until 1009, however, several short-lived dynasties alternated in power.

From 1010 to 1225 the state of Dai Viet was ruled by the Lý dynasty . Its founder Lý Thái Tổ successfully defended it against the Chinese, Khmer and Cham . The Ly strengthened the state based on the Chinese model and adapted it to Vietnamese needs.

After unrest, the Trần dynasty took power in 1225 . In 1257/58, in alliance with the Cham, they successfully defended the country against three attacks by the Chinese and Mongols under Kublai Khan ( Yuan dynasty ). Under the leadership of Trần Hưng Đạo , the Vietnamese succeeded in defeating an army of supposedly 500,000 Mongols and securing Vietnam's independence. Around 1400 the Hồ dynasty replaced the Tần and there was a brief Chinese rule under the Ming . They tried to deliberately sinize Vietnam further , for example the Vietnamese literary heritage was systematically destroyed.

Nam tien (1069 to 1757), historical journey south

In 1427, Lê Lợi founded the Lê dynasty , which ruled until 1789. Vietnamese traditions were again consciously emphasized among the Le, but Confucianism remained the dominant pillar of the state organization. Champa was conquered and Vietnamese power extended to the Mekong . As early as the end of the 15th century, the power of the royal family was eroding. The beneficiaries were influential merchant families (especially the Trinh and Nguyen ) and the Europeans who had been present since 1516. The Vietnamese royal family had to tolerate numerous Jesuits and Franciscans in the country. In addition to the new religion, the European missionaries also brought new technologies into the country, for example the Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes developed the Vietnamese script Quốc ngữ, which is still used today and is based on the Latin letters .

In 1765 the Tây Sơn rebellion broke out. The prince Nguyễn Ánh walked out of the subsequent civil war in 1789 from the influential merchant's family Nguyễn with French help as the winner. He proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long , moved the country's capital to Huế and initiated the naming of Việt Nam for the first time . In 1802 he asked the Chinese Emperor Jiāqìng for permission to rename the country from Đại Việt 大 越 to Nam Việt 南越. However, he exchanged the two syllables for Việt Nam 越南 to prevent confusion with the old kingdom of Nam Việt under Qín-General Zhào Tuó (Vietnamese: Triệu Đà), as this empire comprised part of the area that later became southern China.

During the reign of Gia Long, large infrastructure and defense projects were tackled with French advice, which emptied the treasury. The territory of the empire was expanded, from 1834 parts of what is now Cambodia belonged to Vietnam as the province of Trấn Tây thành .

French colonial rule

French Indochina 1913

From the middle of the 19th century, the French increased their pressure on the Nguyen emperors , which led to riots by the impoverished population against French missionaries. To demonstrate strength as the protective power of the Christian missions, French gunboats attacked the port of Da Nang and the Mekong Delta in 1858 and also appeared on the Perfume River that flows through the capital Huế . From 1862 Vietnam had to cede territories to the French. By 1883 three protectorates called Annam , Cochinchina and Tonkin were established, which the Vietnamese emperor had to accept. Vietnam was thus under French colonial rule. With the introduction of the money economy , the population became impoverished, while a small class of large landowners emerged in the countryside. The Chinese minority dominated the country's economy. As early as 1905, Vietnamese nationalist freedom fighters around Phan Bội Châu (1868–1940) and Cuong De were active in Japan and southern China.

In the period that followed, Vietnamese students and intellectuals in Europe, especially France, came into contact with the ideas of nationalism and communism . The most important of them was Hồ Chí Minh (1890-1969), who in 1929 united the communist parties active in Annam, Cochinchina and Tonkin into a single party. The party was decimated and weakened in 1930 after the failed Yen Bai uprising and the execution of many of its members.

During the Second World War in 1941 all of Indochina and thus Vietnam came under the influence of Japan (shared rule with the Vichy regime ). After Hồ Chí Minh returned from exile in 1941, a league for the independence of Vietnam under the abbreviation Việt Minh was soon formed from over 40 local resistance groups to defend against Japanese imperialism and French colonialism. In March 1945 the Japanese occupied Indochina, ended the French colonial administration and installed Emperor Bảo Đại . The United States supported the Việt Minh, who achieved some success in combating the Japanese occupation. After Japan surrendered, Bảo Đại had to abdicate on August 25, 1945 . On September 2, 1945, after the successful August Revolution , H die Chí Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam . The Declaration of Independence was based on the United States' Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the declaration of human and civil rights of the French Revolution . Vietnam was the first independent republic in Southeast Asia.

After the Potsdam Conference , Vietnam fell under the rule of the British . However, they had to ask the defeated Japanese to intervene in the rebellious south. In the north, on the other hand, Chinese national troops marched in from September 1945 with the task of disarming the Japanese. Despite a peace treaty with the Việt Minh, the French forced the re-establishment of their colonial regime in South Vietnam on September 23, 1945, so that on October 5, French troops landed in the city of Saigon . The Chinese and British handed Vietnam back to France.

War of Indochina and division into two states

France's attempt to regain control of the now independent North Vietnam led to the outbreak of the First Indochina War in 1946. In 1948, a counter-government under French supervision was set up in South Vietnam, headed by the former Emperor Bảo Đại as head of state from 1949 . After years of guerrilla warfare, the Việt Minh under General Võ Nguyên Giáp succeeded on May 7, 1954 in defeating the French in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ . This victory marked the end of French colonial rule in Indochina. This was followed by an armistice and the Geneva Conference of July 21, 1954, at which the partition of Vietnam along the 17th parallel into the (northern) Democratic Republic of Vietnam (capital Hanoi ) and the (southern) Republic of Vietnam (capital Saigon ) was decided. By May 1955, France had to withdraw all troops from Indochina.

In South Vietnam, Bảo Đại commissioned the Catholic leader Diệm on June 16, 1954 to form a government. The following year, Diệm disempowered Bảo Đại and raised himself to head of state. Land reforms initiated by the Việt Minh have been withdrawn. The Diệm government was unpopular, with students and Buddhists protesting against government policies. The US stepped up its support for South Vietnam to prevent the regime from being overthrown. By 1960, South Vietnam sank more and more into corruption and chaos. On November 1, 1963, Diệm was overthrown and murdered. This was followed by several short-lived military governments , until a new, stable government was established in 1967 under the US- sponsored President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu .

Vietnam War

On August 2nd and 4th, 1964, the incident occurred in the Gulf of Tonkin . From 1965 onwards, the USA launched massive "retaliatory attacks" on North Vietnam. The so-called Pentagon Papers , published only in 1971, showed that the USA had been planning this war for a long time, among other things, in order to prevent the communists from participating in the government in South Vietnam. From 1965 the USA waged a systematic air war against North Vietnam; US ground forces operated in the south. The war escalated by 1968, although the United States was considered to be militarily superior to North Vietnam. Around 230,000 partisans and 50,000 members of the official North Vietnamese armed forces fought on the side of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam . They faced around 550,000 Americans, roughly the same number of ARVN soldiers , 50,000 South Koreans and smaller contingents of allies (including Australia and New Zealand ).

On January 31, 1968, the Viet Cong achieved a politically important victory: In the Tet Offensive , the communist partisans of South Vietnam temporarily took parts of Saigon and other cities, and the well-secured US embassy in Saigon was attacked. In the United States, the government could no longer claim that the conflict was under control. Despite heavy losses by the Viet Cong, it seemed obvious that the war could no longer be won. Public opinion in the USA shifted, not least because of press reports and photo reports on the atrocities of war, massacres and napalm victims. The USA therefore decided in 1969 to Vietnamize the war and withdraw its troops in several stages. The bombings and air strikes, particularly the use of defoliants , continued until 1973.

Sprayer Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta on July 26, 1969

On September 2, 1969, Ho Chi Minh , the president of North Vietnam, died. On January 27, 1973, Henry Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ , the successor to Hồ Chí Minh, agreed an armistice. This ended the direct involvement of the USA in the war, but arms deliveries to South Vietnam continued. The North Vietnamese successfully continued the fight against South Vietnam . On April 21, 1975, Saigon was about to fall, head of state Nguyễn Văn Thiệu resigned from office and the last remaining US representatives were evacuated. Saigon was taken on April 30th, South Vietnam surrendered unconditionally on May 1st, 1975, and the Vietnam War was over. A Provisional Revolutionary Government took power in the south until reunification .

Socialist Republic of Vietnam

On July 2, 1976, North and South Vietnam were reunited under the name Socialist Republic of Vietnam . Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh).

The communist - Maoist regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia that emerged as a result of the Vietnam War and, above all, their attacks on Vietnamese territory prompted Vietnam to invade Cambodia. In early 1979, Vietnamese troops conquered Phnom Penh and set up a “People's Revolutionary Council” under Heng Samrin, which is dependent on Vietnam . The People's Republic of China , which had supported the Khmer Rouge government, then provoked armed conflicts along the border with Vietnam, known as the War of Education , in view of Vietnam's loyal policy to Moscow . During the several weeks of fighting, both sides suffered heavy losses. China eventually withdrew and said it had achieved its goals. The conflict ended without a clear winner. It was not until 1989 that Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia.

In 1983 there were around 2,000 Soviet military advisers in the country who operated air and sea bases (including in Cam Ranh ) and an eavesdropping station, the use of which was contractually agreed.

From 1986 the Communist Party of Vietnam initiated economic reforms called Đổi mới (renewal). During the 1990s the economy grew strongly and Vietnam was once again accepted into the international community. On February 3, 1994, the Clinton administration lifted the trade embargo that had existed since the Vietnam War . In 1995 Vietnam and the USA resumed diplomatic relations; In 2001, their bilateral trade agreement came into force.


Presidential Palace in Hanoi

Vietnam is a one-party state in which the Communist Party of Vietnam is the unity party and thus has a monopoly on power. The human rights situation is problematic. The press is censored according to government opinion and civil society is closely monitored.

Government system

Vietnam is mainly run by a three-person college consisting of the General Secretary of the CPV, the Prime Minister and the President . All three are party officials and usually make their decisions unanimously. The general secretary is not only the head of the secretariat, but usually also the chairman of the Politburo of the CPV, which currently consists of 14 members.

Building of the National Assembly of Vietnam

According to the constitution, the National Assembly , the unicameral parliament of Vietnam, is the highest organ of state power. The 493 MPs are elected for a term of five years. The National Assembly must hold a plenary assembly at least twice a year. The rest of the time, their tasks are carried out by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly (SANV). The National Assembly appoints the president, the prime minister and the government ( executive ) as well as the procurator of the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Control Office ( judiciary ). The National Assembly has grown in political influence significantly since the last constitutional amendments. She can now change laws, hold ministers accountable and have to approve state budget and production plans. The greatest political power remains with the Communist Party, which has  the electoral process under its control through the Vietnamese Fatherland Front - an umbrella organization for mass organizations . With its Central Committee and the Politburo, it controls the country's politics. Due to the approximately 90 percent share of CPV members in the NV, all high-ranking members of the government are also part of the CPV.

Elections in Vietnam take place every five years at several levels: at the central level (National Assembly) as well as at the provincial, district and municipal level (People's Councils). The candidates who want to stand for election are selected by the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and the Communist Party according to strict criteria. Nevertheless, around 10% of MPs are currently not party members, after around 15% of non-party members were admitted in the 2002 election. However, 69 independents had previously applied and only 13 were accepted. Since 2003, by law, at least two more candidates have to stand in each constituency than there are seats to be given.

Women's suffrage

According to Gosha, when the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) was founded , the Việt Minh proclaimed universal suffrage regardless of the sexes. The author does not give a specific date, but names Decree No. 14 and No. 51 as the legal basis and describes that this happened as part of the takeover of power during the August Revolution (declaration of independence on September 2, 1945). On September 2, 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed. When they came to power during the August Revolution (declaration of independence on September 2, 1945), women were given the same rights as men for the first time, including the right to vote. The legal basis for this was the decrees number 14 and number 51. The right was exercised for the first time in the elections of January 6, 1946. In 1946 only 2.5 percent of the members of the legislative assembly were women. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam only briefly covered the entire territory of the country. In 1946 the French colonial power returned to the south. During the colonial period until 1954, there was no right to vote for non-naturalized indigenous people of the colony. A source reports that women had active suffrage in South Vietnam for the election of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1955.

Constitution and human rights

The first constitution of Vietnam was adopted in November 1946. It established the indivisibility of the country and the equality of all citizens of the country before the law. The women's suffrage was also introduced 1946th Since then there have been new constitutions in 1959, 1980 and 1992. Today's Vietnamese constitution is valid in its version of April 15, 1992, which was modified in 2001. With an additional section in Article 4, the Communist Party, in contrast to the 1980 constitution, formally submits itself to the constitution and the law, while until then it had the authorization to do everything it deemed necessary to build socialism . Today's constitution has shifted its focus towards the development of business, education, science and technology and the protection of the private sector and foreign investors.

However, Article 4 of the Constitution still establishes the leading role of the Communist Party of Vietnam and bans all opposition parties . The preamble to the constitution describes the party as the leader, the people as the ruler and the state as the administrator.

The parties abroad that existed before the ban or were established after the ban continue to exist. Although these have no influence on the political events in Vietnam, they organize many demonstrations at home and abroad. In addition, some parties have their own party newspapers, which mostly contain critical revelations against the communist government in Vietnam.

(See also: List of Political Parties in Vietnam )

Furthermore, the Constitution of Vietnam formally grants all citizens basic rights such as B. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of belief. However, due to state censorship and control by the communist party, citizens are only able to exercise these basic rights to a limited extent. Several critical bloggers have already been arrested. Well-known blogger and dissident Le Quoc Quan , a human rights lawyer, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in autumn 2013 on charges of tax evasion. Thereupon there was a protest demonstration.

On September 19, 2015, blogger Ta Phong Tan was forced into exile after three years' imprisonment, with the remainder suspended, with a ten-year prison term. Pen International is demanding free entry and waiver of this sentence for them as well as the release of a number of other bloggers.

Legal system

Supreme Court of Vietnam in Hanoi

In fact, Vietnam has no independent judiciary . The persons acting in the Vietnamese legal system are all selected directly or indirectly by the Communist Party or the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, whereby political reliability is an important selection criterion. The party also influences legal decisions that could call the CPV's monopoly into question. In addition, there is a lack of judges and lawyers with adequate training. However, in contrast to the German system, lay judges in Vietnam have a legal education.

The highest instance of the Vietnamese legal system is the Supreme People's Court, which is subordinate to the National Assembly and whose members are appointed by the National Assembly on the proposal of the President. The National Assembly also determines the budget of the judiciary. The people's courts at district and provincial level, the military tribunals and the administrative, commercial and labor courts are subordinate to the Supreme People's Court.

The death penalty has not been abolished in Vietnam; it is imposed, among other things, on persons convicted of corruption or drug trafficking .

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 63.9 out of 120 110 of 178 Stability of the country: Warning
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 2.94 out of 10 137 of 167 Authoritarian regime
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World Index 20 out of 100 - Freedom status: unfree
0 = unfree / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 78.46 out of 100 175 of 180 Very serious situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 36 of 100 104 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Foreign policy

Locations of the diplomatic missions of Vietnam

During and after the Vietnam War , Vietnam was largely isolated in Southeast Asia. The US had imposed an economic embargo and urged other states to boycott Vietnam. Especially after the invasion of Cambodia (1978–1989), relations with the People's Republic of China were so tense that war broke out on the Vietnamese-Chinese border. Vietnam therefore integrated itself very strongly into the Council for Mutual Economic Aid ( COMECON ). The country only came out of isolation after withdrawing from Cambodia in 1991.

Relations with all neighboring countries relaxed in the 1990s. In 1991 the country resumed diplomatic relations with China and most of the countries in Europe and East Asia. Before the end of the Cold War, Vietnam only had diplomatic relations with 23 non-communist countries. Today there are 172. There are trade agreements with 76 countries and an equally high number of countries with most-favored-nation status . The US has lifted its embargo on Vietnam, making it possible to join the World Bank , the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank . Vietnam joined ASEAN in July 1995 and APEC in 1998 . Since January 11, 2007, Vietnam has been the 150th member of the WTO . From 2008 to 2009, the country was one of ten non-permanent members of the UN Security Council .

Of particular interest for Vietnam are the relationship with the Asia-Pacific region, and here especially with China, which is also a socialist state and the main regulatory power in the region. There are also some collaborations with Germany. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation , the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Goethe Institute have branches in Vietnam. In 2010, several organizations announced the event year "Germany in Vietnam", during which various events of German culture took place in Vietnam. At the same time, an event calendar “Vietnam in Germany” was created. The alleged kidnapping of the Vietnamese manager Trịnh Xuân Thanh , who was in Germany as an asylum seeker, on July 23, 2017 by the Vietnamese secret service prompted the federal government to expel a Vietnamese diplomat.

There are border disputes with a number of states over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea .


Flag of the Vietnamese People's Army

The Vietnamese People's Army went back to the establishment of a Vietnamese communist state during the August Revolution . In the Indochina War and the Vietnam War, the armed forces played the decisive role in achieving the country's independence and unity within the framework of a communist state. In the Cambodian civil war , the armed forces occupied parts of the neighboring country. In 1979 the armed forces defended the northern part of the country against a Chinese invasion . The armed forces are subject to rigorous political control by the communist party. In addition, the armed forces have their own companies, such as the telecommunications company Viettel .

The land forces have a strength of about 412,000 men; there is general conscription for all men, which usually lasts two years. The Navy has 42,000 men; the most modern armed force in Vietnam is the air force with 30,000 men. Their main strength consists of 124 MiG-21s , 53 Su-22s , 12 Su-27s and 24 Su-30s .

Soldiers of the Vietnamese People's Army

Vietnam does not currently face any external threats. The government has therefore reduced troop strength and defense spending in recent years. It is estimated that Vietnam spent nearly 2.3 percent of its economic output or $ 5.1 billion on its armed forces in 2017. Nevertheless, the Vietnamese military is one of the most powerful and powerful in the region. The military is also strong domestically, with many high-ranking military officials holding influential positions in party and state leadership. After the military clashes with France, the USA and China, it enjoyed strong popular support. Vietnam was ranked 16th out of 155 countries in the Global Militarization Index (GMI) in 2018 . According to the ranking by Global Firepower (2018), the country is one of the 20 strongest military powers in the world.

In addition to the regular army, there are paramilitary reserve units , the strength of which is estimated at 4 to 5 million men. These include the self-defense forces and the people's militia.


Hanoi skyline

Vietnam is one of those states that are undergoing a transformation from a central administration economy to a socialist market economy . This process triggered rapid economic growth in Vietnam and made the country an attractive investment location for international companies. The World Bank has classified Vietnam as an emerging country since the beginning of 2011 .

According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Vietnam is one of the countries of medium development. With an HDI of 0.693, it is on the threshold of the countries of high human development. The HDI of Vietnam has risen sharply since 1990. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Vietnam ranks 67th out of 141 countries (as of 2019). In 2018, the country was ranked 141st out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom and was classified as “largely unfree”.

Economic history

View from the Saigon River to downtown Ho Chi Minh City

After the reunification of Vietnam, the country's economy was faced with the problem of being divided into two halves, which were organized according to completely different patterns: In the north there was the communist, planned-economy half, whose agriculture was operated in cooperatives and whose land was also through the US army was badly bombed in the Vietnam War . The South, on the other hand, was organized as a market economy for some time, but over the past two decades had developed an economy that depended entirely on the influx of American money brought in as a result of the military presence.

The south was restructured along the lines of the Soviet model, agriculture was collectivized and farms were nationalized. Vietnam joined the Mutual Economic Assistance Council in 1978 , while the US imposed an economic embargo on Vietnam that not only prohibited Americans from trading with Vietnam, but also prevented the IMF , World Bank, and similar organizations from providing construction loans to Vietnam .

Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower in Hanoi , the second tallest building in Vietnam at 336 meters

The result of the ineffectiveness of state-owned enterprises and collectivized agriculture, the trade barriers and the massive environmental damage from the Vietnam War was terrible poverty. Repressions by the communist leadership against the former enemies, poverty and expropriations of the private sector in the south caused more than half a million Vietnamese to leave the country as boat people at risk of death. The number of survivors is estimated at only 20% to 40%. In the face of obvious economic problems, the Communist Party decided in 1979 to give more support to private economic operators and in 1981 the first reform steps were taken in agriculture. Further reforms remained ineffective, however, resulting in economic stagnation and hyperinflation as well as serious supply bottlenecks. In 1980 rice production per capita was 265 kg, below the subsistence limit of 300 kg per capita and year. The only thing that kept Vietnam halfway alive was economic aid from Comecon, which amounted to an estimated $ 3 billion annually.

Lê Duẩn died in 1986, making way for a reform-minded, younger generation. Under Nguyễn Văn Linh was Đổi mới ( economic renovation ) announced and in 1989 the first measures were implemented this reform policy. This meant that central planning was abandoned, collectivization gradually abolished and market economy reforms introduced. However, the CPV by no means gave up its socialist character, because it was emphasized that a socialist market economy would be built, which would be the first stage of the transition to communism. Foreign companies were allowed to invest in Vietnam. When Vietnam emerged from the international isolation into which it had come through the intervention in Cambodia in the early 1990s, and the Americans lifted their economic embargo in 1993, so much foreign investment and financial aid flowed into the country that economic growth at times increased 10% Year exceeded. Vietnam, a country that was formerly lacking, has become the world's second largest rice exporter, especially through the reforms in agriculture. In 2003 the annual rice production per capita was around 470 kg.

Hanoi market

A considerable part of the economic output is provided by financial support, goods and investments from foreign Vietnamese (especially from the USA); for the year 2000 this amount was estimated at US $ 1 billion.

Vietnam exceeded the limit of USD 1,000 per capita annual income in 2009 and has been a "Middle Income Country" ever since. In 2018, the gross domestic product was estimated at USD 241 billion, i.e. USD 2546 per capita. However, the national income is very unevenly distributed between urban and rural areas. As before, 60 percent of the population live in rural areas, but only earn 20 percent of the national income there. The inflation rate in Vietnam was 3.52% in 2017.

The GDP per person adjusted for purchasing power parity was US $ 410 in 1999 (city 640, country 180), in 2016 it was around US $ 6,530, which corresponds to around 18 dollars / day. Around 6% of the population still earn less than US $ 1 a day.

At the 10th party congress of the KPV , which took place from 18. – 25. April 2006 took place in Hanoi, 1178 delegates adopted the five-year plan for the period 2006-2010 ( Socio-Economic Development Plan for the Five Year Period 2006-2010 ). According to this plan, Vietnam is to become an industrialized country by 2020; economic growth should remain between 8 and 8.5% until then. Significantly, the former Microsoft boss Bill Gates was also in Hanoi at the invitation of the Vietnamese government.

In May 2006, it became known that Vietnam and the USA intend to sign a bilateral trade agreement in June 2006. In November 2006, the APEC summit took place in Hanoi, which was also attended by US President George W. Bush . On January 11, 2007, Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization ( WTO) .


Growing wet rice
Plowing the rice field with water buffalo and wooden plow

Until a few years ago, Vietnam was an almost exclusively agricultural country. To date, 40% of Vietnam's labor force is employed in agriculture, but this sector only contributes 15% of GDP . For 2007 there was an increase of 3.4%, despite numerous natural disasters.

Coffee cultivation, introduced in Vietnam by the French colonial rulers in 1857, has developed rapidly over the past 25 years, from a cultivated area of ​​22,000 hectares in 1980 to half a million hectares today. This means that Vietnam has become the world's second largest coffee producer behind Brazil . The trigger for this development was the GDR . Because of the steadily increasing prices for green coffee in the 1980s and the immense demand of the GDR for this, a way out of the problem of having to spend valuable hard currency on coffee was sought. The then socialist brother country Vietnam offers good climatic conditions for coffee cultivation in a quality that is meanwhile also world-marketable. One of the centers of Vietnamese coffee cultivation is the southern highland province of Đắk Lắk (on average at an altitude of 600  m ).

Vietnam is the fifth largest rice producer (as of 2016). In the last few years Vietnam has become the fourth largest fish producer. The majority of the annual production of 6.4 million tons (2016) already comes from breeding and no longer from traditional fishing.

Raw materials and energy

At the end of 2017, Vietnam had known oil reserves of around 600 million tons (or 4,400 million barrels ). In 2017, around 335,000 barrels were mined and 486,000 barrels were consumed every day. Oil production has stagnated in the last 10 years, while consumption has increased sharply (in 2007 daily consumption was still 283,000 barrels). There is one refinery in Vietnam, the Dung Quất Refinery , and a second is under construction. Refining capacity was 167,000 barrels per day in 2017.

In Vietnam there are still large deposits of anthracite coal (reserves of 3,116 million tons) and natural gas as well as antimony, bauxite, chromium, gold, iron, phosphates, tin and zinc.

In 2014, Vietnam was the thirteenth largest hard coal producer in the world with 41 million t.

In 2017, 190.3 billion kilowatt hours of electrical energy were generated in Vietnam. In 2005 it was 51.3 billion kWh and in 1995 it was only 14.3 billion. 70.2 billion kWh (37%) came from hydropower, 74.3 billion kWh (39%) from coal and 44.4 billion kWh (23%) from natural gas. In November 2016, plans to build a nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuận Province were abandoned.


Industry contributed 42% of GDP in 2007 and is the mainstay of the country's economic growth with 10.6% growth this year. The most important branch of industry is the manufacture of textiles and shoes, alongside the manufacture of cement, steel and the assembly of automobiles. Around 40% of Vietnam's industrial operations are still in state hands and at least a quarter of them are in deficit; Nevertheless, the government decided in 2002 that all companies that are active in sensitive areas remain 100% under state control. The Vietnamese companies are usually very small and financially weak. It is expected that many of them will not survive the rapidly advancing economic opening of Vietnam.

Economic structure

Terrace farming in North Vietnam

Before the introduction of Đổi mi , private companies were either banned or neglected, depending on the economic sector. Only family businesses were legal. Some time after the reforms began, in 2002, the private sector accounted for around 40% of GDP , with agriculture accounting for a particularly high proportion and industrial production accounting for around a third.

The Asian crisis in 1998 also hit Vietnam hard and economic growth (2001: around 5%) and the interest of foreign investors had in the meantime noticeably decreased. The government was now forced to implement a series of reforms to keep the economy growing strongly. Above all, this includes a reform of the legal system , as legal uncertainty deterred many potential investors. Likewise, the question of property ownership was not fully resolved and the impossibility of reallocating agricultural land into industrial land meant that the prices for industrialized land temporarily exceeded those in Japan.

The state-owned companies pose a problem for the Vietnamese economy: They are mostly unprofitable, not internationally competitive and have a large amount of loans that they probably cannot repay and thus threaten the entire banking system. A number of state-owned companies have already been merged with other state-owned companies, or closed. Due to the social impact ( unemployment ) , however, the process is quite slow.

The economy is marked by a strong difference between the north and the south, with the economy in the south being significantly more dynamic than in the north. This is usually justified by the fact that the strategic location of the south is better and that Đổi mới there - due to the more recent experience with the market mechanisms - took action faster than in the north.

The inflation , which was a major problem in the 1980s, is now under control. Astronomical prices with lots of zeros remain as a reminder of inflation. There are notes from 500 to 500,000 dong face value and now also coins from 500 dong upwards. One euro is worth around 25,000 dong (2017), so the largest note is only a good 20 €, so it is normal to have to deal with bundles of large amounts, and bags of banknotes when settling in shops and banks .

The unemployment rate was only 2.2% in 2017, but many jobs are of an informal nature and underemployment is widespread. In 2017, 40.3% of all workers worked in agriculture, 25.7% in industry and 34% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 54.8 million for 2017.

Foreign trade

Daily oil consumption of some countries in Southeast Asia, liters per day / inhabitant

Vietnam's foreign trade has developed rapidly in the years since its integration into the world economy and the Vietnamese economy has reached a degree of openness that roughly corresponds to that of Thailand . In 2016, goods worth 176.6 billion US dollars were exported, an increase of 9.0% compared to 2015. The most important export products are crude oil, goods from light industry such as textiles, shoes or electrical and electronic equipment, wood products and agricultural products such as seafood, fish, rice and coffee . In 2008 Vietnam was the second largest coffee producer in the world. The main buyers for Vietnamese products are the USA, EU countries, China and the other ASEAN countries.

Vietnam's imports were worth $ 174.1 billion in 2016, up 5.0% from 2016. Mainly machines and vehicles, petroleum products, iron and steel, textile and leather materials as well as computers and IT equipment are imported. The main suppliers are the PRC, the other ASEAN countries, the EU, South Korea and Japan. The USA only plays a very subordinate role as a supplier for Vietnam.

With a goods trade volume of over 50 billion euros, Vietnam was recently the second most important EU trading partner in Southeast Asia, while the EU is Vietnam’s fourth most important trading partner globally. Between 2014 and 2018, mutual trade in goods grew by an average of 15% annually. In order to leverage the full potential of their mutual economic relations, the EU and Vietnam have agreed on a comprehensive free trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union (EVFTA), which, after the European Parliament, has now also been approved by the Council of the European Union. After the still necessary ratification by the Vietnamese National Assembly, the EVFTA could come into force in early summer 2020.

Vietnam has a relatively high trade deficit , which is caused by income from tourism, inflows of foreign direct investment, development aid (2007: 5.4 billion US dollars) and remittances from overseas Vietnamese (2007: more than 5.5 billion US dollars) is balanced. Therefore, power - and balance of payments under control. Due to its attractiveness as a production location, Vietnam's trade balance is now positive (as of 2016). Even Chinese companies have relocated production to Vietnam due to lower labor costs.

Vietnam remains a preferred destination for foreign direct investment. The largest investor in Vietnam in 2016 was South Korea with a newly registered investment amount of 5.518 billion USD, corresponding to 36.3% of the total investment volume. This was followed by Singapore with USD 1.59 billion, Hong Kong with USD 1.1 billion and Japan with USD 868 million. With around 300 companies active in Vietnam and a cumulative investment amount of USD 1.357 billion, Germany ranks 21st on the list of investors.

The external debt is relatively low at around 16.6 billion US dollars or 37% of GDP (2005). This is mainly due to the fact that Vietnam could hardly get any loans from western countries until 1993. By 2016 it had risen to almost 60% of GDP.

The Vietnamese currency is unofficially pegged to the US dollar ( crawling peg ).


Lăng Cô beach in Huế
Old town in Hoi An

In Europe, Vietnam was more associated with the Vietnam War, communism and poverty and was initially not one of the classic vacation destinations. Until a few years ago, Vietnam was almost exclusively visited by people who were interested in the culture, wanted to experience adventure or were emotionally connected to the country in one way or another after the Vietnam War.

Vietnam has been experiencing a boom in tourism since around 1999 . In addition to study travelers, there are also more and more backpackers, package holidays and beach tourists, the latter mainly from other Asian countries. This is based e.g. This is partly due to an “evasive effect”, which is due to the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia , whereas Vietnam is a safe country with low crime rates. In the meantime, cruise ships also stop at Vietnamese ports or anchor off the coast and offer day trips to Ho Chi Minh City , Nha Trang , Đà Nẵng or Huế .

In recent years, several international hotels and resorts have been hastily built in some fishing villages , restaurants have been opened for foreigners and the development of a tourist infrastructure has been tackled. Several hundred thousand people are already employed in tourism.

The most visited travel destinations in Vietnam are Ho Chi Minh City with around 5.8 million international visitors, followed by Hanoi with 4.6 million and Ha Long Bay with 4.4 million visitors. All three are in the top 100 most visited cities in the world. There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam . There is no country in Southeast Asia with more world heritage sites. In 2018, Hội An was voted one of the 15 best travel destinations in the world by the well-known travel magazine "Travel and Leisure".

From 2020 the Hanoi Street Circuit will be part of the Formula 1 racing series. This is located in the capital of Vietnam and should take place on the first GP weekend in early April 2020 and offer 300,000 spectators entertainment; however, the race was canceled due to the corona pandemic , so that the first Vietnamese Grand Prix will take place in 2021.

Economic indicators

The key economic indicators of gross domestic product, inflation, budget balance and foreign trade have developed as follows in recent years:

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real
in% compared to the previous year
year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Change in% yoy 7.5 7.0 7.1 5.7 5.4 6.4 6.2 5.2 5.4 6.0 6.7 6.2 6.8
Source: World Bank
Development of GDP (nominal)
absolute (in billion US $) per inhabitant (in thousands of US $)
year 2015 2016 2017 year 2015 2016 2017
GDP in billions of US $ 193.2 202.6 223.9 GDP per inhabitant
(in thousands of US $)
2.06 2.17 2.34
Source: World Bank
Development of the inflation rate Development of the budget balance
in% compared to the previous year in% of GDP
("minus" = deficit in the national budget)
year 2014 2015 2016 year 2016 2017 2018
inflation rate 4.1 0.9 2.0 Budget balance −4.5 −3.2 ~ −2.2
Source: GTAI ~ = estimated
Main trading partner (2016)
Export (in%) to Import (in%) of
United StatesUnited States United States 20.7 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 29.8
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 10.2 Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 16.6
JapanJapan Japan 8.7 JapanJapan Japan 8.6
Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 5.5 TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 6.6
Hong KongHong Kong Hong Kong 4.3 ThailandThailand Thailand 5.0
GermanyGermany Germany 3.5 United StatesUnited States United States 4.7
United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 3.5 SingaporeSingapore Singapore 3.6
other countries 43.6 other countries 25.1
Source: GTAI
Main products of foreign trade (2016)
Export goods (share in%) Imported goods (share in%)
electronics 29.2 electronics 20.2
Textiles and clothing 17.1 machinery 11.8
food 12.4 Textiles and clothing 8.2
Source: GTAI
Development of foreign trade
in billion US $ and its change compared to the previous year in%
2014 2015 2016
Billion US $ % yoy Billion US $ % yoy Billion US $ % year-on-year
import 147.8 +11.9 165.8 +12.1 174.1 +5.0
export 150.2 +13.7 162.0 +7.9 176.6 +9.0
balance +2.4 −3.8 +2.5
Source: GTAI

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to the equivalent of 57.2 billion US dollars, which was offset by income equivalent to the equivalent of 48.0 billion US dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 4.5% of GDP .

The national debt in 2016 was $ 126 billion, or 62.4% of GDP.

Government spending as a percentage of GDP was attributable to the following areas, among others:



In recent years, thanks to high investments, the country's infrastructure has been significantly improved. In 2018, Vietnam ranked 39th out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank .

The two largest cities in the country, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, have international airports to which a few European (including Frankfurt , London and Paris ), but most of the major Asian cities fly directly. There are also rail connections to and from China and road connections to all neighboring countries. The border crossings are usually only open during the day. Foreigners can, provided they have all the necessary papers, use any border crossing to enter the country.

Road traffic

Some of the estimated over 2 million mopeds in Ho Chi Minh City
City buses in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam's roads have a total length of about 210,000 kilometers, of which only about 13.5% are in good condition and 29% are paved. 10% of Vietnamese villages are cut off from the outside world for more than a month each year because of impassable roads.

Due to strong efforts in civil engineering, the proportion that meets international standards is growing steadily; initially mostly in the catchment areas of large cities. Despite the progressing asphalting, the greater part is in a rather poor condition. There are few roads of a quality that could be described as a motorway . The most important road in Vietnam, which runs over 2100 km as a traffic backbone through the entire country from the Chinese border to the Mekong Delta, is National Road 1 , in Vietnamese Quốc lộ 1A .

A second north-south connection is currently being built, the so-called Ho Chi Minh Highway, which runs for long stretches along the route of the famous Ho Chi Minh Path . When completed, this 1690 km long and 500 million US dollar road will connect Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City . In 2006, 960 km of the route between the towns of Khe Co (Ha Tinh Province) and Ngoc Hoi (Kon Tum Province) had already been completed in the form of a mostly two-lane asphalt road. Once completed, this route will be an attractive alternative to National Road 1. On the one hand, the traffic will be less dense, on the other hand, the planned route will lead through attractive landscapes. In doing so, however, it will also cut through some of the last, previously untouched wilderness areas and national parks on the Laotian border.

In Vietnam, traffic is officially on the right. As a rule, however, it is driven wherever there is space. Intersections that are regulated by traffic lights are more likely to occur in cities. Even if the government is trying to promote bus travel, the most important means of local transport is the moped, which is increasingly being replaced by the car among wealthy families. The bicycle rickshaws ( Cyclo ), which were ubiquitous until a few years ago, are now mostly aimed at tourists in large cities. Other forms of “taxi driving” are also popular with tourists, such as the moped taxi ( Xe Ôm ) in city centers . Helmets have been compulsory in Vietnam since 2007 and the fines are quite high. It is allowed to transport a maximum of two heavy or three light people with a moped.

Rail transport

Ga Hanoi , the main train station of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi
Train in Hanoi

The Vietnamese railway network consists of six lines with 3260 kilometers of rail, mostly dates from the colonial era and is only slowly being modernized. The longest line runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City; the Reunification Express takes 29.5 hours for the 1,730 kilometers . The rail network is mostly meter gauge , between Hanoi and the Chinese border there is a three- rail track with standard gauge . Cross-border connections are currently only available to China via the Đồng Đăng border crossing.

The trains are exclusively diesel-powered . Older vehicles are largely from Soviet production, in recent years China has been the main supplier. Plans to build a high-speed line were not implemented due to excessive costs.

Tickets are sold in different classes (three seat categories , sleeping compartments with two to six seats per compartment). All classes except the cheapest are air-conditioned . The trains run very slowly, but are safe and comparatively punctual. For longer journeys, couchettes or sleeping cars are recommended , which should be booked well in advance.

Metro systems are being built and planned in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and are scheduled to go into operation from 2021.

air traffic

The country's most important airline is the state-owned Vietnam Airlines . It offers numerous flights to other Asian countries as well as some intercontinental routes and serves most airports in Vietnam . In addition to the routes between the major cities of the country, the remote smaller cities in the rather poorly developed mountainous region, which mostly have their own airfield, are particularly important here. The Vietnam Airlines fleet corresponds to international standards. Vietnam Air Service Company (VASCO), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, is active in regional air traffic in South Vietnam.

Aircraft of Vietnam's main airline, Vietnam Airlines, at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City

The low-cost airlines Jetstar Pacific Airlines and VietJet Air are mainly focused on the domestic market . Bamboo Airways also started operations at the beginning of 2019 . These airlines have fleets that correspond to western standards with only one class of carriage and have relatively cheap tariffs, which, however, do not include the carriage of luggage.

Water transport

Ferry in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam has around 5000 kilometers of waterways that are navigable all year round. Water transport is particularly important in the Mekong Delta, and the roads are interrupted by numerous branches of the river that have to be bridged by ferry .

The most important seaports are Ho Chi Minh City , Hải Phòng , Đà Nẵng , Quang Ninh , Qui Nhon and Cần Thơ . Around 15 million tons of cargo were handled in 2005, compared to 4.5 million in 1993.


There has been a lot of investment in Vietnam's telephone network in recent years. State-of-the-art technology is used wherever investments are made, and the network is accordingly reliable and convenient. The telecommunications network has lagged far behind where investments have not yet been made. In mid-2004, 4.9 million landline connections, 3.4 million cell phones and 5.1 million Internet users were counted. In 2019, 69 percent of Vietnam's residents used the internet .

In 2016 there was broadband internet in almost all major cities. As standard, fiber optic cables are used here all the way to the end customer. Open WLANs can be found almost everywhere . Free WiFi is standard in bars and hotels.

There are several well-developed mobile networks with 3G - and HSDPA - Internet . Sim cards with ample data volume are conveniently available on every corner. The tariffs are pretty cheap even for locals. Practically every Vietnamese now has a mobile phone or, increasingly, smartphones .

The internet cafes , of which there are a large number across the country, are mostly used for online games. As in China, the government is concerned that the Internet will undermine the state's monopoly on information and ultimately call into question the legitimacy of the Communist Party's sole government . Therefore, a gateway ( Vietnam Data Communications ) with a filter system is used for the whole country , which is supposed to block unwanted content. This has included the BBC's Vietnamese-language website several times in the past .


Vietnamese culture has its beginnings in the Dong-Son culture around 3000 years ago. It was very similar to other Southeast Asian cultures.

Today's diverse culture of Vietnam is a mixture of original local cultures of the Vietnamese and other peoples of the country, as well as Chinese and western elements.


public holidays

date German name Vietnamese. Surname Remarks
January 1st New Year Tết Tây
Late January to late February First Morning Festival Tết Nguyên Đán Most important festival on the first three days of the year according to the lunar calendar
April, 30th Southern Liberation Day Ngày Giải Phóng Miền Nam Fall of Saigon in 1975
1st of May Labor Day Ngày Quốc Tế Lao Động
September 2nd Independence day Quốc Khanh Declaration of Independence by Ho Chi Minh in 1945


All media in Vietnam is controlled by the state, and thus the Communist Party of Vietnam , and only information that is approved by the government is allowed to be published. Newspapers that evaded these rules have repeatedly been closed; dissidents who have disseminated critical information on the Internet have also been arrested. Twenty online activists and citizen journalists were imprisoned in Vietnam in 2018. The situation of press freedom in the country is classified by Reporters Without Borders as "difficult".

Foreign literature in various languages ​​is available as teaching material in the libraries of the major cities. English-language print media are also offered in Vietnam. On the one hand, these are magazines that are aimed at tourists and advertise travel or entertainment opportunities. Most English-language publications are aimed at business people and announce the latest achievements in Vietnam's economic policy. Foreign publications are not censored but are very expensive for the average Vietnamese. You can find them where tourists are concentrated. Old copies of foreign newspapers are often offered by street vendors.

Logo of VTV (Vietnam TV)

Vietnamese radio and television broadcast several programs, some of them nationwide and some of them regional. On television VTV 1 to 7 there is short English news later in the evening, the rest of the program consists of Vietnamese shows and foreign films, which are mostly shown in the original language with Vietnamese subtitles. In addition, foreign TV channels (e.g. ESPN , BBC, CNN , TV5 or Deutsche Welle TV ) can be received with corresponding digital decoders.

There is a Vietnamese shortwave station called the Voice of Vietnam that has existed since the August Revolution and mainly broadcast propaganda against the United States during the Vietnam War . Today, half-hour programs are produced in English, French, Russian and, since March 1, 2006, also in German, which can also be heard in Europe.

See also

Portal: Vietnam  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Vietnam




  • Vietnam Cultural Window (Cua-sâ-van-Hóa-Viêt-Nam). The Gioi Publishers, Hanoi 1998ff. (per month)
  • Vietnamese Studies. The Gioi Publishers, Hanoi 1964ff. (quarterly) ISSN  1859-0985
  • VietNam courier . Friendship Society Vietnam e. V., Düsseldorf 1977ff. (quarterly) ISSN  0946-0691
  • Southeast Asia Current. Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg 1982ff. ( every two months) ISSN  0722-8821

Web links

Commons : Vietnam  - collection of images
Wikimedia Atlas: Vietnam  - geographical and historical maps
Wiktionary: Vietnam  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikivoyage: Vietnam  Travel Guide
 Wikinews: Category: Vietnam  - In The News

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Coordinates: 14 °  N , 108 °  E