| For many years, Vietnam
formed a portion of the French colony of Indochina, together with Laos
and Cambodia. With Vichy French pact in 1941, the
the country during their World War II
push through South East Asia. The opposition to the Japanese was
headed by the Indochinese Communist Party, organized
by Ho Chi Minh in 1930, and its armed faction, the Viet Minh. After
the Japanese were defeated in 1945, the Communists
proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
In 1946, France sent a great number of soldiers
to re-gain power.
After 8 years of brutal fighting, this long hard fight
ended with the defeat
of the French at Dien Bien Phu (1954).
The Geneva Agreement of the same year allowed for
division of the North and South to be reunited in
1956, according to general elections. The Western powers, well aware
that the Communists would easily win any legitimate
poll, schemed to preclude it from happening, while a Western-backed
government under Ngo Dinh Diem was placed in the
south and bolstered as much as possible. The Communists began a
in the south to oust what they believed was a puppet
regime. The Americans, who had replaced the French
as the leading Western power in Vietnam, answered by sending large
of military ‘advisers’. By 1962, they reached 12,000
and the stage was set for all-out war between the southern Communist
guerrillas (known as the Viet Cong), the
North Vietnam Army and their supporters in China
and the Soviet Union on one side, and, the Americans and the ARVN
(the South Vietnamese army) on the other side.
In 1973, with no political will to continue the war, the Americans
departed. Vietnam was reunited in 1975, with the triumph of the
Communists and the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
The Vietnamese military, the strongest in South-East Asia, has since
battled with Chinese troops and launched a full-scale occupation and
invasion of Cambodia to defeat the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.
Vietnamese soldiers finally left Cambodia in September 1989. Freed
of this burden, Vietnam could now concentrate on reconstructing its
own wounded economy and introduced their own version of perestroika,
known as doi moi. Nevertheless, the economy suffered
from the cancellation of aid and subsidised goods from the former
USSR and from Eastern Europe, including the ongoing US-organised
embargo instituted after the US removal. In 1991, changes among
the Communist Party's leadership indicated that the party would
pursue a reformist economic programme while leaving senior military
men in key positions.
extremely important and necessary
precursor to this was significant progress in political
relations with Vietnam’s neighbours. A closer relationship,
resulting in full membership, was formed with the Association
of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The economic gain
was clear in as much as 6 of the major 7 foreign investors in
Vietnam were ASEAN members.
In consequence, old territorial disagreements,
a long with the Spratly and Paracel
Islands and exploration rights in the Tu
Chinh basin, have become manageable, although no formal
agreements have been discussed. Relations with Vietnam’s
2 historic enemies, Cambodia and China have also experienced significant
development. Relations with a more current enemy, the USA, eased
after President Clinton ended the American trade embargo on Vietnam
in February 1994. Complete diplomatic relations were restored the
In the last 10 years these changes
have resulted in
rapid economic growth
(see Economy). However, there has been no parallel
the country’s political climate: the Communist Party
has no plans to relax its hold on political power for the time being.
In April 2001, the party chose a new general in Nong Duc
Manh, who subsequently began to crackdown on dissident
and ‘unauthorised’ literature. Nong is 1 of the triumvirate
that has power in Vietnam, including Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai and President Tran Duc Luong.
The party is concerned by corrupt senior officials and the rising
religious strong belief among the people. In the early 2004, an
outbreak of a virulent form of avian flu threatened serious political
and economic disaster for all of south-east Asia which include Vietnam;
however, at the time of writing, it seems to have been successfully