Vietnam is both familiar and yet at the same time mysterious. What most people know about Vietnam comes from the relatively recent past, but to look at through Vietnam through that lens it is to look at the past.
Modern Vietnam is on its way up. In 2017 the World Bank ranked the country as the 45th largest economy based on GDP per capita. By comparison, it is placed above Kuwait and well above its neighbor Cambodia. There’s more to Vietnam than meets the eye.
Vietnam is situated on the eastern side of the Indochinese peninsula. End to end the country is just over 1,000 miles long and is about 30 miles wide at the narrowest point. The coastline is just about 2,040 miles long; running from the Gulf of Tonkin in the north then along the shores of the South China Sea down to the Gulf of Thailand in the Pacific.
The country borders China, Laos and Thailand to the west and the north. The official language spoken is Vietnamese, but regional dialects such as H’Mông, Khmer, Cham and Mu’ò’ng are still spoken in the regions.
Vietnam is one country
Since 1975 Vietnam has been a single country, its full name is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in the country with a population about as big as greater New York City, (before 1976 the city was known as Saigon). Ha Noi, the capital, in the north is the second largest city with a population of over 7 million. Four other cities have more than a million people and then quickly falls off, the 10th largest city has just over 300,000. The total population is just over 97m (ranked #15 in the world).
The Vietnamese flag is a five-point golden star on a red background. The background color pays tribute to the country’s history of bloodshed. The points represent the farmers, workers, intellectuals, soldiers and the youth of the company.
Vietnam now produces sufficient quantities of food and agricultural products that it now has become a considerable exporter. It is the world’s largest producer of Cashew nut. It is the second largest producer of Coffee coming second to Brazil. India and Thailand export most of the world’s rice (>50%), the USA is #3 and Vietnam follows close behind at #5. (All based on 2017 numbers)
As of 2010 most of the population followed indigenous Vietnamese religions. Approximately 16% of the population is Buddhist and about half that number Christian (predominantly Catholic).
Vietnam is a single party system. The President is head of state and the Prime Minister head of government. In practice the president is a ceremonial role with the PM who is selected by the National Assembly, being the more influential. However, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam is the Party leader and head of the Politburo, holding the highest position in the one-party system.