Vietnam: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the country Vietnam.



Location--Vietnam follows the eastern coast of the Indochina peninsula, in Southeast Asia. It is bounded by China on the north, Cambodia and Laos on the west, and the South China Sea on the east and south. The country is divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam near the 17th parallel (lat. 17 degree N.).

How Created--The Vietnamese migrated to the Red River Valley (now in North Vietnam) from Southern China during the 3rd century B.C. China conquered the area a century later. Once they had thrown out the Chinese in 939 A.D., the Vietnamese expanded southward to form the general boundaries of modern Vietnam, but various factions frequently carved the nation into smaller states. Vietnam was last re-unified during the 19th century by the French who, in 1899, grouped Vietnam with Laos and Cambodia to form the Indochinese Union.

The Japanese occupied Indochina during W.W. II, using it to stage attacks throughout Southeast Asia. When the Japanese surrendered in August, 1945, the Viet Minh anti-guerrilla movement declared Vietnamese independence. The French, however, were unwilling to accept Vietnamese independence. With the aid of British and Nationalist Chinese troops, they reasserted colonial rule. The French and their Vietnamese supporters (with American financial support) fought the communist-led Viet Minh until 1954, when they signed a peace agreement in Geneva.

The Geneva accords of 1954 divided Vietnam into 2 temporary zones. The Viet Minh established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north. Ngo Dinh Diem, an anticommunist Catholic, with American backing, established the Saigon-based Republic of Vietnam in the south. The peace agreement, which neither the U.S. nor the Diem regime signed, called for reunification elections within 2 years. Diem refused and established a dictatorial regime in the southern zone.

Vietnamese in the south took up arms against Diem, forming the National Liberation Front (NLF) in 1960. As the struggle escalated, the North Vietnamese Government sent supplies, irregular troops, and eventually regular troops to fight with the NLF in the south. The U.S. backed Diem and his successors with training, advice, and supplies at 1st, then with some 550,000 American troops and history's heaviest bombing campaign. America's most sophisticated bombers saturated NLF-controlled areas in South Vietnam and transportation routes throughout Laos and North Vietnam and eventually hit the industrial center of North Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, the Saigon Government finally surrendered to the NLF's Provisional Revolutionary Government.

North Vietnam

Size--63,360 sq. mi. (164,102 sq. km.).

Population--Over 25 million: Vietnamese (Kinh), 85.2%; Tay, 3.2%; Muong, 2.6%; Tai, 2.4%; Nung, 2%; other, 4.6%. Predominantly Buddhist.

Who Rules--An elective National Assembly, which in turn elects an executive body, the Standing Committee. People's Councils, elected at provincial, district, and village levels, choose administrative committees to handle local issues.

Who REALLY Rules--The politburo of the communist Lao Dong (Workers') party. Since the death of national President and party head Ho Chi Minh in 1969, party leadership has been collective. Both China and the Soviet Union have influence over North Vietnam, but the Vietnamese have refused to take sides in the Sino-Soviet split.

South Vietnam

Size--66,263 sq. mi. (171,621 sq. km.).

Population--21 million: Vietnamese, 89%; Chinese, 5.6%; Montagnard, 2.9%; Khmer, 2.4%; Cham, 0.1%. Mostly Animist and Buddhist with large Cao Dai and Roman Catholic minorities.

Who Rules--The Revolutionary Government, which is ostensibly a coalition of intellectual, religious, labor, women's, and peasant groups.

Who REALLY Rules--The Revolutionary Government is clearly communist-led, but it tries to maintain the image of a united front. It is probably dominated by the North Vietnamese Lao Dong party, since it has relied upon North Vietnam for 2 decades for external communications, food, and military support (troops and supplies).

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