The Vietnamese nation was primarily influenced through a process of anthropological cross-pollination between ancient Chinese and Indian cultures.
As far as anthropology is concerned, the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongoloid race, which is scattered throughout northern and eastern Asia.
At present, there are about 54 Ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam.
The Kinh (or Viet) people account for nearly 90 percent of Vietnam's total population. Major ethnic minority groups include the Tay, Thai, Muong, H'Mong, Dao, and Khmer. Each ethnic group has developed its own language and cultural identity, thus making the Vietnamese culture a well blended combination of different cultures.
The Viet language is recognized, however, as the official language and serves as a universal means of communication for all inhabitants of Vietnam. In the historical course of national development, all ethnic groups have been closely attached, sharing in the fight against foreign invaders, defending the country's territory, and gaining the right to national independence and self determination.
The archaeological excavations carried out recently have proved the presence of human beings in the territory of Vietnam since the Paleolithic Age or the Old Stone Age (300,000 - 500,000 years). In the Neolithic Age (New Stone Age), Hoa Binh - Bac Son cultures (about 10,000 BC) had witnessed the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, including even the technique of paddy rice cultivation.
The Vietnamese as an ethnic group had been formed and developed early in the Red river and Ma river delta situated in northern part of the present-day Vietnam. Generations to generations, people moved from highland and mountainous areas to the plains, developed new lands for cultivation. They constructed a system of irrigation dams and dykes to tame the mighty Red River, the river that brought about several devastating floods every year. It is the process of continuous labor to control water - to fight against flood, storm and drought, to build up irrigation dams and canals for agricultural cultivation that formed the paddy rice civilization and the commune culture.
In the Bronze Age, a unique and distinct civilization had been formed that reached a high level in technical skill as well as art - the brilliant Dong Son culture. The recent ethnological, historical and archaeological studies and researches have asserted the existence of the Hung Kings' period in Van Lang Kingdom (later Au Lac Kingdom) about 1000 years BC. In 200 BC, Au Lac Kingdom was invaded and annexed into the giant empire of the Han feudalism in the north. Nevertheless, the ten-century domination of Chinese feudalism could not assimilate Vietnamese culture and break the Viet people’s brave resistance.
The Dai Viet
In the 10th century AD, the Vietnamese had won their freedom and built up an independent state named Dai Viet. The country was under the ruling of many national feudal dynasties, among which the most important ones are the Ly Dynasty (11th and 12th century), the Tran Dynasty (13th and 14th century), the Le Dynasty (15th, 16th and 17th century) with their centralized administration, strong army forces and a highly developed economy and culture. During this period, Vietnam as a nation had to ceaselessly fought against the vicious conquering conspiracies of Chinese and Mongolian feudal empires. Vietnam's long and tough struggles of resistance against the invasions of the Song (11th century), the Yuan or the Mongols (13th century), the Ming (15th century) had acquired glorious victories. Vietnam became stronger, all its ethnic groups became more united and the country moved into a new prosperous period after each struggle.
Dong Son culture which was enriched by the influence of Chinese culture developed from centuries to centuries in a framework of an independent state. Buddhism and Confucianism entered Dai Viet and brought with them many popular cultural features and distinct forms. Nonetheless, Vietnam still preserved its own language and a highly developed agricultural civilization.
In the 17th and 18th century, feudalism in Vietnam was considerably weakened. Peasants ceaselessly rose up in revolts that led to the Tay Son movement (1771-1802). Tay Son overthrew all regional feudal lordship that divided the country into two parts, united the country and chased away the Qing (Manchus) invaders from China, simultaneously implemented many social and cultural reforms. However, with foreign aid, Nguyen Anh soon took over the ruling power and the Nguyen Dynasty was established, which was the last royal dynasty in Vietnam.
Struggle for national liberation
In the middle of 19th century (1858), French colonialists began to invade Vietnam. The incompetent government of the Nguyen gradually gave in and from 1884, French colonists established a protectorate and a colonial government that controlled the whole territory of Vietnam. In the early days, resistant movements of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of intellectual patriots like the literate, cultured people and scholars broke out everywhere, but they all failed in the end.
Nguyen Ai Quoc, who later became President Ho Chi Minh, traveled abroad to find the way to save the country. He laid the foundations for the Vietnam Communist Party, which was founded on 3rd February 1930. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people rose up against French colonization and Japanese occupation, organized the Great National Uprising in August 1945 and established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on 2nd September 1945.
Being confronted with aggressive schemes and intervention of France and the United States, the newly born Democratic Republic of Vietnam had to carry out the thirty-year war of resistance. The coming back of French aggressive troops had resulted in the nine-year war of resistance (1945-1954) which ended by the famous victory of Vietnam in Dien Bien Phu and the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam. According to this Agreement the country was temporarily partitioned into North Vietnam and South Vietnam by the 17th parallel, which should be reunified within two years (1956) through a general election held all over Vietnam. The northern part of Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with its capital Hanoi) was placed under the control of the Vietnam Workers' Party. The southern part (the Republic of Vietnam), which was controlled by a pro-French administration and later, a pro-American administration, had its capital in Sai Gon. The Sai on government used all its forces to prevent the election, suppressed and killed former participants in the resistance movement. The situation led to the national movement fighting for peace and unification of the country. The Sai Gon government could not suppress the aspiration of all Vietnamese people to unify the country, especially since the National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam was established on 20th December 1960.
In order to maintain the Sai Gon regime, the United States increased its military aid to the Sai Gon government. Particularly, in the middle of the '60s, half-million American troops and their allied troops were sent to South Vietnam in direct military intervention. From 5th of August 1964, they started bombarding North Vietnam. In spite of that, following president's Ho Chi Minh's teaching "Nothing is more precious than independent and freedom", the Vietnamese people bravely and firmly stood up and won numerous victories in the northern as well as southern part of the country. In 1973, Washington had to sign the Paris Agreement on the restoration of peace in Vietnam and the withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam.
In the spring of 1975, the patriotic armed forces of Vietnam swept across the country in the great general offensive and overthrew the Saigon government. The southern part of Vietnam was liberated and the country was united as one.
On 25th April 1976, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was renamed into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which governs both northern and southern parts in its territory.
In 1977, Vietnam became a member of the United Nations.
After many years of prolonged war, the country was heavily devastated. In the 1975 – 1986 period, Vietnam had to cope with innumerable difficulties. The aftermath of war, social evils, the mass flow of refugees, war at the southwest border against the genocidal policies of Pol Pot government in Cambodia, the dispute at the northern border, the isolation and embargo from the United States and Western countries, plus continual natural calamities ...put Vietnam before tremendous tough challenges. Moreover, those difficulties became more severe due to subjective reasons such as hastiness and impatience, and voluntarism in rebuilding the country regardless of specific actual conditions. Early in the ‘80s, Vietnam witnessed the most serious ever socio-economic crisis, the inflation rate rose up to a record 774.7% in 1986.
Economic renovation: Doi Moi
Since 1986, the government launched the "Doi Moi" or all-round renovation process, stepping in the general development trend and the process of gradual globalization and regionalization. The 6th Congress of Vietnam Communist Party in December 1986 strictly self-criticized its mistakes in the past years, assessing carefully its achievements, analysing mistakes and drawbacks, setting forth all-round renovation policy. With top priority being given to economic reform for creating a multi-sector market economy regulated by the Government’, at the same time consolidating legal environment and renovating Party’s and State’s structure. Since then the Vietnamese economy became opened and transformed from centralized planned economy heavily based on imports to a market-oriented one. The self-determination of financing was introduced. All aimed at budget balancing and promoting exports. As from 1989, Vietnam began to export about 1 - 1.5 ton of rice, inflation rate gradually decreased (the rate stood at 67.4% in 1990), living standards were improved, democracy got enhanced, national defense and internal security got firmly consolidated, the external relations were broadened freeing the country from blockage and isolation.
In June 1991, the VIIth Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party reaffirmed its determination to pursue the renovation process overcoming difficulties and challenges, stabilizing political situation, pushing back unfairness and negative activities, directing the country out of crisis. The Congress also set forth the foreign policy of multilateralization and diversification the guideline "Vietnam wants to be friend all other countries in the International Community for Peace, Independence and Development".
With renovation process, Vietnam step by step surpassed many difficulties, hindrances, and achieved great results. During the 1991-1998 period, the average economic growth rate (presented by the increase rate in GDP) reached 8%. In 1999 the economy was seriously affected by the economic crisis in the region and natural calamities; it GDP growth was only 4,5%. However, economic performance is inspiring in 2000 with GDP growth of 6,7% by first nine months. By September 2000, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reached $ 36 billion with 2,500 projects; inflation decreased from 67.1% (in 1991) to 6% (in 2000), living standards of the majority were improved. The cultural and intellectual standard got further increased. Generally, Vietnam has made a lot of progress in the fields of education, health care, culture and art, sports, family planning, public media, and other social activities. The political situation, independence and sovereignty of the nation, national security and defense have been maintained stable, thus actively facilitating the "Doi Moi" process. The political system from central to local level was consolidated; the State's rule and law has been firmly constructed and increasingly made perfect. The foreign policy of independence and sovereignty multilateralization and diversification has brought about great results. Now, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with nearly 170 countries, trade relations with 165 countries, and attracting foreign investment from more than 70 countries and territories.
The VIIIth Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party in June 1996 reviewed achievements recorded during 10 years of renovation (1986 - 1996), laying targets for development by the year 2000 and 2020: focusing on promoting industrialization and modernization.
Industrialization and modernization is aimed at developing Vietnam into an industrial country with a modern technical and physical infrastructure, rational economic structure, a progressive productional relationship in conformity with production level, a firm national defence and security, for wealthy people, strong country, just and civilised society. From now to the year 2020 it is highest time to strive to develop Vietnam into an industrialized country .