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Country profile: Vietnam
language: Vietnamese President: Nguyen Minh Triet
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
limited amount of arable land, Vietnam's
agricultural economy has demonstrated impressive
success, particularly in the 15 years since the
introduction of doi moi. The shift to the use of
market mechanisms and price incentives
contributed significantly to this success.
Vietnam has not only achieved self-sufficiency
in rice production, but is now a major global
food exporter and is the world's third leading
exporter of rice, competing actively with
Thailand and the United States in this global
market. Between 1988 and 1997, total food
production in Vietnam increased 50 percent. This
extraordinary agricultural success not only
contributed positively to Vietnam's foreign
exchange earnings, but also contributed to a
reduction in the incidence of poverty.
In addition to rice, Vietnam has had success
with other agricultural cash crops . In recent
years Vietnam has become a major exporter of
both groundnuts and cashew nuts. The export of
cashew nuts in 1997 brought in US$125 million.
Also, Vietnam has become Asia's second largest
producer of robusta coffee, and coffee is now
Vietnam's second leading agricultural export.
Other important export crops are rubber and tea.
Vietnam, a one-party communist state, has one of south-east Asia's
fastest-growing economies and has set its sights on becoming a
developed nation by 2020.
It became a unified country in 1976 after the armed forces of the communist north had seized the south of the country in the previous year.
This followed three decades of bitter independence wars, which the communists fought first against the colonial power France, then against US-backed South Vietnam. In its latter stages, this conflict held the attention of the world.
The US had entered hostilities to stem the "domino effect" of successive nations falling to communism.
The jungle war produced heavy casualties on both sides, atrocities against civilians, and the indiscriminate destruction and contamination of much of the landscape.
A visit to Vietnam by US President Bill Clinton in November 2000 was presented as the culmination of American efforts to normalise relations with the former enemy.
Economic reform has challenged Communist Party ideology
Vietnam struggled to find its feet after unification and it tried at first to organise the agriculture-based economy along strict collectivist lines.
But elements of market forces and private enterprise were introduced from the late 1980s and a stock exchange opened in 2000.
Foreign investment has grown and the US is Vietnam's main trading partner. In the cities, the consumer market is fuelled by the appetite of a young, middle class for electronic and luxury goods. After 12 years of negotiations the country joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007.
But the disparity in wealth between urban and rural Vietnam is wide and some Communist Party leaders worry that too much economic liberalisation will weaken their power base and introduce "decadent" ideas into Vietnamese society.
Vietnam has been accused of suppressing political dissent and religious freedom. Rights groups have singled out Hanoi's treatment of ethnic minority hill tribe people, collectively known as Montagnards.
The government has shut down several publications for violating the narrow limits on permissible reporting. Journalists face large fines for transgressions which include denying revolutionary achievements and spreading "harmful" information or "reactionary ideology".
There are hundreds of newspapers and magazines, but television is the dominant medium. Vietnam Television (VTV) broadcasts from Hanoi and is available via satellite to the wider region. There are many provincial stations. Some foreign channels are carried via cable.
State-run Voice of Vietnam (VoV) operates six radio networks, including the VoV 5 channel with programmes in English, French and Russian.
There were around 20 million internet users by June 2008 (InternetWorldStats). Internet providers face fines or closure for breaking the rules and "cyber dissidents" have been imprisoned.
Nhan Dan - Communist Party daily, English-language pages