Vietnam is a coastal nation in mainland Southeast Asia that borders the people's Republic of China to the North, and Laos and Cambodia to the West. The population of Vietnam is approximately 79 million people.
French influence as a colonial power began in the 16th century, and Vietnam was a full fledged colony known as French Indochina by the late 1800s. In 1940, Vichy France (the puppet government established in France by the Nazis) turned control over to its fellow Axis power, the Japanese. With the defeat of Japan in World War II most of Vietnam gained indpendence. France tried to retain control of at least some of Vietnam as a colony supporting Japanese installed King Bao Dai agains the competing government of Ho Chi Minh who had proclaimed a Vietnamese Republic.
The fight for control between Ho Chi Minh and the French backed government culminated in a 1954 treaty partitioning the country into a Ho Chi Minh controlled North Vietnam and a French controlled South Vietnam, and a million refugees, many ethnically Chinese, fled to the South. The French ceased acting as a colonial power and by 1955, the King Bao Dai had been dismissed an a republic was declared in the South. The Vietcong, backed by the Northern Vietnamese government renewed fighting in the South as it gained independence. From 1962 on, U.S. involvement supporting the South grew as series of military goverments ruled until a President of South Vietnam was elected in 1967.
The U.S. involvement was part of the Cold War and based on the assumption that South Vietnam was preventing the spread of Communism. In the U.S. An anti-war movement developed, as more became aware of the toll the war was taking. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War continued until 1975 when South Vietnam (and the U.S.) lost that war and the entire country was reorganized on a communist footing.
The 1990s have marked a period of normalization and economic liberalization in Vietnam. President Bill Clinton normalized trade relations and re-established diplomatic ties with Vietnam from 1994-1995. Unlike many communist governments, Vietnam's government never became dominated by a single dictator. In July 1996, a new civil code re-establishing a quasi-capitalist regime with property rights, private land ownership, inheritance rights and protections for business were put in place.
- David Lamb. 2002. Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns. Public Affairs. ISBN 1586481835.
- Larry Heinemann, 2006. Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam. Vintage. ISBN 9781400076895, ISBN 1400076897.