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Overview / Vietnam - An introduction

Offical name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam

National flag:                          



National emblem:                                     


Independence day: September 2nd, 1945

National anthem: March to the Front composed by Van Cao

Capital: Ha Noi


Administrative divisions: Vietnam has 58 provinces and and 5 municipalities (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho). The current administrative divisions of Vietnam include 54 cities under province, 54 towns, 47 urban districts, 553 rural districts, 1,403 ward, 624 towns and 9,084 communes. Big cities which are also regional economic and political centers are Hanoi, Hai Phong in the North, Hue and Da Nang in the Central, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho in the South.

Geographical location:
Viet Nam is a country in the Indochina peninsula, near the Pacific Ocean. Vietnam has a land border of 4,639 kms, bordering China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West and facing the Eastern Sea to the East.

On the map, Vietnam is an S-shaped long strip of land, stretching from 23°23’ to 8°27’ North latitude. The country’s total length is 1,650 km from the Northernmost point to the Southernmost point. Its width is 600 km at the widest part and 50 km at the narrowest part. Viet Nam faces the sea to the East, the South and the Southwest with a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. Viet Nam’s territorial waters in the Eastern Sea extend to the East and Southeast, including the continental shelf and many islands and archipelagoes. There is a group of 3,000 islands belonging to Viet Nam in the Tonkin Gulf, including Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long, Cat Hai, Cat Ba, Bach Long Vi, the Paracel and SpratleyIslands. To the Southeast and the South, there are groups of islands including Con Son, Phu Quoc and Tho Chu.

Topography: Viet Nam has a diverse topography. The country’s territory is made up of hills, mountains, deltas, coastal lines and continental shelf, reflecting the long history of geology and topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate and a strongly weathered environment. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast, which is clearly shown in the flows of major rivers.

Three quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. Regions with elevations less than 1,000 metres above sea level make up 85% of the territory. Mountainous regions over 2,000 metres above sea level only account for 1%. Mountain ranges and hills form a large bow facing the Eastern Sea with 1,400 km length from the Northwest to the Southeast. The highest mountain ranges are all located in the West and Northwest with Fan Xi Pan peak (3,143 metres in height), which is the highest one in Indochina. Nearer to the Eastern Sea the mountain range is lower and often ends with a coastal strip of lowland. From Hai Van pass to the South, the topography is less complex. A long limestone mountain range is replaced by large granite mountains with some high peaks, followed by a vast plateau known as the Central Highlands, of which the East side rises to become Truong Son range.

Only one fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas separated in many regions by mountains and hills. There are two major deltas with fertile arable land in Viet Nam, which are the Northern delta (in the Red River basin, with the area of 16,700 sq km), and the Southern delta (in the basin of Mekong River, or Cuu Long River with the area of 40,000 sq km). Between these two major deltas is a chain of small deltas located along the Central coast from the Ma River basin in Thanh Hoa province to Phan Thiet with a total area of 15,000 sq km.

Viet Nam has a dense network of rivers and streams (2.360 rivers of more than 10 km in length), flowing in two main directions of Northwest and Southeast in a bow shape with the total length of over 40,000km and 3,000 km of canals. The Red River (1,149km, 510km in Vietnam’s territory) and the Mekong River (4,220 km, 220 km in Vietnam’s territory), the two largest rivers in Viet Nam, create two vast and fertile deltas. Each year, the river and stream network is supplied with 310 billion cubic metres of water. The water supply for rivers and streams depends on the flood and drought seasons. 70%-80% of the annual water volume is provided in the flood season.

Climate: Viet Nam is located in the tropical zone with high temperature and humidity all year around. North Viet Nam, under the impact of the Chinese mainland, has more or less mainland climate. In addition, the Eastern Sea also affectsViet Nam’s tropical monsoon climate. The monsoon climate does not spread evenly all over the Vietnamese territory, where there are different regions with different climates. Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to highland, from North to South and from East to West. Given the strong influence of the Northeast monsoon, the average temperature in Viet Nam is lower than many Asian countries located at the same latitude.

There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam. (1) Northern Viet Nam (from Mong Cai to Hai Van pass) has a tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and is influenced by the highly-humid Northeast monsoon and Southeast monsoon. (2) Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van pass to the South) has a rather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoons and is characterized by warm weather all year round and two seasons (i.e. dry and rainy seasons) In addition, given the topographical structure, there are some sub-climate regions in Viet Nam including regions with temperate climate, such as Sa Pa in Lao Cai province, Da Lat in Lam Dong province and regions with mainland climate such as Lai Chau, Son La, all of which are ideal places for tourism.

The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and increases from the North to the South. In summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Ha Noi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In winter, temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions such as Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature is sometimes down to 0°C with snow.

Viet Nam’s climate is also characterized by a considerable amount of sunshine with the number of sunny hours varying between 1,400 and 3,000 per year. The average rainfall each year stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. (Hanoi 1,763 mm, Hue 2,867mm, Ho Chi Minh City 1,910mm). Air humidity is 80% over even 90% in rainy season and in drizzling period.

Population – Language - Religion: Till 2010, Vietnam’s population is 86,927,000, ranking 14th in the world population. Female accounts for 50.9% of the total population and male occupies 49.1%. 60% of the population is under 30 years of age. 29% is urban population and 71% is rural population. The population density is 263 people per km2. The average population growth rate is about 1.25% per annum. The average life expectancy of Vietnam’s population is 70.6 years, in which the life expectancy of male is 68.6 years and that of female is 72.6. The working age population is 48 million people.

Viet Nam is a multi-ethnic country with 54 ethnic groups coexisting peacefully, among which the Kinh people account for 86% of the population. Among ethnic minorities, the most populous are Tay, Thai, Muong, Hoa, Khmer, and Nung with a population of around 1 million each, while the least populous are Brau and Odu with several hundred people each. The Kinh people are scattered all over the country but mainly in the low land and deltas. The majority of the other 53 ethnic groups are scattered over mountainous areas and the midland spreading from the North to the South. Most ethnic groups coexist in the same regions, particularly the ethnic minorities in Northern and Central Northern region. The ethnic minorities have uneven development levels. All ethnic groups have their own diverse and unique cultures. Beliefs and religions of Vietnamese ethnic groups are also disparate. 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam have their own language and special traditional culture. 24 groups have their own writing system such as Thai, Mong, Tay, Nung, Khmer, Gia Rai, Ede, Hoa, Cham, and so on. Some of these writing systems are used in schools.

The official language of Socialist Republic of Vietnam is Vietnamese. The present Vietnamese writing system was originated in the 17th century when a group of European missionaries represented by Alexandre de Rhodes introduced the characters based on Latin letters. Since then, Vietnamese writing system has been developed and improved to be the official writing letters of Vietnam from early 20thcentury. After winning independence, Vietnam has used Vietnamese and this (present) writing system in all aspects of social life in Vietnam.

Viet Nam is a country of many religions and beliefs. The Vietnamese people have a time-honoured tradition of practicing their beliefs. Different ethnic groups in Vietnam have different beliefs linked to their own material and spiritual lives. Main religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Caodaism, Hoa Hao, Protestantism and Muslim. There are 20 million religious followers, nearly 62,500 dignitaries, monks and 22,345 worshiping places in Viet Nam. Training establishments for different religions have grown in number. Currently, Vietnam has 10 religious universities, 3 Buddhist academies, 6 Christian grand seminaries, 1 Institute of Bible and Theology under Vietnam’s Confederation of Evangelical Churches and 40 schools training religious dignitaries at different levels.

Political system: Vietnam is the country following the Socialist regime. The political system follows the mechanism of one political party in power (the Communist Party of Vietnam) with the principle: the party leads, the State manages and the People are the masters via the National Assembly. The Communist Party of Vietnam is the only leading force of the State and the society as defined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. Leading the Communist Party of Vietnam is a General Secretary. The present General Secretary (2011) is Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong. The National Assembly is the highest representative organ of the people; the highest organ of state power of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The National Assembly is the sole organ that has the constitutional and legislative rights. The National Assembly decides and supervises the fundamental domestic and foreign policies, the socio-economic tasks, national defense and security issues, the major principles governing the State machinery, the social relations and activities of citizens. The term of each National Assembly is five years. The Chairman of the National Assembly is elected by the National Assembly and is nominated by Ministry of Politics. The present Chairman of the National Assembly is Mr. Nguyen Sinh Hung.

The State President, as the Head of State, is elected by the National Assembly at the request of Chairman of the National Assembly and the nomination of Ministry of Politics. According to the Constitution, the State President has 12 powers, the most important ones are: promulgating the Constitution, laws and ordinances; having overall command of the armed forces and holding the position of Chairman of the National Defense and Security Council; proposing to the National Assembly the appointment of, or dismissal of the Vice-Presidents, Prime Minister, Chief Judge of the Supreme People's Court, Head of the Supreme People's Procuracy. The term of the State President is five years. The present State President (2011) is Mr. Truong Tan Sang..

The Government is the executive organ of the National Assembly, and the supreme state administrative agency of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The Government is accountable to the National Assembly, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee and the State President. The term for the Government is 5 years. Components of the Government are: Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, and Ministers and Heads of ministerial-level agencies. The Prime Minister is elected by the National Assembly at the State President’s request and from the nomination of Ministry of Politics. The present Prime Minister (2011) is Nguyen Tan Dung. Vietnam’s Government has 18 ministries and 4 ministerial-level agencies. The Government also manages 8 agencies directly under it such as Vietnam Press Agency, Vietnam Television, Vietnam Radio, and so on.


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