Forgotten World (176): Vietnam

It’s time to have another week of postings in my long-running series called Forgotten World – a look at parts of the world that hardly feature in our media or thoughts. You can check the previous 175 entries here.
At one time, Vietnam was in the world news almost daily. This was the consequence of three decades of bitter independence wars, which the communists fought first against the colonial power France, then against US-backed South Vietnam. North and South 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.
Vietnam struggled to find its feet after unification and it tried at first to organise the agriculture-based economy along strict collectivist lines. But, following the successful example of China, 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. After 12 years of negotiations the country joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007.
But the disparity in wealth between the 86 million who make up 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.


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