U.S. Department of State  
Background Notes: Vietnam, August 1995  
Bureau of Public Affairs  
August 1995  
Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam  
Area: 329,560 sq. km. (127,243 sq. mi.); larger than Virginia, North   
Carolina, and South Carolina combined.  
Cities (1994): Capital--Hanoi (3.5 million); Other cities--Ho Chi   
Minh City (formerly Saigon--5 million); Haiphong (1.5 million).  
Terrain: Varies from mountainous to coastal delta.  
Climate: Tropical monsoon.  
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Vietnamese (sing. and pl.).  
Population (1994): 74 million.  
Annual growth rate (1994): 2.4%.  
Ethnic groups: Vietnamese (85%-90%), Chinese, Muong, Thai, Khmer,   
Cham, mountain groups.  
Religions: Buddhism, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, Christian (predominantly Roman   
Catholic, some Protestant), animism, Islam.  
Languages: Vietnamese, English (increasingly favored as a second   
language), some French, Chinese, Khmer, mountain area languages.  
Literacy: 88%.  
Health: Infant mortality rate--36/1000. Life expectancy--63 yrs.   
male, 67 yrs. female.  
Type: Communist people's republic.  
Independence: Sept. 2, 1945.  
Reunification: July 2, 1976.  
New constitution: 1992.  
Branches: Executive--president (head of state and chair of National   
Defense and Security Council) and prime minister (heads cabinet of   
ministries and commissions); "People's Committees" governing in local   
jurisdictions.  Legislative--National Assembly; locally, People's   
Councils. Judicial--Supreme People's Court.  
Administrative subdivisions: 50 provinces, 3 municipalities under   
central government control, one special zone; urban quarters and   
rural districts; urban precincts and rural communes.  
Political party: Vietnamese Communist Party, formerly (1951-76)   
Vietnam Worker's Party, itself the successor of the Indochinese   
Communist Party founded in 1930.  
Suffrage: Universal at 18.  
GDP (1994): $15.4 billion.  
Real growth rate (1994): 8.8%.  
Per capita income (1994): $220.  
Natural resources: Phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate,   
offshore oil deposits, forests, rubber, marine products.  
Agriculture (36% of GDP--38% of export earnings):  Products--rice,   
rubber, fruit, vegetables, corn, manioc, sugar cane, coffee, fish.   
Industry (26% of GDP-- 34% of total exports): Food processing,   
textiles, cement, chemical fertilizers, steel, electric power.  
Trade (1994): Exports--$3.6 billion: crude oil, textiles, marine   
products, rice (third-largest exporter in world) and coal. Major   
partners--Japan (22%), Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and China.   
Imports--$4.5 billion: petroleum, steel products, transport-related   
equipment, chemicals, fertilizers, medicines, raw cotton.  Major   
partners--Singapore (28%), Japan, South Korea, France, and Taiwan.   
Exports to U.S.--$50 million. Imports from U.S.--$172 million.  
President Clinton announced the normalization of diplomatic relations   
with Vietnam on July 11, 1995. This followed the establishment of   
Liaison Offices in Hanoi and Washington, DC, in January 1995 and the   
lifting of the U.S. trade embargo on Vietnam in February 1994.   
American companies have entered the Vietnamese market, and the U.S.   
is now the eighth-largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with more than   
$530 million committed in 34 projects as of June 1995.  
The U.S. maintains an active dialogue with Vietnam on issues   
concerning Americans missing from the war in Vietnam. It has been   
U.S. policy since the early 1980s that normalization of relations   
with Vietnam be based on withdrawal of the Vietnamese military from   
Cambodia as part of a comprehensive political settlement--such a   
settlement was signed in October 1992--and continued cooperation on   
the prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) issue and other   
humanitarian concerns.  
In the 1980s, the United States and Vietnam developed and sustained   
an active relationship on a range of humanitarian issues,   
particularly on achieving the fullest accounting possible of   
Americans missing and unaccounted for in Indochina. The two countries   
agreed to handle these issues as a separate, humanitarian agenda,   
without reference to political differences.  
In June 1993, progress in repatriating the remains of American   
servicemen increased, and a Vietnamese Government office was   
established in Ho Chi Minh City to facilitate better accounting   
operations in the south. A month later, the U.S. dropped its   
objection to bilateral and multilateral lending to Vietnam. In 1994,   
based on significant cooperation on the part of the Vietnamese on   
POW/MIA issues, President Clinton removed the American trade embargo   
on Vietnam. Since the lifting of the embargo, cooperation with   
Vietnam on POW/MIA issues has increased. In January 1995, the two   
countries opened liaison offices in their respective capitals, and on   
July 11, President Clinton announced the establishment of diplomatic   
relations with Vietnam.  
Since January 1993, 167 sets of remains believed to be American have   
been returned to the U.S., and 42 Americans have been identified.   
Investigators have made a determination of the fate of 80 of 135   
discrepancy cases--where individuals could have survived but did not   
return alive and remain unaccounted for--leaving only 55 individuals   
whose fates are unresolved. Achieving the fullest possible accounting   
for those who did not return from the war remains the   
administration's highest priority in its relations with Vietnam.  
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials  
Charge d'Affaires--Desaix Anderson  
The U.S. embassy in Hanoi is at 7 Lang Ha Road, and the mailing   
address is USLO Hanoi, PSC 461, Box 400, FPO AP 96521-0002 (tel. 844-  
431-500 through 507; fax 844-350-484).  
The most important political institution in Vietnam is the Communist   
Party of Vietnam (formerly the Vietnam Worker's Party), headed by   
General Secretary Do Muoi. Sweeping amendments to the country's 1981   
constitution were approved in April 1992, introducing a major   
restructuring of the government while reaffirming the role of the   
Communist Party of Vietnam as the leading force of state and society.  
The Communist Party  
According to the constitution, the Communist Party must operate   
within the framework of the laws of the country and is separated from   
the day-to-day operation of the government. In reality, however,   
government policy remains largely the prerogative of the communist   
The Communist Party Central Committee membership is elected from the   
large and unwieldy national Party Congress, which is supposed to   
gather every five years and last met in 1991.  The Central Committee   
represents less than 10% of the national Party Congress and meets   
about twice a year.  
Government policy is set by the all-powerful party Politburo and   
carried out by the Secretariat, the governmental organ which oversees   
day-to-day policy implementation. Many major policy directives are   
issued as Central Committee resolutions but are formulated by the   
Politburo; many others emanate directly from the Politburo.  
Overlapping party and state positions continue to be held even though   
there has been some effort to discourage both that practice and   
direct party interference in government affairs. All but six out of   
17 party Politburo members held high positions in the government as   
of 1994, and 92% of the deputies in the National Assembly are party   
members. This is also the case at lower levels, where provincial,   
district, and village party officials dominate the administrative   
Although the rate of new membership in the Communist Party has   
decreased since the 1980s, the party remains the dominant institution   
in Vietnamese society.  
Government Structure  
The most important powers within the Vietnamese Government--as   
opposed to the Communist Party--are the executive agencies: the   
offices of the president and the prime minister (most of whose   
members are also on the party's Central Committee).  
In 1992, the collective Council of State--which had served as the   
parliament's standing committee and whose chairman acted as   
ceremonial head of state--was abolished.  It was replaced by an   
office of the president with authority over the armed forces and the   
power to recommend the dismissal of government officials (subject to   
the approval of the National Assembly). The revised constitution also   
replaced the cumbersome Council of Ministers with a cabinet headed by   
the prime minister.  
The Vietnamese President, Le Duc Anh, functions as head of state but   
also serves as commander of the armed forces and chairman of the   
Council on National Defense and Security. According to the   
constitution, these bodies, as well as the heads of ministries and   
commissions, are elected by the National Assembly. Prime Minister  Vo   
Van Kiet heads a cabinet composed of three deputy prime ministers as   
well as the directors of the country's 31 ministries and commissions.   
Four members of the Prime Minister's cabinet are concurrently members   
of the Politburo.  
The National Assembly--which under the 1992 constitutional revisions   
was granted an increase in its authority and independence--is   
designated as the highest representative body of the people and the   
only body with legislative powers. Its members are elected every five   
years, and it meets twice yearly.  
The constitutional amendments of 1992 strengthened the legislative   
and oversight powers of the National Assembly, giving it more   
authority over defense and security policy and financial matters. The   
assembly's standing committee and permanent committees were granted   
new powers as well. The constitution also provided for choice in   
parliamentary election balloting, which, for the first time,   
permitted non-party members to be elected in 1992.  
Although the National Assembly theoretically exercises wide lawmaking   
and appointive authority, in the past, it has simply given formal   
approval to proposals from the executive organs.  
The chairman of the National Assembly is Nong Duc Manh, the first   
member of an ethnic minority to hold this post and the first to   
simultaneously command a position in the Politburo.  
Local legislative bodies, called People's Councils, are elected at   
provincial, district, and village levels. The councils choose   
administrative committees that handle routine business on the local   
level and are ultimately responsible to the office of the prime   
minister. Their function is more executive than legislative.  
Principal Officials  
General Secretary of the Communist Party--Do Muoi  
Prime Minister--Vo Van Kiet  
President--Le Duc Anh  
National Assembly Chairman--Nong Duc Manh  
The embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is at 1233 20th St.   
NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-861-0737; fax 202-861-  
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Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department   
of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public   
Communication -- Washington, DC --  Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht  
Vietnam -- Department of State Publication 8955 -- August 1995 --   
Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner  
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without   
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Washington, DC 20402.  
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