The population (77,562. 000 residents According to the estimate in 1998) retains a large ethnic unity and thickens for most in floodplains, intensively cultivated. Originally distributed in rural villages, following the war events that plagued the region up to 1975 and which mainly affected rural areas, the Vietnamese have moved in large numbers to urban areas which today host a fifth of the entire population. The most important cities remain Ho Chi Minh, with more than 4.3 million residents in the urban agglomeration, Hanoi, with nearly 2.2 million residents, and Haiphong, with nearly 800,000 residents (but about 1.5 million in the entire agglomeration).
In 1996, over 15 were repatriated from Hong Kong. 000 boat people (about 20. 600), of which 6900 in a forced way, while the Hanoi government has rejected China’s request to resume the 6000 Chinese Vietnam fled in 1979 in Hong Kong via China (at the time of Chinese aggression against Vietnam).
Vietnam has attenuated the rigid Marxist-Leninist approach given to the productive system: with the constitutional reform of 1992,private property and free initiative were allowed, even if, at least formally, the country continues to define itself as socialist. The change in the economic direction and a period of peace that the country had not known since the outbreak of the Second World War (even if the consequences of the war continue to cause victims for the numerous anti-personnel mines still active scattered in many rice-growing areas) have allowed, in the 1990s, a notable growth in global GDP (and also in per capita GDP which, moreover, given the very low starting level, is still very modest).
The primary sector continues to be prevalent, with the use of almost 70 % of the active population: the most widespread crop is that of rice (it occupies over 90 % of cultivated land), which, in addition to providing the basis for food local, it is partly exported (11 % of total exports); some crops planted in the colonial period also have a notable diffusion: rubber plants, coffee (the country has become the second Asian producer and the sixth world exporter), tea, bananas, cotton. The forest heritage, seriously compromised by the war, is now protected; farming and fishing are widespread, practiced according to traditional methods.
Vietnam has good reserves of hydrocarbons, with methane deposits in the continental shelf of the Gulf of Tonkin, and of oil, whose production, in slow but steady increase (9.8 million t in 1997), represents about 20 % of total exports; Coal (10.9 million t), phosphates and rock salt are also extracted from the subsoil. The hydroelectric potential which is increasingly used and which currently makes it possible to cover more than 50 % of the country’s needs is also discreet.
The greatest progress was made in the secondary sector, with a growth rate that has remained above 10 % in recent years. The industry enjoys the advantage of low wages, the growing phenomena of ‘delocalisation’ carried out by companies in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea, and the progressive opening up of the country: in fact, the normalization of relations with the United States has followed in 1995, integration in ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations). Transformation activities, increasingly in the hands of private initiative, process products from the agricultural sector and supply the internal market for commonly used products or essential capital goods; among all sectors the footwear sector prevails, with 200. 000 employees and a production of 11 million pairs of shoes in 1996. The industrialization process, which initially concentrated mainly around the cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, starting in 1996 it extended to seven other provinces, which ended up surpassing the two metropolitan areas in the number of businesses and industrial sites. Tourism is an expanding new activity (most of the foreign visitors are US veterans of the Vietnam War).
The state budget is heavily in deficit due to social spending, but since 1992 inflation, which had reached 300 % at the end of the 1980s, has radically reduced. Vietnam imports goods from other East Asian countries, while exports are mostly directed to Russia and other former socialist countries; trade and political relations with China are more difficult, reduced to a minimum.