Vietnam

Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Flag of Vietnam
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc
(Independence, freedom, happiness) [citation needed]
Anthem: Tiến Quân Ca
Location of Vietnam
Capital Hanoi
Largest city Ho Chi Minh City
Official language Vietnamese
Government Socialist republic1
 - General Secretary Nông Đức Mạnh
 - President Nguyễn Minh Triết
 - Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
Independence From France 
 - Declared September 2, 1945 
 - Recognized 1954 
Area
 - Total 331,689 km² (65th)
128,065 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 1.3
Population
 - July 2005 estimate 85,238,000 (13th)
 - 1999 census 76,323,173
 - Density 253/km² (46th)
655/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $251.8 billion (36th)
 - Per capita $3,025 (123rd)
HDI  (2004) 0.709 (medium) (109th)
Currency đồng (₫) (VND)
Time zone (UTC+7)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC+7)
Internet TLD .vn
Calling code +84
1. According to the official name and its 1992 Constitution

Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a nation in Southeast Asia. It borders the People's Republic of China to the north, Laos to the northwest and Cambodia to the southwest. To the country's east lies the South China Sea. With a population of approximately 85 million, Vietnam is one of the most densely populated nations in Southeast Asia.

Contents

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History

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Pre-dynastic Era

The Vietnamese legend tells that the Vietnamese people of various tribes were born outside the womb following the marriage of Lạc Long Quân (Dragon Chief) and Âu Cơ (the Fairy). However, most Vietnamese historians consider the Dong Son civilization that covered much of Southeast Asia to be the beginning of Vietnam's history. In 208 BCE a Qin Dynasty general named Triệu Đà established a state called Nam Việt which encompassed southern China and the Red River Delta. The historical significance of the original Nam Việt remains controversial because some historians consider it a Chinese occupation while others believe it was an independent era. For most of the period from 111 BCE to the early 10th century CE, Vietnam was under the rule of successive Chinese dynasties. Sporadic independence movements were attempted, but were quickly suppressed by Chinese forces.

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Dynastic Era

In 939 CE the Vietnamese defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and gained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control. They gained complete autonomy a century later. Renamed as Đại Việt, the nation went through a golden era during the Lý and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt defeated three Mongol attempts of invasion by the Yuan Dynasty. Following the brief Hồ Dynasty, Vietnamese independence was briefly interrupted by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê Dynasty. Feudalism in Vietnam reached its zenith in the Lê of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông. Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and much of the Khmer Empire.

Towards the end of the Lê Dynasty, civil strife engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the Chinese-supported Mạc Dynasty challenged the Lê Dynasty's power. After the Mạc Dynasty was defeated, the Lê Dynasty was reinstalled, but with no actual power. Power was divided between the Trịnh Lords in the North and the Nguyễn Lords in the South, who engaged in a civil war for more than a hundred years. The civil war ended when the Tây Sơn brothers defeated both and established their new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn Lords with the help of the French, who established the Nguyễn Dynasty.

Battle of Bach Dang river. Silk painting by Năng Hiển.
Battle of Bach Dang river. Silk painting by Năng Hiển.
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French Colonialism

Vietnam's independence ended in the mid-19th century, when the country was colonized by the French Empire. The French administration enacted significant political and cultural changes to Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was introduced in Vietnamese society. Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chau Trinh, Emperor Ham Nghi and Ho Chi Minh calling for independence. However, the French maintained dominant control of their colonies until World War II, when the Japanese war in the Pacific triggered the invasion of Indochina. The natural resources of Vietnam were exploited for the purposes of Japan's military campaigns into Burma, the Malay Peninsula and India. In the final years of the war, a forceful nationalist insurgency emerged under Ho Chi Minh, committed to independence and communism. Following the defeat of Japan, nationalist forces fought French colonial forces in the First Indochina War that lasted from 1945 to 1954. The French suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and shortly afterwards withdrew from the country. The countries that fought the Vietnam War divided the country at the 17th parallel into North Vietnam and South Vietnam during the Geneva Accords

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Vietnam War

The communist-held North Vietnam was opposed by the United States for its perceived close association with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Disagreements soon emerged over the organizing of elections and reunification, and the U.S. began increasing its contribution of military advisors even as Soviet-supplied arms and munitions strengthened communist forces. The controversial attack in 1964 on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin triggered a U.S. military assault on North Vietnamese military installations and the deployment of more than 500,000 troops into South Vietnam. U.S. forces were soon embroiled in a vicious guerrilla war with the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese communist insurgent militia. North Vietnamese forces unsuccessfully attempted to overrun the South during the 1968 Tet Offensive and the war soon spread into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. With casualties mounting, the U.S. began transferring combat roles to the South Vietnamese military in a process known as Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results. The Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973 formally recognized the sovereignty of both sides. Under the terms of the accords all American combat troops were withdrawn by March 29, 1973. Limited fighting continued, but all major fighting ended until the North once again invaded in strength and overpowered the South on April 30, 1975. South Vietnam briefly became the Republic of South Vietnam, a puppet state under military occupation by North Vietnam, before being officially reunified with the North under Communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.

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Post War

Upon taking control, the Vietnamese communists banned other political parties, arrested suspects believed to have collaborated with the U.S. and embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. In 1978, the Vietnamese Army invaded Cambodia to remove their erstwhile allies, the Khmer Rouge, from power. This action worsened relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.

In a historic shift in 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (Renovation). With the authority of the state remaining unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged. The economy of Vietnam has achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment. However, the power of the Communist Party of Vietnam over all organs of government remains firm.

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Government and politics

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a single-party state. A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, replacing the 1975 version. The central role of the Communist Party was reasserted in all organs of government, politics and society. Only political organizations affiliated or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, workers and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, the ideology's importance has substantially diminished since the 1990s. The President of Vietnam is the titular head of state and the nominal commander in chief of the military of Vietnam, chairing the Council on National Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of 3 deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions.

The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral legislature of the government, composed of 498 members. It is superior to both the executive and judicial branches. All members of the council of ministers are derived from the National Assembly. The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam, which is the highest court of appeal in the nation, is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People's Court stand the provincial municipal courts and the local courts. Military courts are also a powerful branch of the judiciary with special jurisdiction in matters of national security. All organs of Vietnam's government are largely controlled by the Communist Party. Most government appointees are members of the party. The General Secretary of the Communist Party is perhaps one of the most important political leaders in the nation, controlling the party's national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy.

The Vietnam People's Army is the official name for the three military services of Vietnam, which is organized on the lines of China's People's Liberation Army. The VPA is further subdivided into the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces (including Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defense Forces), the Vietnam People's Navy, the Vietnam People's Air Force and the coast guard. Through Vietnam's recent history, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam's workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, in order to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA is involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The total strength of the VPA is close to 500,000 soldiers. The government also organizes and maintains provincial militias and police forces. The role of the military in public life has steadily weakened since the 1980s.

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Administrative Divisions

The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi (it had served as the capital of North Vietnam), and the largest and most populous city is the Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). Vietnam is subdivided into 64 provinces, which are further subdivided into districts and municipalities. Provincial governments are expected to be subordinate to the central government. Often, the Vietnamese government groups the various provinces into eight regions: Northwest, Northeast, Red River Delta, North Central Coast, South Central Coast, Central Highland, Southeast, Mekong River Delta.

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Geography and climate

Map of Vietnam
Map of Vietnam

Vietnam extends approximately 331,688 square km (128,066 sq mi) in area. The area of the country running along its international boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi). The topography consists of hills and densely forested mountains, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the area, with smaller hills accounting for 40% and tropical forests 42%. The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m (10,312 ft). The south is divided into coastal lowlands, Annamite Chain peaks, extensive forests, and poor soil. Comprising 5 relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam's world natural heritage
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam's world natural heritage

The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 3,000 square kilometers, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in by the enormous alluvial deposits of the rivers over a period of millennia, and it advances one hundred meters into the Gulf annually. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 square kilometers, is a low-level plain not more than three meters above sea level at any point and criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong's various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year.

Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84 % throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and the marked variety of topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the China coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture; consequently the winter season in most parts of the country is dry only by comparison with the rainy or summer season. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains and plateaus.

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Economy

The Vietnam War destroyed much of the economy of Vietnam. Upon taking power, the Government created a command economy in the nation. Collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For many decades, Vietnam's economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction and restrictions on economic activities and trade. It also suffered from the trade embargo from the United States and most of Europe after the Vietnam War. Subsequently, the trade partners of the Communist blocs began to erode. In 1986, the Sixth Party Congress introduced significant economic reforms with market economy elements as part of a broad economic reform package called "đổi mới" (Renovation). Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. On one hand, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997 and continued at around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. Simultaneously, foreign investment grew three-fold and domestic savings quintupled. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy.

Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with GDP of US$251.8 billion (est., 2004). This translates to ~US$3000 per capita. Inflation rate was estimated at 14% per year in 2004. The spending power of the public has noticeably increased. As a result of several land reform measures, Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts with a one-third global share and second-largest rice exporter in the world. Vietnam has the highest percent of land use for permanent crops, 6.93%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Besides rice, key exports are coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products. However, agriculture's share of economic output has declined, falling as a share of GDP from 42% in 1989 to 26% in 1999, as production in other sectors of the economy has risen. Urban unemployment has been rising steadily in recent years due to high numbers of migration from the countryside to the cities, while rural unemployment is already at critical levels. Among other steps taken in the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam in July 2006 updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS. Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006. Vietnam's chief trading partners include Japan, Australia, ASEAN countries, the U.S. and Western European nations.

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Transportation

Hai Van Pass.
Hai Van Pass.

The modern transport network of Vietnam was originally developed under French rule for the purpose of raw materials harvesting, and reconstructed and extensively modernized following the Vietnam War. The railways are the most popular form of transportation in the country. Viet Nam’s road system includes: national roads administered by the central level; provincial roads managed by the provincial level, district roads managed by the district level, urban roads managed by cities and towns: and commune roads managed by the commune level.Bicycles, motorcycles and public bus services remain the most popular form of road transport in Vietnam's cities, towns and villages. Traffic congestion is a serious problem in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the city's roads struggle to cope with the booming numbers of automobiles. There are also more than 17,000 kilometers of navigable waterways, which play a significant role in rural life owing to the extensive network of rivers in Vietnam. The nation has 7 developed ports and harbours at Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Gai, Qui Nhon and Nha Trang.

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Demographics

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Population

The 1999 census estimates the population of Vietnam to be 76.3 million, and recent estimates place the figure beyond 84 million. Vietnamese people form the largest ethnic group, and are also called Viet or Kinh. Their population is concentrated in the alluvial deltas and coastal plains of the country. A homogenous social group, the Kinh exert influence on national life through their control of political and economic affairs and their role as purveyors of the dominant culture. By contrast, most ethnic minorities such as the Muong, a closely related ethnic of the Kinh, are found mostly in the highlands that cover two-thirds of the national territory . The Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Khmer Krom are mainly lowlanders.

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Languages

According to official figures, 86.2% of the population speak Vietnamese as a native language. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters called Chữ nôm. The celebrated epic Đoạn trường tân thanh (Truyện Kiều or The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyễn Du was written in Chữ nôm. During the French colonial period, Quốc ngữ, the romanised Vietnamese alphabet representation of spoken Vietnamese which was developed collectively by several Portuguese missionaries, became popular and brought literacy to the masses.

Various other languages are spoken by the several minority groups in Vietnam. The most spoken of these languages are: Tày, Mường, Khmer, Chinese, Nùng, H'Mông. The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is still spoken by some older Vietnamese as a second language but is losing its popularity. Russian — and to a much lesser extent Czech or Polish — is often known among those whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc. In recent years, Chinese, Japanese and English have become the most popular foreign languages, with English study being obligatory in most schools.

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Religions

For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have strongly influenced the religious and cultural life of the people. According to the 1999 census, 80.8% of Vietnamese subscribe to no religion. Christianity was introduced by French colonists, and to a lesser extent during the presence of American forces. There is a substantial following of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism amongst the Cao Đài, and Hoa Hao communities. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Membership of Sunni and Bashi Islam is usually accredited to the ethnic Cham minority, but there are also a few ethnic Vietnamese adherents of Islam in the southwest. Vietnamese government has been criticized for its religion violations. However, due to recent improvements in liberty of religion the United States government no longer considers Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern.

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Education

Vietnam has an extensive state-controlled network of schools, colleges and universities. General education in Vietnam is imparted in 5 categories: pre-primary (Kindergarten), primary schools, intermediate schools, secondary schools and colleges. Courses are taught mainly in Vietnamese. A large number of public schools have been organized across cities, towns and villages with the purpose of raising the national literacy rate. There are a large number of specialist colleges, established to develop a diverse and skilled national workforce. A large number of Vietnam's most acclaimed universities are based in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Facing serious crises, Vietnam's education system is under a holistic reform launched by the government.

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Culture

 In a temple in Vietnam
In a temple in Vietnam

Over thousands of years, the culture of Vietnam has been strongly influenced by neighbouring China. Due to Vietnam's long association with China, Vietnamese culture remains strongly Confucian with its emphasis on familial duty. Education is highly valued. Historically, passing the imperial Mandarin exams was the only means for Vietnamese people to socially advance themselves.

In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.

The Hanoi Opera House.
The Hanoi Opera House.

The traditional female costume called "Áo Dài" is worn in special occasions such as weddings or Lunar New Year celebration or festivals. Áo Dài was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by females.

Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), umami (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.

Vietnamese music is slightly different according to three regions: Bắc or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam's oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez-faire attitude.

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam. Sports and games such as badminton, tennis, ping pong and chess are also popular with large segments of the population. Baseball, introduced during American presence in Vietnam, has also gained some popularity. The (expatriate Vietnamese) community forms a prominent part of Vietnamese cultural life, introducing Western sports, films, music and other cultural activities in the nation.

Vietnam is home to a small film industry, but the works from its counterparts in Hong Kong, France, the U.S. enjoy greater popularity and circulation.

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Media

The Voice of Vietnam is the official state-run radio broadcasting services that cover the nation. Vietnam Television is the sole state-run television broadcasting company. As Vietnam moved toward a free-market economy with its doi moi measures, the government has relied on the print media to keep the public informed about its policies. The measure has had the effect of almost doubling the numbers of newspapers and magazines since 1996. Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors.

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International rankings

Organisation Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 142 out of 157
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005 61 out of 111
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 155 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 111 out of 163
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 109 out of 177
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 77 out of 125
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See also

History ( Origins | Early Independence | Chinese domination | Dynastic Period | Colonization | Franco Vietnamese War | Vietnam War | Reform)
Politics Constitution | Political parties (Communist Party of Vietnam) | Elections
Government Executive branch ( President | Prime Minister) | Legislative branch ( National Assembly) | Judicial branch ( Supreme People’s Court | Provincial Municipal Court | Local Court | Military Court) | Law enforcement (People's Police of Vietnam) | Foreign relations | Vietnam People's Army ( Ground Forces | Navy | Air Force | Coast Guard)
Economy Doi Moi | Companies | VND
Transportation Airlines (Vietnam Airlines | Pacific Airlines) | Airports (Tan Son Nhat International Airport | Noi Bai International Airport | Da Nang International Airport) | Vietnam Railways
Geography Northwest | Northeast | Red River Delta | North Central Coast | South Central Coast | Central Highlands | Southeast | Mekong River Delta
Society Demographics | Ethnic groups | Religion | Culture | Media | Education | Holidays
Arts Music | Cinema | Cuisine | Martial Arts | Literature
Other Communications | Flag | Coat of arms | Provinces | Human rights


 
Vietnam
Flag of Vietnam
Regions of Vietnam
Northwest | Northeast | Red River Delta | North Central Coast | South Central Coast | Central Highlands | Southeast | Mekong River Delta
Province-level cities
Cần Thơ | Đà Nẵng | Hải Phòng | Hà Nội | Hồ Chí Minh City
Provinces
An Giang | Bắc Giang | Bắc Cạn | Bạc Liêu | Bắc Ninh | Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu | Bến Tre | Bình Định | Bình Dương | Bình Phước | Bình Thuận | Cà Mau | Cao Bằng | Đắk Lắk | Đắk Nông | Điện Biên | Đồng Nai | Đồng Tháp | Gia Lai | Hà Giang | Hải Dương | Hà Nam | Hà Tây | Hà Tĩnh | Hòa Bình | Hậu Giang | Hưng Yên | Khánh Hòa | Kiên Giang | Kon Tum | Lai Châu | Lâm Đồng | Lạng Sơn | Lào Cai | Long An | Nam Định | Nghệ An | Ninh Bình | Ninh Thuận | Phú Thọ | Phú Yên | Quảng Bình | Quảng Nam | Quảng Ngãi | Quảng Ninh | Quảng Trị | Sóc Trăng | Sơn La | Tây Ninh | Thái Bình | Thái Nguyên | Thanh Hóa | Thừa Thiên-Huế | Tiền Giang | Trà Vinh | Tuyên Quang | Vĩnh Long | Vĩnh Phúc | Yên Bái
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References

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External links

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Government

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Media

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State-run

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Non state-run

While all media in Vietnam must be sponsored by a Communist Party organization and be registered with the government, the following media sources have less government control than others.

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Overviews

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Images

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