Vietnam Essay, Research Paper
Ethnic Groups Vietnam’s population is relatively homogeneous. As much as 90 percent of the people are ethnic Vietnamese, descendents of the people who settled in the Red River Delta thousands of years ago. Ethnic Chinese constitute the largest minority group. Other important minorities are the Khmer and the Cham. In addition, there are also numerous tribal groups. While the ethnic Vietnamese live in lowland areas scattered throughout the country, most minorities are concentrated in specific regional areas. The ethnic Chinese, also known as overseas Chinese, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who settled in Vietnam during the last 300 years. They live primarily in the cities and provincial towns and number about 2 million. The Khmer (about 500,000) and the Cham (about 50,000) are descendants of peoples who lived in central and southern Vietnam prior to the Vietnamese conquest of those areas. The tribal peoples are descendants of communities who migrated into Vietnam from other parts of Asia over a period of several thousand years. They are divided into about 50 different language and ethnic groups (including the Tho, the Tay, the Nung, the Muong, the Rhad?, and the Jarai) and live almost exclusively in the mountains surrounding the Red River Delta and in the Central Highlands. Taken collectively, the tribal peoples represent 7 percent of the country’s total population.
For the most part, the various ethnic groups in Vietnam coexist with few mutual tensions. Relations between the ethnic groups are not always amiable, however. Ethnic Chinese play a dominant role in the national economy, which angers some Vietnamese who resent the economic power of the much smaller Chinese population. Furthermore, some Vietnamese are suspicious of China, which subjugated parts of Vietnam for centuries, and this suspicion is occasionally directed at the ethnic Chinese citizens of Vietnam. Some tribal minority communities have resisted recent Vietnamese penetration into mountain areas.
Social Issues During the Vietnam War, the Communist government of North Vietnam was successful in limiting the country’s social problems to those directly connected with the war effort. Although malnutrition and poverty were common, corruption was rare and the incidence of drugs, prostitution, and crime was limited.
Social problems have increased since the economic reforms of 1986. Corruption has escalated as increasing amounts of money circulate through society. Unemployment is also on the rise, especially among young people. Drug addiction and alcoholism are becoming serious problems; prostitution is rampant, especially in urban areas; and incidents of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have increased in Vietnam. Many of these social ills may be inevitable consequences of the modernization process. However, they represent a serious challenge to a government determined to bring about economic development without the accompanying problems of social and political instability.
The official labor organization in North Vietnam is the Vietnam General Confederation of Trade Unions, founded in Hanoi in 1946. After the country was reunified, the organization absorbed the South Vietnam Trade Union Federation. The confederation is an umbrella organization overseeing the activity of specialized labor unions in Vietnam, such as the National Union of Building Workers. By the mid-1990s the confederation contained more than 50 labor unions with a total membership of more than 4 million. As in all Communist systems, the labor movement in Vietnam is under strict party supervision. Labor unrest, including unsanctioned strikes, has increased since the doi moi reforms were launched in 1986. Much of the hostility fueling this unrest results from poor working conditions and low salaries in foreign-owned enterprises.
Vietnam’s labor force numbered 39 million in 1996. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing employed 71 percent of the workforce in 1990; the services sector employed 15 percent; and industry employed 14 percent.
Vietnam Divided Representatives from all the major world powers, the two rival Vietnamese governments, and the new royal governments in Laos and Cambodia attended the peace talks, which lasted for several weeks. In mid-July, despite U.S. urging to continue the struggle, the French agreed to a compromise agreement (known as the Geneva Accords). This agreement called for the withdrawal of French troops and a temporary division of the country into two separate zones. The Communists would withdraw to North Vietnam, while the non-Communists would move into South Vietnam. To avoid a permanent division, a solution unacceptable to the supporters of both Ho Chi Minh and Bao Dai, national elections were to be held in 1956 to bring about a reunified Vietnam.