Vietnam, along with Thailand, is one of the most historically significant parts of Southeast Asia. Due to its geographic location, Vietnam was subjected to Chinese imperial rule for over a millennium, before the rise of its own royalty, which lasted through the medieval years. The French put that to an end when they colonized both Vietnam and neighboring countries (Cambodia and Laos) in the mid-19th century.
The French presence in Vietnam was interrupted by the Japanese occupation of the country in World War II. A local revolutionary movement called the Viet Minh (led by Leninist leader Ho Chi Minh) that was launched in 1941 (during the height of Japanese occupation there), asserted independence over the area later known as North Vietnam. That triggered a civil war between the Viet Minh and the French, which resulted not only in the latter’s withdrawal from the country, but in its partition (Communist-ruled North Vietnam, and anti-Communist South Vietnam in 1954. South Vietnam would eventually be ruled by a pro-American military regime by the early 1960s.
The U.S. government’s concern over the spread of Communism in the Far East spurred Washington to assist the South Vietnamese government – resulting in a growing American military intervention there by the mid-1960s. With an insurgency underway in South Vietnam by the pro-North Vietnam guerrilla group, the Viet Cong, American military involvement in that conflict peaked at over 500,000 soldiers, as well as heavy aerial bombing campaigns. Heavy casualties, growing international condemnation, and opposition to that war among American youth eventually caused the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam in 1973 – with South Vietnam falling to Communist rule by 1975.
With a reunited Vietnam going through the painful process of recovering from a fierce wat with the U.S., a change in the leadership in the country’s Communist Party in the late 1980s resulted in a series of economic reforms that brought in much-needed periods of economic growth. Present-day Vietnam remains a one-party Communist-ruled state that follows Chinese-style economic policies (including private ownership of various sectors – from manufacturing to agriculture). These and other changes made Vietnam one of the most open economies in the world – with the U.S. buying much of its exports, along with other trading blocs like the European Union (EU).
Tourism has become a growing part of Vietnam’s economy – the number of international tourists in Vietnam increased three-fold from just five million in 2010 to 15 million by 2018 (mainly from China and other Far East countries like South Korea). Despite this rapid growth, there is room for further expansion in the sector, with needed investments in infrastructure and international marketing. By 2025, the Vietnamese government aims to generate US$45 billion in revenue from the tourism industry, increase the sector’s contribution to the GDP to over 10%, and generate over six million direct & indirect jobs.