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MHz Networks - Country Backgrounds (Page 5)

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MHz Networks - Country Backgrounds
Vietnam is a long, narrow country, roughly the size of Italy, and part of the peninsula known as
Indochina. Conquered by the French in 1884, Vietnam remained under French rule until 1954.
Formerly covered with dense forest, Vietnam has lost much of its tree canopy due to intense
warfare and the use of defoliants. From 1940 until about 1980, the country experienced almost
continuous warfare--with the Japanese in World War II, the French (whom they drove out in
1954), followed by the Americans, the Cambodians and lastly, the Chinese.
Devastated by war and a fifteen-year economic embargo (1979-1994) by the United States and
other Western nations, Vietnam has one of the world's poorest economies, with an annual per
capita income of $220. While 70% of the labor force works in agriculture, there is an active
shadow economy, marked by lots of moonlighting and the smuggling of Chinese goods into the
country. Cars and consumer goods are also smuggled into Vietnam by way of Thailand and
Urban-dwelling Vietnamese live in cramped apartments; sometimes two or three generations
even share the same room. Running water is a luxury and families share plumbing facilities or
use communal water pumps. Refrigeration is not always available so most people have to shop
daily for food. Private televisions are not common and neighbors may crowd in together to
watch a popular program. The private telephone is a complete luxury, and the main form of
private transportation is the bicycle.
In the late 1970s, the education system was reformed to meet the social and economic needs
of the country. Nine years of compulsory education is the rule, with "general" education
extended to twelve years. After that, students can go on to universities or vocational schools for
further training. In order to foster respect for manual labor, students at both the elementary and
secondary levels are required to spend 15% of their time in manual work. The government has
placed strong emphasis on the training of technicians and skilled workers. However, the
vocational schools, both at the secondary and higher levels, have not proved to be popular with
students as their programs are seen as preparation for lower-level jobs. Education in Vietnam
still suffers from a lack of adequate resources, but the situation is slowly improving.
Vietnam's major holiday is Tet, which generally occurs in February. Tet marks the first days of
the lunar new year and the start of spring in this tropical country. Individual birthdays are not
observed in Vietnam, so Tet is also the time of celebration of everyone's birthday, when all
become one year older.
Vietnam is a poor, densely-populated country that has had to recover from the ravages of war,
the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally planned
economy. Land mines left over from the period of war continue to pose a hazard for the people
in the countryside, and the growing number of AIDS cases presents a new type of hazard for
Vietnamese society. On the positive side, the Communist government of Vietnam has moved to
implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy. Vietnam has entered
trade agreements with neighboring countries, and millions of tourists now visit the country
More information on Vietnam can be found at the following web sites:

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