Demography and economic geography. – State of Southeast Asia. According to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), in 2014 the population of Vietnam was 92,547,959 residents. Even at the end of the twentieth century, families with eight or nine children were not rare; in recent years, on the other hand, there has been a clear contraction in the birth rate (on average about 1.85 live children per woman), however in the demographic pyramid the population of the country shows a strong preponderance of the younger groups.
In the last ten years, Vietnam has experienced a phase of great economic expansion (also due to the great willingness recently shown in welcoming relocated factories from other Asian countries, such as the Republic of Korea), which has attracted large masses of workers from surrounding countries.: the censuses detect fifty-six small ethnic minorities (none of which exceed 2%), with the main ethnicity estimated at 85.7%. Officially, the population declares itself devoid of a religion (80%); they are 9.3% Buddhists and 6.7% Catholics. In the mid-1990s, the population surveyed as urban represented just over 20% of the total: today, however, it constitutes 28.8%. This figure derives from the strong concentration of industrial-type activities around major cities, such as the capital, Hanoi (7 million residents), bordered by densely populated cities in the broad valley of the Song Hong River, the region once known as Tonkin; Also important is the southern city of Ho Chi Min (Saigon, 8 million residents until 1976) and the surrounding districts near the mouth of the great Mekong River, the ancient Cochinchina.
All demographic indicators suggest that in the near future the population will continue to increase, with greater increase in the more urbanized areas. The logistic infrastructures are concentrated above all along the North-South route: both the roads for road traffic and the railways. In the last ten years there has been a sharp increase in public investments on these communication routes. However, observers note that there is still ample room for improvement in transport along the roads perpendicular to the main axis: if the government invests in this direction, further territories will open up to accommodate the foreseeable population growth.
In the geopolitical chessboard of the South China Sea, Vietnam has to deal with rather demanding interlocutors, such as the People’s Republic of China. In this sense, Vietnamese diplomats do nothing but retrace a centuries-old tradition of resistance, which allowed the population to maintain its own independence, albeit with ups and downs, and a long period of feudal ‘homage’ to the emperor in the context of the so-called Tax System. Today, in particular, the Vietnam claims large portions of the sea in front of it (and in particular the Spratly Islands and the Paracels), making use of the diplomatic support of the United States, as a barrier against the expansion ambitions of the Beijing government.
2007 opened with a diplomatic triumph for Vietnam who, after twelve years of negotiations, became the one hundred and fiftieth member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). With admission to the WTO, Vietnam aimed at greater integration into the global economy and at mobilizing foreign capital to the country. In the same year, another important diplomatic event took place: President Nguyen Minh Triet was in fact the first Vietnamese head of state to make an official visit to the United States since the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975. The US also launched a collaboration with the country’s authorities to provide assistance in cleaning up sites contaminated with Agent Orange, a herbicide used by US forces during the conflict.
In terms of relations with China, in December 2008 Vietnam announced the resolution of a long territorial dispute with Beijing; symbolically sealed by the plan for the construction of a road connecting the two countries through the disputed border territory.
From the point of view of internal politics, the regime continued to exercise capillary control in the various spheres of Vietnamese society: public criticism of the Communist Party in power was not tolerated, several journalists, human rights and democracy activists were arrested and condemned; in 2013, Internet control measures were further tightened, with a ban on online discussion of news stories.
In January 2011, the 11th Congress of the Communist Party was held, during which the political and economic guidelines of the country for the next five years were defined, and Nguyen Phu Trong was appointed as the new general secretary. Instead, the National Assembly confirmed Nguyen Tan Dung as Prime Minister and elected Truong Tan Sang President of the Republic. During 2012, some corruption scandals shocked the Communist Party, especially on the management of state-owned enterprises: the secretary Nguyen Phu Trọng recognized the pervasiveness of the corruption phenomenon and urged greater efforts to fight it. With a view to greater accountability of political power with respect to public opinion, the National Assembly of Vietnam
In October 2014, the United States announced a partial lifting of the arms embargo on the Vietnam; Washington denied, however, that the decision was linked to a prospect of containment of China and its geopolitical dynamism in the South China Sea.