Viet Nam is located in a region considered one of the cradles of mankind. Viet Nam was also one of the earliest agricultural centers practicing wet rice farming, where the stone and metallurgical revolutions took place. On the basis of socio-economic development in the time of the Dong Son culture and given the struggle with nature and against aggression, Van Lang State, the first State in Viet Nam was established in the 7th century B.C. Thanks to their hard work and creativeness, Van Lang (and then Au Lac) residents created a civilization that influenced the entire Southeast Asian region. Together with the formation of the first State in Viet Nam’s history was the evolution of a diverse economy and advanced culture known as the Red River civilization (or Dong Son civilization) symbolized by Dong Son bronze drum, a heritage reflecting the quintessence of the lifestyle, traditions and culture of the ancient Vietnamese.
In the cause of national building, the Vietnamese also had to cope with foreign aggression. During 12 centuries from the resistance against the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century B.C until the late 20th century, the Vietnamese had to endure hundreds of wars and uprisings against foreign aggression. The tactic, as stated in the Proclamation of Victory over the Wu “Binh Ngo Dai Cao,”... Relying on surprises, our weak forces prevailed over much stronger enemies; In skillful ambushes, our few troops destroyed large units,” has become the rule of thumb for the wars to safeguard the Fatherland of the Vietnamese.
Since the 2nd century B.C, Viet Nam had been dominated by different Chinese dynasties for more than a thousand years. During this period, the existence of the nation had been challenged which helped give rise to the spirit of indomitability and staunchness of the Vietnamese in the struggle to maintain the nation’s vitality, preserve and build on the quintessence of its culture and the determination to gain national independence.
Despite many vicissitudes, from Van Lang, Au Lac to Van Xuan, Dai Co Viet and Dai Viet, the Vietnamese nation continued to develop in all fields, reflecting its strong vitality and unceasing evolution.
A typical feature of Vietnamese culture is the village culture. It is Vietnamese villages that have nurtured and fostered the quintessence of the traditional culture, the spirit of unity among the Vietnamese in the struggle against the domination of the North and the policy of assimilation of Northern dynasties to gain national independence, maintaining the nation’s traditions and cultures.
The Bach Dang victory in 938 ushered in a new era in Viet Nam’s history – the era of development of an independent feudal state, national construction and defense. As a result, the centralized-administration state was established under the Ngo (938-965), Dinh (969-979) and earlier Le (980 - 1009) dynasties.
Then, Viet Nam entered the period of renaissance and development under the Ly (1009-1226), Tran (1226-1400), Ho (1400-1407) and Le So (1428-1527) dynasties. Dai Viet, the name of the country under the Ly-Tran-Le So dynasties, was known as a prosperous kingdoms in Asia. This period marked one of the golden ages of Viet Nam’s history. Economically, this period saw the development of agriculture, irrigation (with the construction of the Red River dike) and the formation of traditional handicrafts. In terms of religion, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism were considered the three co-existing official religions exerting great influence on people’s life. One important achievement in the Ly-Tran dynasties was the introduction of Nom scripts, Viet Nam’s own writing system based on the reform of Chinese Han scripts. In addition, this period also marked the splendid development of education, science, culture, art, history and law etc (such as the establishment of Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam– the first university of Viet Nam, the introduction of Hong Duc Code and Complete History of Dai Viet etc). This period was called the Civilized Age of Dai Viet. Thang Long (the old name of Ha Noi capital) was officially recognized as the imperial city of Dai Viet according to the Proclamation on the transfer of the capital to Hanoi in 1010 by Ly Thai To.
From the 16th century, the backwardness and weakness of the feudal regime under Confucius ideology were revealed, feudalism fell into a decline. Dai Viet was bogged down in internal wars and divisions, which heavily impeded the country’s evolution despite certain developments in the economy and culture, the establishment of towns and ports and the growth of trade and exchanges between the 16th and 18th century.
In the 19th century, Western capitalist countries entered the period of imperialism and colonialism. Through missionaries and trade in the beginning and war in the next phase, the French gradually dominated Viet Nam. For the first time in history, the Vietnamese had to cope with the invasion of Western power. In that context, some Vietnamese intellectuals were aware of the need to carry out reforms in an effort to bring the country out of stagnation and save national independence. Many plans of reform were proposed, yet rejected by the Nguyen dynasty. Subsequently, the country was driven into backwardness and deadlock. Viet Nam became a semi-feudal colony for nearly 100 years from 1858 to 1945.
After establishing the colonist rule in Viet Nam, the French colonialists quickly began large-scale exploitation in the country. Capitalist production relations infiltrated in Viet Nam, stimulating the formation and evolution of internal capitalist factors, and as a result, narrowing and breaking up the existing feudal production relations. Viet Nam’s economy thus moved from a backward and self-sufficient economy to a colonized one totally controlled by the French capitalists. A new social structure evolved along the line of capitalism, and subsequently, the division between landlords and farmers was deepened while new forces, such as the working class, the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie gradually came into being. Eventually, the struggle against the French colonialists was initiated by two forces i.e. the bourgeoisies (represented by Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang and Yen Bai revolt in early 1930) and the proletarians led by the Communist Party of Viet Nam.
The formation of theCommunist Party of Viet Nam marked the prevailing strength of the working class and revolutionary movements led by the proletarians. During World War II, Japan invaded Indochina in 1940, keeping the Vinchy French colonial administration in place as a puppet. In 1941, Nguyen Ai Quoc (later known as President Ho Chi Minh) arrived in northern Viet Nam to form the Viet Minh Front fighting against Japan. In August 1945, under the leadership of Nguyen Ai Quoc (later known as President Ho Chi Minh), Vietnamese people and the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation (now the People’s Army of Viet Nam) successfully launched a general uprising to seize power. On September 2, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh solemnly declared independence for the newly established democratic Republic of Viet Nam came into being.
The French, however, returned a few months later and tried to invade Viet Nam. Full-scale war broke out between Viet Minh and France in late 1946 and prolonged for nearly 9 years. The globe-shaking victory of Dien Bien Phu (May 1954) and the Geneva Accords (July 1954) put an end to the war of resistance against the French colonialists.
According to the Geneva Accords, the country was temporarily separated along the 17th Parallel North into two territories, North Viet Nam and the South Viet Nam, which were expected to be reunified two years later with a general election. South Viet Nam was ruled by a pro-French and then pro-USA government in Saigon. Though Saigon regime attempted to prevent reunification, it failed to subdue peace and national reunification campaigns. As a result, the National Liberation Front for South Viet Nam was founded on December 20 1964.
Between 1954 and 1975, Viet Nam had to stand up for national liberation and unification. To support the South Viet Nam regime, the US sent military aid and over half a million soldiers to Viet Nam, and started bombing North Viet Nam in 1964. To fulfill President Ho Chi Minh’s aspiration that "nothing is more precious than independence and freedom", the Vietnamese people experienced untold hardship and sacrifice. In 1973, the Paris Accord was signed for the restoration of peace in Viet Nam and withdrawal of the US troops. The war came to an end in spring 1975 as the patriotic armed forces launched an offensive against the Saigon regime, liberated southern Viet Nam and reunified the country. Since then, the unified Viet Nam has ushered into a new era of peace, unification and national construction. The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was renamed the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on April 25, 1976. In 1977, Viet Nam became a member of the United Nations.
However, in the first ten years after 1975, many socio-economic targets were not achieved due to both internal and external reasons. Viet Nam’s economy fell into crisis and stagnation and people’s lives were in difficulty.
At the 7th Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, the Doi Moi (reform) policy was launched with the focus on economic reform. This marked an important milestone in the new stage of development of the Vietnamese nation. The Doi Moi policy was consistently reaffirmed throughout the later Party Congresses. With the implementation of four five-year socio-economic development plans, Viet Nam, from a food importing country, has become the second largest rice exporter in the world. Viet Nam also exports a lot of other commodities with well-known brands. The economy attained high growth rate in the late 20th century and the early years of the 21st century, and people’s lives have been significantly improved.
Looking back on the formation and development of the Vietnamese nation, we can see that patriotism, self-reliance, the tradition of unity and the willpower to fight for the righteous cause of the nation are the most important features and the moral standards of the Vietnamese. The tradition of industriousness, creativeness and patience originated from the life full of the hardship of the Vietnamese people. The need to stand united to cope with difficulties and challenges has created close bonds between the people and nature and among the people in the family and in the community in the family-village-nation relations. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have been characterized by the traditions of mutual assistance, ethnic-based lifestyle, benevolence, one-mindedness and sharing of hardships in needy times, flexible ways of behavior, the tradition of eagerness to learn, respect for righteousness and tolerance. These are the powerful and endless endogenous strengths for the Vietnamese nation to embark on the cause of national construction towards the goals of a strong country, prosperous people, just, democratic and advanced society./.