Country Listing

Vietnam Table of Contents



Official attitudes in Vietnam toward national security have arisen from an amalgam of the country's heritage, historical experience, internal sociopolitical strengths and weaknesses, and geopolitical position. They are also the product of a singular kind of leadership, which in 1987 was undergoing gradual change. The Vietnamese look back at the great events of their past and see themselves as victims of history. They perceive that Vietnam always has been threatened by formidable enemies, frequently has been beleaguered, and on occasion has only narrowly escaped destruction. For centuries China repeatedly sought to establish hegemony over Vietnam. A century of colonial control by the French was shaken off in 1954, following a long, bitter struggle that concluded by planting the seeds for still another struggle for complete unification of the country. In 1987 the Vietnamese perceived their country to be isolated, surrounded by hostile neighbors, and dependent on the Soviet Union in an intimate association that was a military alliance in all but name. Internally, the country was viewed as divided by geographic regionalism stemming from ancient cultural differences among the people of the North, Center, and South (see The Chinese Millennium , ch. 1). Regardless of their veracity, such perceptions were widely held in Hanoi and conditioned the leadership's thinking about national security.

Data as of December 1987