Vietnam Encyclopedia for Kids
Plains and great rivers
The variety of geographical environments and the resources of the population are, for Vietnam, the preconditions for future growth, balanced and progressive. After almost a century of colonization and thirty years of wars, conquering independence and reunification, Vietnam has encountered serious difficulties in getting the reconstruction and social and economic development off the ground, which, however, seem to have already started.
Narrow and elongated
The elongated territory of Vietnam is very varied: to the north, the reliefs of Chinese Yunnan extend into the Tonkin region with mountains that exceed 3,000 m and are deeply engraved by many river valleys; these mountains surround the great plain formed by the Red River and the Black River, its tributary, which flow into the Gulf of Tonkin with a large common delta. Above all the Red River, very rich in water and capable of sudden floods, has had a great importance in the history of Vietnam, both because it has allowed a very strong agricultural development and because it is a ‘hanging’ river (that is, whose bed is higher than the surrounding lands), and sometimes with its floods it caused catastrophic damage.
The central region, Annam, is a narrow strip between the South China Sea and the mountains of the Annamite Range (also known as the Annamite Alps), which continue up to the Da Lat plateau; before colonization, Annam was more extensive and also included part of the current state of Laos. Further south, the territory of Cochinchina corresponds to the delta of the Mekong River and a large part of its plain: crossed by many arms of the river and an infinite number of canals, this is the other important agricultural region of the country.
In the plains the climate is monsoonal and generally humid; in the northern region, and especially in the mountains, it is much more continental, with even rather cold winters; the Annam reliefs, on the other hand, have a temperate climate.
A country with two poles
The population is concentrated mainly in the two plains, to the north and to the south. In Tonkin lies the capital Hanoi, and close to it are the large port city of Hai Phong (1,711,000 residents) and a number of other important coastal centers. In Cochinchina, the main cities are in the delta area and around Thanh Pho Ho Chi-minh (Ho Chi-minh City, 5,378,000 residents), which was known as Saigon when it was the capital of South Vietnam Most of the Vietnamese population, however, lives in small rural villages scattered across the great plains of the Red River and the Mekong, which are intensely cultivated.
The same two plain regions concentrate, with the population and the cities, almost all the industrial apparatus of the country (engineering, shipyards, textile industry, electronics), which traditionally is much more developed in Tonkin; heavy industry is found here above all, thanks also to the presence of coal and oil. Obviously, the two plains are also the main agricultural production areas: above all rice – of which Vietnam is one of the leading world exporters – but also sugar cane, corn and cassava; on the hills and in Annam, on the other hand, coffee – another very important export item – and tropical fruit are grown.
In recent years, the country has shown rapid progress, despite the political and economic difficulties immediately following the reunification. It has a good social and cultural structure and aims at balanced development, thanks also to international cooperation and a strong growth in tourism, which is becoming increasingly important.