The early days - 1000 years of chinese domination- Liberation from china - China bites back - Le lo enters the scene - The coming of the europeans - Lording it over the people - Tay son rebrllion - The last of the nguyens - The french takeover - Independence aspiration - WWII breaks out - A false dawn - War with the french - A separate south vietnam - A new north vietnam - The north south war - Enter the cavalry - The turing point - Nixon his doctrine- Other foreign involvement - The fall of the south - Reunification of vietnam - Opening the door - Vietnam today


In 1985 President Michael Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. Glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) were in, radicalrev , lutionaries were out. Vietnam followed suit in 1986 by choosing reform minded Nguyen Van Linh to lead the Vietnamese Commu nist Party. do moi (economic reform) was experimented with in Cambodia and introduced to Vietnam. As the USSR scaled back its commitments to the communist world, the far-flung outposts were the f irst to feel the pinch. The Vietnamese decided to unilaterally withdraw from Cambodia in 1989, as they could no longer afford the occupation. The party in Vietnam was on its own and needed to reform to survive. However, dramatic changes in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 were not viewed with favor in Hanoi. The party denounced the participation of noncommunist’s in Eastern Bloc govern mints, calling the democratic revolutions 'a counterattack from imperial ist circles' against socialism. Politically things were moving at a glacial pace, but economically the Vietnamese decided to embrace the market. It has taken time, but capitalism has taken root and it's un likely Ho Chi Minh would recognize the dynamic Vietnam of today.
Sound fami liar? It's how George Bush won two elections, !t keeps Eng land divided at the Watford Gap. It somet imes threatens to snap Italy in two. Vietnam knows more about north-south divides than most, as the country spent 21 years partit ioned a long the 17th Paralle a la Korea. War and politics are not the only explanation for two Vietnams. Climatically, the two regions are very different and this has an impact on productivity, the Mekong Delta yielding three rice harvests a year and the Red River just two. There are two dialects with very different pronuncia­tion. There is different food. And, some say, a different persona. The war amplified the differences. The north experienced communist austerity and US bombing. The south experienced the rollercoaster ride that was the American presence in 'Nam. As the war came to a close and southerners began to flee. thousands settled abroad, known as the Viet Kieu. Many have returned, confident thanks to an overseas education and savvy in the ways of the world. Their initiative and investment has helped to drive the economy forward. This meant that is was the south that benefited most from the economic reforms of doi moi, self confident Saigon the dynamo driving the rest of the country forward. The economy has grown by more than 7% for a whole decade, but th is is heavily skewed to the south. Much of this is down to the attitude of government officials and the fact that many northern cadres were far more suspicious of reform than their southern cousins. The government is aware of these divis ions and tries to ensure a fa ir balance of the offices of state. It wasn't always so and many southern communists found themselves frozen put after reunification, but these days the party ensures that if the prime minister is from the south , the head of the Communist Party is from the north. When it comes to the older generation, the south has never forgiven the north for bulldozing their war cemeteries, imposing communism and blackballing whole fam ilies. The north has never forgiven the south for siding with the Americans against their own people. Luckily for Vietnam, the new generation seems to have less interest in their harrowing history and more interest in making money. Today there is on ly one Vietnam and its mantra is business.