Vietnam, also spelled Viet Nam, is a nation in Southeast Asia. It borders Laos and Cambodia to the west, and China to the north. The capital is Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city. The Vietnamese language is widely spoken, and most inhabitants are Buddhists.
Vietnam has frequently been under the influence or control of China. In the 1880s, Vietnam was colonized by the French and made a part of French Indochina. Vietnam was invaded by Japan in World War II, and an anti-Japanese insurgency began.
After the end of the war, this insurgency turned against the French. The Indochina War lasted from 1946 to 1954, when the French were heavily defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and forced to withdraw. The Geneva Conference of 1954 divided Vietnam into a communist North Vietnam and a U.S.-backed South Vietnam.
The Vietnam War between North and South Vietnam began in 1959. The United States began sending military advisors in the early 1960s, and by 1965 thousands of American troops were in Vietnam. Although the conventional North Vietnamese forces, the Viet Minh, were rarely successful against the better-armed and trained American forces, the guerrilla component of their army, the Viet Cong, proved a major hazard.
The Tet Offensive of 1968 turned U.S. public opinion against the war, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces began, to end in 1973. A truce negotiated between North and South Vietnam quickly fell apart, and North Vietnam took over South Vietnam in 1975.
Vietnam struggled economically after the war, but beginning in the 1990s made an economic comeback due to the implementation of free market reforms. Currently, Vietnam is considered a newly industrialized country and a rising economic power.