chapter  1
Environment, society and precipitous change
ByW. NEIL ADGER, P. MICK KELLY AND NGUYEN HUU NINH
Pages 16

Vietnam is an enigma. It stands at the beginning of the twenty-first century as a nation that has much to celebrate in terms of equitable social and economic development. Many advances towards this goal have been achieved in the most recent decades. But it remains one of the poorest countries in the Southeast Asian region in terms of per capita income. Vietnam is a geographically large and disparate country, comprising lowland coastal plains and upland mountain areas. Yet, despite a history of years of divisive war and then international embargo, the government has, since reunification in 1975, retained a high degree of legitimacy and popular appeal. The social and political organisation of Vietnam is, in fact, its most confounding enigma.