Map of Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, South China Sea
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Vietnam curls around Laos and Cambodia, touching China, in southeastern Asia. Its coastline is in the South China Sea.
In 207 BCE, China incorporated Au Lae into the Nanyue province, which was soon incorporated into the Empire in 111 BCE by the Han dynasty. For thousands of years the territory fought for independence, seeing only minor and short-lived victories now and then. By 1st century CE, the small territory, which would become Vietnam, finally gained autonomy from China. It remained part of the Chinese Empire until 938 CE, when it gained full independence after the Battle of Bach Dang River. As an independent nation, Vietnam managed to repel the Mongol invaders that took over China. Independence was interrupted by the Ming dynasty's conquering of the area, only for China to lose it again.
Vietnam enjoyed relative stability and peace until France began to slowly erode the country's independence beginning in 1859 until it has eventually taken full control of Vietnam and integrated in into French IndoChina in 1884. While France lost its claim to the Japanese in WWII, they were allowed to oversee the administration of the territory. The country has seen a tragic history ever since, beginning with a famine and the rise of the Viet Minh movement in 1945. Viet Minh occupied Hanoi, using the Japanese military defeat by the US to their advantage. Japan sent French troops and administrators to end the power of the Viet Minh, causing guerrilla fighting to break out in 1946, leading to a war.
The war ended in 1954 and the country was divided in half, Ho Chi Minh's communist northern and Emperor Bao Dai's southern half. During this time, the government had 50-172 thousand people executed. With the Soviet Union and China backing the North Vietnamese Army, the government cracked down on Buddhist non-violent protesters, an action that led to deterioration of relations with the US. The US at first decided to aid the Southern half, but as opinions in the country changed, the US began to back out of ground combat before having to claim a loss by 1970.The two halves merged in 1976; 165 thousand died in 're-education camps' and 100-200 thousand were executed, 5 thousand died during forced hard labor, millions fled the country and hundreds of thousands died trying. In 1978, the country invaded Cambodia to root out communists called the Khmer Rougue, who had split off from the Viet Minh decades ago.
Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world and 8th most populous country in Asia. It remains one of the 5 countries still under communist rule. 40% of the country is mountains and 42% is tropical forest, all of which is threatened. It is home to the saola, giant Muntjac, Tonkin snub-nose monkey, Edward's pheasant, and Javan rhino, for now.

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