People and Society, Social Structure
system prevalent, urban middle class, peasants, social structure, social order
During the period of Chinese rule and for centuries after, Vietnamese social structure was patterned after the system prevalent in China. The vast majority of people were farmers. The governing class comprised about 5 percent of the population and was selected from candidates who had passed the Confucian civil service examinations or from influential landholding families. There were also a small number of artisans and merchants.
After the partition of Vietnam in 1954, the Communist government of North Vietnam completely changed the social structure. Private property was eliminated, and peasants and workers were given a new, if nominal, dominance in the social order. At the top of the order, functioning as the new ruling class, were officials of the Communist Party. In the South, on the other hand, the social structure remained virtually unchanged after the partition. After the Communists won the civil war in 1975, however, they imposed the same social structure on the South as they had on the North in 1954. Since the mid-1980s a more complicated social system has developed as a result of market economic reforms. Although most Vietnamese remain farmers, the number of industrial workers is increasing. Furthermore, an urban middle class is emerging, which includes many private entrepreneurs.
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