People and Society, Ethnic Groups
Rhade, Muong, largest minority group, Jarai, Nung
Vietnamís population is relatively homogeneous. As much as 90 percent of the people are ethnic Vietnamese, descendants of the people who settled in the Red River Delta thousands of years ago. Ethnic Chinese constitute the largest minority group. Other important minorities are the Khmer and the Cham. In addition, there are also numerous tribal groups. While the ethnic Vietnamese live in lowland areas scattered throughout the country, most minorities are concentrated in specific regional areas. The ethnic Chinese, also known as overseas Chinese, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who settled in Vietnam during the last 300 years. They live primarily in the cities and provincial towns and number about 2 million. The Khmer (about 500,000) and the Cham (about 50,000) are descendants of peoples who lived in central and southern Vietnam prior to the Vietnamese conquest of those areas. The tribal peoples are descendants of communities who migrated into Vietnam from other parts of Asia over a period of several thousand years. They are divided into about 50 different language and ethnic groups (including the Tho, the Tay, the Nung, the Muong, the Rhade, and the Jarai) and live almost exclusively in the mountains surrounding the Red River Delta and in the Central Highlands. Taken collectively, the tribal peoples represent 7 percent of the countryís total population.
For the most part, the various ethnic groups in Vietnam coexist with few mutual tensions. Relations between the ethnic groups are not always amiable, however. Ethnic Chinese play a dominant role in the national economy, which angers some Vietnamese who resent the economic power of the much smaller Chinese population. Furthermore, some Vietnamese are suspicious of China, which subjugated parts of Vietnam for centuries, and this suspicion is occasionally directed at the ethnic Chinese citizens of Vietnam. Some tribal minority communities have resisted recent Vietnamese penetration into mountain areas.
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