In the 19th century Vietnam was a French colony. Nowadays, Vietnam is a densely populated country which borders China, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
During 2014 there were demonstrations by Vietnamese citizens in Hanoi, and tensions were mounting over China's territorial ambitions, after it unilaterally installed an oil platform in the international waters around the Paracel Islands and placed Chinese naval ships to guard it.
The tensions haven't just affected relations with China, but also had an effect on those with Singapore and Taiwan, because some demonstrators attacked property which they believed to be Chinese but which turned out to belong to Singporeans or Taiwanese.
In a country which is so reliant on tourism and investment from its neighbours, Vietnam needs to be careful to find a peaceful solution to this sort of international dispute. We will see the follow-up to this story in 2015 which, I hope, will be positive. It shouldn't stop you from going to visit Vietnam.
Because China has a single-child policy, a lot of baby girls are abandoned or killed which has caused a major demographic imbalance that is difficult to resolve. This has led to trafficking in women from Vietnam to China, especially as a lot of single Chinese man "can't afford a Chinese woman" and so choose to buy a Vietnamese wife. In effect, according to tradition, a Chinese man must pay a bride price, and this price is considerably lower if the bride is Vietnamese. Trafficking in women doesn't just affect Vietnam, but also other countries that neighbour China (Laos, North Korea and Burma).
Over the last 10 years Vietnam has been carrying out an urban improvement project which has benefited 7.5 million urban residents. The main works have been carried out in the poorest districts of Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Ho Chi Ming and Can Tho. One particularly important project was to modernise the sewers which had been causing environmental and health problems. Which also improves things for tourists - yet another reason to consider a trip to Vietnam.
This project also provided micro-loans which improved the lives of the poorest people.