Hostilities continued after independence, and the US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960 and early 1970s. The Americans entered the war with the goal of containing communism. The war resulted in atrocities against civilians and huge casualties on both sides. The US finally withdrew its forces in 1973, and two years later, Vienam was reunited under a Communist government.
In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. During the ten years of Cambodian occupation, Vietnam was virtually isolated from the West, thereby increasing its dependence on the Soviet Union.
With the end to the Cambodian crisis in 1991, Vietnam began to implement an economic renovation policy. The government is committed to economic liberalization and to enact reforms to modernize the economy. A stock exchange was opened in 2000, and in 2007, Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization after 12 years of negotiations. Vietnam is now home to one of southeast Asia's fastest-growing economics. It hopes to become a developed nation by 2020.
In 2000, US President Bill Clinton made a visit to Vietnam, a symbol of US efforts to normalize relations with their previous enemy. Today, the US is Vietnam’s biggest trading partner.
The Communist Party holds the real power in Vietnam, and the government has been accused of suppressing dissent and religious freedom. Religious persecution has led to isolated protests by ethnic minorities, including the Protestant Montagnard of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in southern Vietnam.
Sources: BBC, The Economist, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.