|Ethnic Vietnamese constitute almost 90% of the population. Originating in what is now southern China and northern Vietnam, the Vietnamese people pushed southward over several centuries to occupy the entire eastern seacoast of the Indochinese Peninsula. This expansion began in 939 AD, after a millennium of Chinese occupation. Although Vietnamese culture was strongly influenced by traditional Chinese civilization, the struggle for political independence from China instilled a strong sense of national identity in the Vietnamese people. Nearly 100 years of French rule (1858-1954) introduced important European elements, but the Vietnamese still attach great importance to the family and continue to observe rites honoring their ancestors, indicating the persistence of tradition.
Various ethnic groups make up the remaining 10% of the population, with the approximately 1.2 million Chinese, concentrated in southern Vietnam, being the most numerous. The Chinese have long been important to the Vietnamese economy, having been active in rice trading, milling, real estate, and banking in the south and shopkeeping, stevedoring, and mining in the north. Various restrictions on economic activity in the years following reunification seriously affected the Chinese business community congregated in the Cholon section of Ho Chi Minh City.