A rural commune (Vietnamese: xã Chữ nôm:社) is a third-level (commune-level) administrative subdivision of Vietnam. Rural communes are subdivisions of counties (Vietnamese: huyện), which are in turn subdivisions of provinces (Vietnamese: tỉnh).
The rural commune is one of three possible third-level subdivisions in Vietnam, along with commune-level towns (Vietnamese: thị trấn), which are also county subdivisions, and wards (Vietnamese: phường, literal meaning: urban subdistrict), which are subdivisions of urban districts, county-level towns, or provincial cities. The term xã is sometimes used to refer to all third-level administrative subdivisions of Vietnam, including rural communes, wards and commune-level towns.
Certain small villages are not officially regarded as administrative communes.
As of December 31, 2008, Vietnam had 9,111 rural communes. Thanh Hoá Province contained the highest number of rural communes (586) amongst all province-level administrative units, followed by Nghệ An Province with 436 and Hanoi with 408. Đà Nẵng, with only 11 rural communes, contained the fewest. Counted together, the ten province-level administrative units containing the most rural communes—namely, Thanh Hoá (586), Nghệ An (436), Hanoi (408), Thái Bình (267), Phú Thọ (251), Hà Tĩnh (238), Hải Dương (234), Quảng Nam (210), Bắc Giang (207), and Lạng Sơn (207)—contain one-third of all the rural communes in Vietnam. Three of these are located in the Red River Delta region, three more in the Đông Bắc (Northeast) region, three in the Bắc Trung Bộ (North Central Coast) region, and one in the Nam Trung Bộ (South Central Coast) region.
According to latest data extracted from General Statistics Office of Vietnam, there are 11164 third-level (commune-level) administrative subdivision.
In 1957, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem launched a counter-insurgency project known as Strategic Hamlet Program, in order to isolate the rural Vietnamese from contact with and influence by the communist National Liberation Front (NLF). A number of "fortified villages", called "joint families" (Vietnamese: liên gia), were created throughout South Vietnam, consisting of villages that had been consolidated and reshaped to create a defensible perimeter. The peasants themselves would be given weapons and trained in self-defense. Several problems, including corruption, unnecessary amounts of forced relocation, and poor execution caused the program to backfire drastically, and ultimately led to a decrease in support for Diem's regime and an increase in sympathy for Communist efforts.