Transnational urban modelling in the city making in Southeast Asia
Thu 11:00-12:30 Room 3.01
- Tran Khac Minh Université du Québec à Montréal
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International urban policies and models in the making of metropolises in Southern Vietnam: the case of the state-led new town development in the Ho Chi Minh City Metropolitan Area
Tran Khac Minh Université du Québec à Montréal
Since the implementation of Doi Moi reforms in the mid-1980s, the Vietnamese economy has been experiencing a spectacular restructuring achieved by combining globalized industrialization, urban megaprojects, and modern infrastructures. Forming a large metropolitan area, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and its neighboring provinces has emerged as the economic spearhead of southern Vietnam. In HCMC and its neighboring industrialized provinces, such as Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Ba Ria Vung Tau, provincial authorities seek to achieve their ambitious plans by combining industrial park development, and advanced logistical and transportation infrastructures, with new town megaprojects. Since the early 2000s, foreign urban models, imported and implemented by international and national developers and consultants, have become an important source of inspiration for the making of new urban planning paradigms.
Focusing my analysis on the conception and implementation of new town projects, I seek to understand how international policies and models have become a determining driving force in the making of metropolises in the largest urban region of Vietnam. Specifically, I scrutinize the diverse ways by which provincial authorities re-adapt and incorporate international urban models into their new town strategies. Moreover, I delve into the provincial new town programs to examine how these ambitious plans help neighbouring provinces to strengthen their position in competition with HCMC, and determine the regional construction trajectory through the emergence of transprovincial corridors.
This study is based on interviews with urban planners and officials from Binh Duong and HCMC People’s Committees and specialists from several developers such as Becamex (a large state-led company and key player in the urban development of the HCMC Metropolitan Area). Drawing from these interviews, I explore the ways authorities assess international urban models to selectively incorporate them in state-led new town development programs. Information collected from these interviews also reveals many weaknesses of these programs showing how they failed to readapt international models to take local specificities into account, leading to multiple problems in the implementation of these ambitious megaprojects.
Planning the next Singapore model: Perception of urban planning processes and foreign influences on urban planning of Hanoi (Vietnam).
Pham Thi Thanh Hien Université du Québec à Montréal
Sarah Turner McGill University
Singapore constantly grabs global attention due to the city-state’s rapid socioeconomic development over its 57 years of independence. Singapore has come to embody a model of efficient, growth-oriented urban design, governance and development; namely the ‘Singapore model’. City and national governments around the world are looking to Singapore for urban growth lessons, while Singapore’s government ministries, as well as private companies are keen to actively export this model and urban planning expertise as a key sector for Singapore’s economic growth. Nonetheless, little is known about the articulation and travels of the ‘Singapore model’ and the important impacts it has on urban design elsewhere. As such, in this paper we focus on this increasingly praised, influential urban design model. Specifically, we investigate the perceptions of Vietnamese planning and architecture experts, regarding the ways by which the Singapore model has been imported and implemented in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi, and its impacts on Hanoi’s urban form.
This study is based on in-depth interviews with key players shaping Hanoi’s urban form and growth, namely architects, urban planners, academics, government planners, construction engineers, and journalists. While Hanoi’s municipal government is strongly embracing the Singapore model, our key informants had a range of convincing observations and criticisms regarding how and why the Singapore model has been transferred to Hanoi. In this paper we dig deeper into the range of critiques that we heard about both the Hanoi municipal government and its embrace of the Singapore model, and concerns over the Singapore-based operators. The degree of candour of our informants’ responses exposed the degree to which the Singapore model is highly doubted as a logical approach for Hanoi’s future plans.
Tracking the tensions along Line 2A: Local perceptions and responses to a foreign financed and constructed urban railway in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Sarah Turner McGill University
In their drive to ‘modernize’ and ‘globalize’ Hanoi, the municipal authorities of Vietnam’s capital have turned their attention to the urban development strategies of neighbouring cities such as Singapore and Seoul to inform their own urbanization strategies. This has resulted in the enthusiastic adoption of a number of urban policies and plans that will, in theory, increase Hanoi’s relative international standing, and create a modern, ‘liveable’ urban oasis. One such strategy, revealed in 2008, aims to build 318km of urban railway as part of the ‘Hanoi Capital Transport Master Plan to 2020’ (reiterated in a revised 2016 Plan). The construction of Line 2A, the first line of this 8-line railway, incorporates 13km of rail across the city. The Line took ten years to build, including eight years of delays, finally opening in November 2021. Nonetheless, Line 2A encountered more than just construction setbacks, being riddled with controversy and public scepticism since its inception. Its reputation has been tarnished by contractor choice, accidents, and public concerns over safety and accessibility. Sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of many Hanoi residents is the fact that two-thirds of the original financing came from preferential loans from China, conditional on the contractor and most materials being sourced from China. In this paper, which I root in conceptual debates regarding infrastructural violence and mobility (in)justice, I analyse how Hanoi residents have considered, experienced, and negotiated the construction of this Chinese-Vietnamese infrastructure project. I also include a brief case study of how motorbike taxi drivers, whose livelihoods are already being directly affected by the railway, are responding. Among residents in general, and motorbike taxi drivers more specifically, innovative tactics are already emerging as they navigate this new infrastructure and the tensions it has raised.
Urban contemporary transformation of Sihanoukville (Cambodia) under Chinese influence
Robin Laillé Université de Montréal
In this paper I will analyse and highlight how a diversity of Chinese individuals and communities are shaping the degree to which the urban transformation of Sihanoukville, a rapidly growing coastal city in Cambodia and the country’s only deep-water port, is under the influence of Chinese capitalism. This city has become a focal point of Chinese investment, with vast Chinese-run construction projects now visible in almost every area of the city. I will discuss who these different Chinese actors are, lifting the veil on ‘the Chinese’ to better understand not only the scope of the Chinese communities present, but also their diversity. I will begin by briefly introducing the broad range of Chinese communities in Cambodia, before analysing the diversity among the different Chinese communities in Sihanoukville, and investigating how Chinese actors are organizing themselves in Sihanoukville since the investment boom accelerated in the mid-2010s. The Chinese presence in Sihanoukville spans small and large-scale businesspeople, construction firms, developers, sub-contractors, and also tourists and even criminals. My work shows that this diversity is still nonetheless carefully organised through social networks and ties, including those linked to new technology platforms such as WeChat and Telegram. I investigate these actors and dynamics in a the city in a context of a construction boom, a pandemic, and other crises.
Since the last decades of the 20th century, globalization has yielded major changes in urbanization patterns and processes across Southeast Asia, especially through the circulation of urban policies and models. This panel underscores the need to decipher the role of transnational urban modelling, by public or private overseas investment firms, consultancies, and designers. The important roles of specific ‘modern’ discourses and ‘innovative’ models such as smart, green and sustainable cities, also need to be investigated. These shifts in the Southeast Asian city-making paradigm also rely on specific initiatives promoted by real estate developers and international urban planning professionals; the degree to which these have become determinant actors of the urban growth machine needs to be better understood. This panel thus seeks to analyse the evolution of practices by local actors (public authorities, urban planners, entrepreneurs), the degree to which these are influenced by foreign planning approaches, and residents’ reflections of these. Through knowledge exchange, collaborations, and ‘inter-referencing’ these actors have been appropriating and reformulating transnational urban policies and models to create development models adapted to local specificities and objectives. Our case studies focus on a range of these urban production dynamics in Southeast Asia: (1) urban planners’ perceptions of foreign influences in urban planning of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam; (2) the transformation of Sihanoukville, a mid-sized, coastal city in Cambodia, following the arrival of significant Chinese investment; (3) the perceptions of Hanoi’s urban residents regarding a new urban railway constructed by overseas developers and strongly supported by the Vietnamese state; (4) the role of transnational urban modelling in the making of metropolises in Ho Chi Minh City Metropolitan Area southern Vietnam, focusing on new urban-industrial forms and new town concepts, and the degree to which the discourses of urban real estate developers and the municipal government regarding the benefits of these have been accepted or not. Together these empirical cases will provide important insights into the discourses, practices, and local responses regarding urban modelling in Southeast Asia.