In 2008, Vietnamese state officials significantly expanded the official land area of Hanoi, resulting in an overnight doubling of the city’s population to 6.2 million inhabitants. This expansion is part of a campaign by city authorities to modernize Hanoi and create an economic super-hub, remodelling the country’s capital to transform it into a ‘second Singapore’. A related goal is to reach a population of 10 million by 2030. As part of this vision, Hanoi’s municipal government has demolished a number of central corridors to create new transportation links, promoting highways, expressways, and an elevated metro system. Concurrently, the municipal authorities have determined that a range of ‘negative’ practices and habits must be removed from the urban sphere, with certain public spaces being heavily regulated. Specific policies are now directed at those considered to detract from the state’s goals, such as the numerous individuals trying to maintain informal livelihoods on the city’s streets. As well as a ban on street vending on core downtown streets since 2008, in early 2017 Hanoi’s local authorities implemented a ‘Clean Up the Sidewalks Campaign’ with vendor carts, advertisements, and even door ramps being targeted for demolition. On the longer term, despite the fact that there are now about five million motorbikes versus only half a million cars plying the city’s streets, the municipal government is proposing to ban motorbikes from downtown streets by 2030.
Our work in Hanoi focuses on how these changes to Hanoi and the related policies are impacting local residents, with a specific focus on those often deemed marginalised including street vendors, informal motorbike taxi drivers, and groups of the city’s youth.