City : analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action
Place of publication
1470-3629 0969-6199 1360-4813
Hanoi, like most capital cities, performs functions at three levels. It is home to its residents and provides local level services for them. But it also has a role as a city for all citizens of the Vietnamese state, performing capital city functions across the entire national territory as well as beyond national borders. Hanoi is especially interesting because of the uneasy way in which it has been forced to share power internally with Ho Chi Minh City in the south—Hanoi maintaining political and cultural sway but its rival becoming stronger in economic and demographic terms. Externally, it has struggled for recognition, having been regarded as capital of a weak political state open to the interventions of the Chinese, French, Americans and the Soviet Union. This paper argues that Hanoi's double vulnerability has made its rulers acutely aware of the need to demonstrate the city's power as a capital city—or at least to give the semblance of power—through urban planning and architectural design, the building of heroic monuments and the naming of city features after key historic events and people. Major events and projects have become an important way in which the Vietnamese government has sought to strengthen Hanoi's place—and hence its own—in the national consciousness. The regime also continues to push on with efforts to make a future Hanoi dominant both within the Vietnamese urban hierarchy and as the country's undisputed international metropolis.