March 20, 2007
Written by C.N.
You may know that Saigon (aka ‘Ho Chi Minh City’) is Viet Nam’s biggest city and its commercial center. Like many cities in Asia, it is undergoing tremendous development and expansion. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, the rapid pace of growth has many worried that the city will lose its traditional charm and character:
Glass and steel buildings are already sprouting across the city and by 2009, a 68-story skyscraper, designed to invoke the lotus flower and the ao dai worn by Vietnamese women, promises to be this city’s Sears Tower. But in a city struggling to update its creaking infrastructure and keep its historical core intact, critics say the breakneck speed of expansion could spell a slow death for the unique character of a city once known as the Pearl of the Orient.
Government planners say they want to maintain the essence of the graceful colonial city laid out by French architects in the 19th century. So far, 108 historic buildings have been listed for preservation, and plans are afoot to build a new financial district apart from the old city to satisfy demand for office space. . . . This leaves many wondering which vision of the future will triumph: a planned urban renewal or an unchecked boom that turns Ho Chi Minh City into another sprawling Asian metropolis.
Economic growth in Saigon is inevitable, as long as the Vietnamese government follows its current path of state-controlled capitalism. So the question becomes, will Saigon turn into another Shenzhen, Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, etc., or will it somehow manage to retain its traditional charm? The article does mention decentralization as a potential solution — building outward into Saigon’s suburbs to relieve traffic and congestion inside the city.
However it turns out, however Saigon looks in the next 20 or so years, I think the more important question is, will Saigon also follow the lead of the other Asian metropolises and incur a growing gap between the urban rich and the poor. Will the expansion of capitalism also result in growing economic and social inequality in Viet Nam? I think that’s the larger question that Viet Nam’s leaders need to worry more about.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Urban Growth Fears in Saigon" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/urban-growth-fears-in-saigon/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=396