Illegal Construction in Hanoi and Hanoi's Wards

in European Journal of East Asian Studies
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Abstract

In the drama of negotiation of state boundaries, the role of local administrators as mediators is indispensable. They mediate between state demands for more discipline and societal demands for more liberties. Their ability and willingness to enforce determines the extent of state power. They are a particular type of elites chosen by the state to administer; yet often they have an irrational and morally corrupt relationship with their subjects. The questions that arise then are: When do the local administrators decide to or not to enforce the rules? What considerations do they hold in the face of contradicting demands for their loyalties? This paper seeks answers to the above questions by examining state enforcement of its construction rules in Hanoi after 1975, in which the ward, a level of local administrators in the urban administration landscape, plays an important role in holding up (or letting down) the fences. I will examine the irrationality of the housing regime that led to widespread offences against construction rules, and then show why and how local administrators may or may not enforce rules. This paper comprises two parts. The first part outlines the nature and history of the housing regime in Vietnam and the situation of state provision of housing to the people. These provide the context in which illegal construction arises. Part Two looks at illegal construction in Hanoi chronologically, and focuses on important episodes. The theme that runs through this paper is the role of local administrators in the reality of illegal construction.

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