Vol. 3, No. 2 (2007): 1–42.
The accelerated urban transition now taking place in Southeast Asia focuses on a handful of mega-urban regions that are absorbing hundreds of thousands of people into their expanding urban sphere every year. The certainty of the continued rapid geographical expansion of urban landscapes into rural hinterlands is allowing for a particular global process that magnifies what is also happening in other parts of the world: the creation by international land developers of gigantic new towns presented as exclusive utopia for an emerging urban upper middle class. With vast areas of rural land soon to be absorbed into expanding metropolitan regions, these developers have what appears to be a clean slate for the construction of private new towns. Among the most ambitious is Saigon South covering 3,300 hectares of land and slated to be the home of one million people. Located just across the Doi Canal and Ben Luc River from central Saigon, this development scheme is totally planned with, no mechanism for community planning, no lower classes or slums. Although portrayed as a great advance for the people of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, Saigon) metropolis, what and where its public spaces and civic life are questions without ready answers.
Mike Douglass is the Director of the Globalization Research Center and Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawai’i. His research focuses on East and Southeast Asia and currently includes: livable cities; urbanization and civic space; mega-urban region dynamics; the globalization of households; and rural-urban linkages.
Liling Huang is an Associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at the National Taiwan University, Taiwan. She teaches courses on theories of urban planning and design, global studies and urban development in Asia. She is also an activist promoting public participation in planning practice.