For over 2000 years, the Red River Delta has been populated by people from the Viet tribe. In the year 1010 AD, Emperor Ly Thai To chose this site to found the capital city Thang Long (“Rising Dragon”). Some sites in Hanoi today still date back to this historic era. It was not until 1883 that the city was named Ha Noi, meaning “between two rivers.”
Above all, it is the people of Hanoi who are the city’s greatest asset. Just over seven million people call Hanoi their home. The land area of 3,325km2 is like that of the Detroit and Houston metropolitan areas in the USA, but with almost twice the population density at 2,132 people/km2. Some parts of downtown Hanoi are even more densely populated with 32,665 people/km2.
Hanoi is one of five provincial cities which report directly to the national government. The city consists of 12 urban districts, 17 rural districts, and one district-level town. At each level is the presence of the Party Committee and the People’s Committee. The Party Committee is the leading organ of the city with Hoang Trung Hai as the Secretary. Major General Nguyen Duc Chung, the Chairman of the People’s Committee, is the Mayor of Hanoi and responsible for the administration of the city. Both Chung and Hai are members of the 12th Party Central Committee.
Since Doi Moi (renewal) was initiated in 1986, the nation has undergone impressive transformational change. On average, 5,736 people per day were lifted out of poverty between 1993 and 2006, reducing the poverty rate to 13.5% according to the World Bank. This is truly an impressive feat. Hanoi city has benefited greatly from the increase in wealth and health.
With a vision for 2035 and beyond, Vietnam aims for increased prosperity, creativity, equity, and democracy. Hanoi, together with Ho Chi Minh City, will play a significant role in the nation’s development and the global economy. At the macro level, the World Bank and the Ministry of Planning and Investment have highlighted density, distance, and division as major challenges ahead. Low-density development, weak infrastructure and regional connections, and restrictions to rural-urban migration are some of the obstacles to overcome for Hanoi in order for the city to become highly competitive and considered a global economic center.
Traffic congestion and air pollution are two symptoms of these larger issues impacting all Hanoians. Low-density results in longer travel times from home to work or school and from business to business. Lack of medium-scale roads combined with increasing car ownership result in gridlocks. Weak regional connections congest roads which connect Hanoi with neighboring cities.
Why does this matter? In general, it is the role of the church to support the government in the development of Hanoi city for the benefit of all people, especially for those on the margins of society. Church leaders need to develop a theology that is big enough to answer such macro-level challenges from a Biblical perspective. The city government has invited Christian leaders to participate in conferences on such matters. Now is the time for the evangelical church to step up.
For the Love in Action campaign, the focus will be on social challenges faced at the community level which can be addressed through small scale projects by local churches through partnership. Yet it is helpful to see how small community projects contribute towards bigger solutions. At the same time, it should challenge Christians to educate themselves in the macro-level issues and seek solutions together with the city’s government and other institutions.