One morning in the spring of 2015, Hanoians woke up to the whine of chain saws on two of the capital's boulevards. Official sources said the trees that lined them were aging and diseased. Quite obviously, however, most were healthy. Officials who have the power to do so will often misappropriate public goods, in this case mature tropical hardwoods, whether in Vietnam or anywhere else. The unusual part was that Hanoi's citizens faced down the authorities. Coordinating through social media, unfazed by the riot police deployed to maintain order, thousands turned out to defend the 5000 trees designated for culling. Within a day or so, various ministers had condemned the carnage. The Hanoi City government shifted into damage limitation mode.

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