In the years following the launch of the Open Door policies in Vietnam in the late 1980s, Ninh Hiệp, a peri-urban village located on the edge of Hanoi, has experienced significant economic growth. Due to the expansion of its marketplace, it has become a crucial node for wholesale fabric and ready-made clothing trade in northern Vietnamand was thus hailed as success story. In the spirit of Tania Li (2007) and “The will to improve” this article shows how, by issuing and implementing decrees to establish new and to renovate existing marketplaces, the Vietnamese state attempts to build a “civilised” nation. The article argues that private investors can be seen as new development actors that recently joined the ranks of influential individuals negotiating the road towards modernity—yet rather than being beyond the state, they are in alliance with it. Finally, the article also traces the trend towards private markets in recent years and how this paves the way for an exclusionary development of marketplace trade.Based on twelve months of in-depth ethnographic field research in northern Vietnam in 2012-2013, this article looks closely at the changing, and at times contested, ideas of development and modernity in post-reform Vietnam.