Spatial transformation in peri-urban areas has provided an emerging picture of the growth of many metropolitan regions in developing countries. In this paper, we present a new perspective on this transformation from the viewpoint of the developing and transitional countries of East Asia, and suggest its potential implications for planning and governance. First, we reveal the uniqueness of peri-urbanisation in these countries in relation to its dependence on the metropolitan centres, capital accumulation and dynamic coexistence of urban and rural livelihoods. Although we acknowledge the growing contribution of peri-urban areas to regional economies, this is still at the expense of spatial cohesion, regional sustainability and quality of the physical environment. It is argued that these undesirable consequences have been a reflection of fragmented institutional landscapes, particularly at the regional level. In order to address this institutional fragmentation, we suggest a need to transform current domestic planning systems, strengthen collaborative approaches, promote innovative institution-building and consider rescaling of governance.