Foreign Policy has just published its Global Cities Index, based on 5 dimensions:
- Business activity: “the value of its capital markets, the number of Fortune Global 500 firms headquartered there, and the volume of the goods that pass through the city“
- Human capital: “how well the city acts as a magnet for diverse groups of people and talent. This includes the size of a city’s immigrant population, the quality of the universities, the number of international schools, and the percentage of residents with university degrees”
- Information exchange: “how well news and information is dispersed about and to the rest of the world. The number of international news bureaus, the level of censorship, the amount of international news in the leading local papers, and the broadband subscriber rate”
- Cultural experience: “the level of diverse attractions for international residents and travelers. That includes everything from how many major sporting events a city hosts to the number of performing arts venues and diverse culinary establishments it boasts and the sister city relationships it maintains“
- Political engagement: “the degree to which a city influences global policymaking and dialogue“
Based on these dimensions, the top 20 global cities:
In the same issue, uber-sociologist Saskia Sassen (who else?) provides a primer on global cities. after all, she wrote the book, literally. What defines a global city is complexity and diversity. A global city is not a matter of size. Some large cities are not global cities (such as Lagos). Size matters only insofar as it might contribute to complexity and diversity. Also, global cities create new national and international norms.
Global cities can be old cities that reinvented themselves (London) or cities have a limited history like Miami as “little outpost that explodes” thanks to massive real estate development and the opening of South American economies that made Miami a hub of economic and cultural activity beyond the trading developed by Cuban exiles (I am surprised Sassen did not mention the criminal economy).
Other emerging global cities: in Africa, Nairobi and Johannesburg, in China, Shenzen, in Asia, Dubai and Singapore and in South America, Quito, Ecuador; Bogotá, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela. Cities that have a colonial history also had preexisting international connections. Others, like Dubai and Singapore were government-driven projects.
If the civil war had not destroyed Beirut, it would be a global city as the Lebanese have long had extensive global connections. However, that void allowed Dubai to emerge and create the Mumbai – Dubai connections, where business people work in one (Mumbai) but live in the other (Dubai). Here again, though, there is extensive global criminal network connections.
What of old Europe (which still ranks decently on the Index)? For Sassen, Copenhagen is becoming the Dubai of Europe, along with Zurich as well.
Istanbul might be the next global city because of investors from the West and the East, including Kazakhstan, China, Russia, Bulgaria. Also, one might expect Chinese cities to emerge.
However, Sassen makes the distinction between cities that are “of the world“, that is, cities that are globally connected but still homogeneous as opposed to global cities that are “in the world“, that is, characterized by complexity and diversity.
What is a bit missing here are (1) global criminal networks that are more likely to be well-represented in global cities, and (2) the issue of social stratification: who can live in global cities? Who is welcome to live there? Who caters to global, cosmopolitan jet set and business community?