“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Director of China Programs for CAPA International Education.
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The ranking of global cities is measured in a number of indices but the one I most prefer to refer to is A.T.Kearney’s Global Cities Index, first complied in 2008 and updated every two years. I am drawing on the latest one for 2014 in this article. The index started covering 60 cities but has now expanded to 84 cities, which tells us that more and more cities are meeting the criteria to be regarded as a global city. If you need a quick refresher on what makes a global city, please check my recent global city post on CAPA World.
I like to compare the top ranked cities to the English Premiership League table for soccer. It is hard to change the leading clubs that feature in the top four or five; they tend to dominate through having been a long time around the top, gaining their riches from playing in the European Champions League and thus being able to attract the best players who seek that opportunity. The top four or five global cities don’t change in each survey – it is hard to break into that elite group! There are historic reasons and having been established as global cities, these urban giants tend to have the resources to attract more of what makes them global cities – more top chefs, more Fortune 500 companies, more business and financial talents – preciously because these individuals and entities want to live in a leading global city.
Photo: New York City Nights by davejjoe
In 2014, the top five are New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. They have been the top five in all five surveys since 2008. Paris has risen from 4th to 3rd after 2010, pushing Tokyo down one. CAPA has a program in London which I cover below. Our global cities tend to be the movers and shakers bubbling under and rising through the ranks. Indeed, four of our cities rose in the rankings, including two breaking into the top 20 (two others were already there).
It is not surprising to see New York maintain top spot. I always feel an excitement when I'm there in the midst of the Empire State Building, Greenwich Village, Times Square, Wall Street. From finding the latest electronic gadgets at competitive prices to finding great Italian food far from Europe, this 24-hour city and historic melting pot ticks the boxes. We know the world sneezes when Wall Street catches a cold; we also remember the impact of 9/11.
Photo: This is Paris by Cedric Lange
Paris is a dream city for many who visit. There's romance, fine cuisine, the Eifel Tower from a World’s Fair, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, European headquarters of IMF/World Bank and the OECD. It does business too. Tokyo (the world’s largest metropolitan area) comes in at number four, competing with Hong Kong for the leading global city in Asia. Strangely, Hong Kong stole a branding march by being known as ‘Asia’s World City’. Singapore is in there too at number 9.
There are other quickly rising cities to note: Miami jumped up five places to 29 (Is this going to reflect a David Beckham influence when he opens a soccer franchise there?), Mumbai has risen four places to 41, and a few others which are covered in our specific global city sections below.
So let’s see how our eight global cities fared.
I am pleased that my current home city has risen a spectacular six places to number eight! This is explained by increasing international political influence and economic power. Beijing is a capital city that feels important and it is. This is no mean feat as it was isolated in relation to major western powers for two decades after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. That has changed. Earlier this week, the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was announced with 21 member countries. Beijing has been assigned the bank’s headquarters.
Photo: Beijing by Trey Ratcliff
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The capital of Argentina has entered the top twenty at number 20, up two places from last year. In 2008, Buenos Aires was lying at 33. It is a justified jump as Argentina is arguably the most important economy in South America and has finished a stint on the UN Security Council. I found the city to be a delicious mix of local traditions like Tango and appreciation of food through their wonderful Argentine beef restaurants. Yet, walking Calle Florida, one could easily be in Europe.
Photo: World cow outside of a steak house in Buenos Aires by Michael Coghlan
Dublin is stable with a mid-40s ranking. It is not likely to rise up much at the moment as the era of benefiting from EU investment and thus strong growth is over. Financial scandals in Irish banking did not help. It is still an incredible global city to get to grips with as our students will agree. It's a mini global city where visitors can easily and quickly feel at home and a great study abroad destination, especially for those coming from rural or suburban areas who are looking to ease into a global city atmosphere on a less intimidating scale.
Photo: Global city Dublin by Stephanie Sadler
Italy’s historic city of Firenze is not in a modern Global Cities Index, but it would probably have topped one several centuries ago. The origin of modern banking, the home of so much art and architecture and delicious cuisine had a lot going for it then. Today, we visit and study there to observe history while Rome at 32 and Milan at 44 fulfil the modern day global city roles for Italy and are easy weekend trips for CAPA students studying in Florence.
Photo: Visiting Florence by Artur Staszewski
Now here is Turkey’s true mover and shaker; Istanbul rose up an amazing nine places from last year, coming in at number 27. This city is a future international financial center, a bridge between Europe and Asia, a historic leader of the world as well. Go there and you'll feel both the history and the potential. There is still room to move up further on the list in my opinion.
Photo: Istanbul by Moyan Brenn
Number two is not bad for my home when I'm in Europe; London has the world’s leading financial center and an innovative one at that (think Chinese rmb trading), and it has the mother of Parliaments. It offers stability and security and, at least so far, access to the EU market from an English-speaking country (the language of international business). It is not quite the 24-hour city that New York is, but it has an impressive selection of cuisine prepared in top restaurants by talented chefs from around the world. The reputation of British food has definitely improved in recent years too.
Photo: Global city London by Stephanie Sadler
Talking of 24-hour cities, Shanghai is a city that can certainly claim that status. It has also moved up three places on our list into the top 20 at 18. Like Beijing, it is now becoming home to an international organization’s headquarters – the new BRICS Development Bank will be overseen from Shanghai. There are excellent transport links here and it's the only city in China with two international airports. Shanghai's is China’s "City of Experiment". It just launched shared stock market trading with Hong Kong (Shanghai-HK Stock Connect) and is the world’s leading cargo shipping port. Go Shanghai, my favorite city and former home in China, often revisited.
Photo: East Nanjing Road, Shanghai by Tom Thai
It is no secret that Australian cities feature highly on the “best cities to live in” surveys. They are not quite as hectic as the top megacities and that probably limits how high they can climb in the overall Global Cities Index. Yet residents would probably settle for that trade-off and be proud of 14th place (Melbourne is 25th). As the Asia-Pacific Region continues to increase in importance globally, Sydney could rise a bit further. It is a city engaged with the west and with East Asia and able to benefit from both connections.
Photo: Moonset over Sydney by Alexander Kesselaar