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'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

Meet Colin Speakman, Resident Director of CAPA's Shanghai Center. Colin has lived for significant time periods in North America, Asia, and Europe. From Los Angeles, CA to Bejing, and the occasional residance in London, he's spent his life as a citizen of the world. He currently calls Shanghai home, but has been a visitor to all CAPA global cities sites over the last 20 years. "Connecting Global Cities" is a monthly column written by Colin that reflects on the economic climate of global cities with attention paid to historical contexts.

Recent Posts

Connecting Global Cities: Asia's Global Cities

Mar 16, 2017 10:30:00 AM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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This is the third in a series about how globalization is under threat from the west while Asian countries have become the leading advocates for globalization.

Since globalization is spurred on through the connections between global cities, this trend is seen in the rise of Asian mega cities in the Global Cities Index (GCI). See my column on the background to this index first compiled every two years since 2008 by A.T. Kearny consultants. 

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Photo: London (public domain)

It is not easy to get into this list which now is published every year and contains 125 recognized global cities. Here are the considerations that arise:

"The A.T. Kearney Global Cities Index (GCI) ranks 125 cities according to 27 metrics across five dimensions, including business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement."

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Posted in: Global Cities

Connecting Global Cities: Is it Asia's Century?

Feb 16, 2017 8:30:00 AM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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This is a follow-up to last month's column on the challenges facing globalization in 2017. In the month since, we have seen more evidence of a kicking back, but it continues to emanate from western countries.

The new US administration has been in the forefront with plans to revise NAFTA, the formal withdrawal from negotiations to join the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and warnings to multinational companies about investment abroad. The challenges have been evident in Europe, not just the now familiar Brexit, but political change in other countries with the leading candidates for the upcoming elections in France calling for more nationalist policies and even a referendum on EU membership. 

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Photo: Asia Rising - The Shanghai Tower by Colin Speakman

Yet come to Asia and you see a very different picture. That same TPP is still supported by the members that were invited to join from Asia. The ASEAN group of South East countries is deepening trade ties and is linked with China through CAFTA (The China ASEAN Free Trade Agreement). Perhaps even more significantly, the China-led "One Belt-One-Road" initiative, will spur trade and investment from China right through Asia to the borders with Europe - a 21st Century version of the old Silk Road. 

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Posted in: Shanghai, China, Global Cities

Connecting Global Cities: Globalization in 2017

Jan 19, 2017 5:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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Happy New Year everyone!

2017 promises to be a challenging year for advocates of globalization. For decades we have seen globalization's growth linked to world economic growth, trade growth and international investment. The benefits have been seen as the spread of new ideas, innovation, technology and cultural practices to more countries, with growth of jobs globally and poverty reduction. 

Of course, there are winners and losers in the process. We saw in 2016 a backlash against globalization and in favor of putting the national interest first as in putting the US first or the UK first in political decisions and particularly some concerns about the movement of people between countries that is associated with global opportunities.

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Photo: A CAPA group in front of a mural of Paris on a supermarket in Shanghai from Colin Speakman

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Posted in: Global Cities

Connecting Global Cities: Key events of 2016

Dec 22, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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I am continuing this tradition from 2014 of reviewing key events through the year. It is of course partly a personal selection as a lot happened this year. Indeed the start of the year saw so many famous people pass away that it prompted discussion that this was going to be a record year for that. It proved not to be the case as we neared the year's end and that aspect now seems to have been front loaded.

As someone who counts London as their second home, I was sad to see a local lad turned megastar passing. David Bowie originally from Brixton, died soon after his 69th birthday and after launching a new album, "Blackstar". He was New York-based by then - famous people often lead a global life - but much celebrated in UK. My favorite Bowie song? "China Girl" followed by "Let's Dance"! 


Photo: A young David Bowie (public domain)

Another megastar's life was 30 years longer; in the last month of the year, we lost Zsa Zsa Gabor at 99 in Los Angeles. It would be hard not to recognize the impact of another nonagenarian, Fidel Castro, who passed in November at aged 90, in Santiago, Cuba. 

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Posted in: Global Cities

Innovation Links Global Cities

Nov 25, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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We know that the world is changing fast. 

Perhaps few places are changing faster than "my" Shanghai - a huge transformation of the new East part of the city that is known as Pudong from warehouses, wetlands and wasteland in the 1990s into the picture postcard of China's Economic miracle this decade.

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Photo: CAPA students and Resident Director Colin Speakman in the economic capital, Shanghai

While this has clearly impacted on, and in some ways transformed, the lives of locals, the reach of some changes has been much further and arguably global in impact. Shanghai, out of China's many mega-cities, is the one with the highest immigrant population from elsewhere in the mainland; the opportunity to study in Shanghai's famous universities and then stay and apply the talents and skills learned in order to contribute to China's "City of Experiment", as it is known, is one factor. Equally, many more basic, essential workers have been needed in construction, retail, transportation and everything else required to keep a city of 25 million going.

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Posted in: Global Cities

Planning Global Cities

Oct 21, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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The concept of planning global cities has multiple meanings. Many are growing and need new transport networks and homes and shopping malls. Others, although longer established and more stable in size, such as London and Paris, are in need of some renovations and, perhaps equally importantly, plans for continuing to preserve historic buildings and sections. 

In the fast growing (though somewhat late to the party after decades of isolation) Chinese mega cities, a lot of the old had been pulled down before Beijing and Shanghai decided to preserve historic Hutongs and some Shikumen houses respectively.

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Photo: Historic Shanghai (public domain)

Planning in many global cities now involves a lot of attention to the environment and quality of life which can come in the form of handling traffic congestion, preserving or creating green spaces or developing eco-friendly transport, be it natural gas buses or cycle paths.

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Posted in: Global Cities

Liveable Cities - Revisited

Sep 23, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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Recently, we revisited the Global Cities Index to examine the impact of the 2016 edition. We found that London had taken the top spot from New York, that Chinese cities were rising on the list and more cities were meeting the criteria for inclusion. Global cities are continually evolving concepts.

So, too, are other ways of looking at cities - some global and others less so - such as the index of the most liveable cities or of green cities. So, since The Economist released in August its 2016 ranking of most liveable cities, it is timely to look again at that aspect.

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Photo: Melbourne, Australia (public domain)

The concept of liveability is not without controversy as it is not the same as just a healthy environment; as we will see below, the European Commission 2016 survey of green cities put one city at the top that is nowhere in The Economist's top 10. In fact, 30 factors are used by The Economist to construct their table and are spread across five areas: stability (including safety), infrastructure, education, health care and environment.

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Posted in: Global Cities

Olympics in Global Cities

Aug 19, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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The Rio Summer Olympic Games are on in the global city of Rio de Janeiro, so it is timely to ask about the connection between global cities and hosting the Olympic Games (mainly the big one - the summer version acknowledging that there are other Olympic events). After all, can there be a more global event that brings the world together in one place?

Sure, the football (soccer) World Cup is very global, but it is hosted by a country not a city and matches require many stadia; in Brazil, in 2014, they used 10 soccer stadia in many locations. If England ever got to host the World Cup again, we can be sure that will involve games in St. James Park, Newcastle, the Theater of Dreams (aka Old Trafford), Manchester and/or the legacy from the Commonwealth Games, the then City of Manchester stadium and Villa Park in Birmingham and that is to name but a few. So the impact of the World Cup is more spread out than the Olympics.

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Posted in: Global Cities, Sports Abroad

Media Towers in Global Cities

Jul 22, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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Early on in this long established series, we looked at towers in global cities. The tallest ones where not usually media towers but inhabitable towers – after all, if you are going to build something that tall you may as well let some people live or work at the top. The tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the second tallest is the new Shanghai Tower. Neither is a media tower.

However, media towers need to be tall for good communications and they are often an important part of a global city; international connectivity in a variety of forms is one of the characteristics of being a global city. Such towers can be more artistic in design since they do not have to accommodate many inhabited floors. They have a sleek look and are often adorned with neon at night. They can be more of an ongoing icon than the taller inhabitable towers because you really only need one in a city and it lasts, whereas the taller office building style neighbors often find they have been overtaken by a taller rival in the same city.

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Posted in: Global Cities

Connecting Global Cities: The Global Cities Index 2016

Jun 24, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by 'Connecting Global Cities' by Colin Speakman

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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It's that time again; we have the 2016 version of the Global Cities Index (and the associated Global Cities Outlook) available – compiled and published regularly by A.T. Kearney.

Mike Hales, A.T. Kearney partner and study co-leader, provided this introduction: "Together, the Index and the Outlook provide a unique look at 125 of the world's largest and most influential cities today and those primed to make an impact in the future. Our historical database provides businesses and cities with insights on how to make key investment decisions."

My immediate reaction is: Go London! For the first time since the Index began in 2008, London has overtaken New York to claim the top spot. This year London performed better in two of the five dimensions of the Index: cultural exchange and business activity. Even though New York maintained its top position in human capital, London closed the gap. London has also seen noticeable improvement in information exchange.

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Photo: The City of London by Stephanie Sadler

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Posted in: Global Cities