Connecting Global Cities: Is it Asia's Century?

Feb 16, 2017 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

“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. 


China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) headquartered in Beijing to channel investment in Asia and it boosts significant Western members providing funds - though noticeably not the USA. Globalized trade initiatives have not stopped there with the BRICS Development Bank headquartered in Shanghai; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are members. 

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Photo: The energy of Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam by Colin Speakman

Speaking of India, it retains a young population structure and is poised to overtake China as the most populous country this century. There is an energy in Asia not seen in the mature economies of the west. This is reflected in economic growth where for the last 30 years, the highest growth countries among major nations have been from Asia - the top ten including China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and so on. 

All of this has led many writers on international business to claim that this will be Asia's century as the economies here (I write from Shanghai) power ahead while the economies of Europe and the North American continent tread water and have faced recession and the burdens of an aging population.

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Photo: Asia's World City, Hong Kong by Colin Speakman

Globalization has become an Asia-supported phenomenon in which western countries are starting to see Asian countries as the main beneficiaries. This partly explains the signs of resistance in the west and perhaps to slow the rise of Asia's century. My personal view is that Asia's advancement will still continue and this view is reinforced by those that come to study in Asia and see firsthand the impact;Shanghai provides a good vantage point for future focused citizens of the world.

Of course, this rise of Asian economies is surely reflected in Global Cities. Yes, the top three (London, New York and Paris), remain historically in the west, but the fastest risers and the new additions to The Global Cities Index are predominantly from Asia and many from China's mega cities. 

That changing ranking of global cities to reflect the rise of Asia is a topic in its own right. Come back next month and we will look at it in more detail. 

Thanks Colin!

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Topics: Shanghai, China, Global Cities