Planning Global Cities

Oct 21, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

“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.

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.

Many plans are published and I have had for several years a copy of the Shanghai Government's plan for 2020. Today we are only in 2016, but the plan is long out of date; I am now reading the Shanghai 2040 plan.

Photo: Shanghai construction (public domain)

Another thought about of "planning global cities" is whether it is possible for a government to plan its own city to become a global city or to rise up the rankings if already regarded as one. Each year, more cities are meeting the criteria for being listed as a global city in A.T. Kearney's Global Cities Index. That may not have happened by accident as, once the criteria are known, it is about going out to get more of what is needed.

Some of the more obvious examples are: building new high capacity international airports and attracting more airlines to fly there, bidding to host major international events such as a Formula 1 race, a masters golf or tennis or snooker tournament or an even bigger global event like the Olympics.

Photo: Beijing lights at night (public domain)

Beijing is a good example of a global city that has rapidly risen up the rankings. It lacks major international institutions as these were handed out to western nations after World War II, but as the centers of influence have shifted, Beijing has taken the lead in creating and developing an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and, as the largest single contributor, ensuring that the AIIB headquarters are established in Beijing - instant global city points. 

Shanghai's 2040 plan includes the explicit goal of becoming one of the world's leading global cities, so there you have it! Of course other cities will be keen to hold on to a high place in the rankings and hope their long established points scorers, such as world class museums and galleries, universities, health care, international cuisine and the ability to attract world class talent on the back of all that will keep them well up the table. 

Photo: Statue of Liberty, New York (public domain)

New York, with its famous Statue of Liberty welcoming those from the rest of the world who wanted to start a new life in the land of opportunity, became a melting pot that underpinned its high status as a global city that is often ranked at number 1. Paris is not far behind as the romantic city of Europe and with a history of colonies from which they welcomed migrants. Recent international unrest and responses to non-state warfare may determine how open these cities remain in the future. 

Following this introduction, I will be devoting the next six monthly columns to looking at each of CAPA's current global cities, how they rose to that status and the role, if any, of formal planning in that process.

Look out for Buenos Aires in November.

Thanks Colin!

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Topics: Global Cities