Foreign Policy: 2008 Global Cities Index
This description from Foreign Policy’s 2008 Global Cities Index is good, and I am reproducing it below:
“National governments may shape the broad outlines of globalization, but where does it really play out? Where are globalization’s successes and failures most acute? Where else but the places where most of humanity now chooses to live and work—cities. The world’s biggest, most interconnected cities help set global agendas, weather transnational dangers, and serve as the hubs of global integration. They are the engines of growth for their countries and the gateways to the resources of their regions. In many ways, the story of globalization is the story of urbanization.
But what makes a “global city”? The term itself conjures a command center for the cognoscenti. It means power, sophistication, wealth, and influence. To call a global city your own suggests that the ideas and values of your metropolis shape the world. And, to a large extent, that’s true. The cities that host the biggest capital markets, elite universities, most diverse and well-educated populations, wealthiest multinationals, and most powerful international organizations are connected to the rest of the world like nowhere else. But, more than anything, the cities that rise to the top of the list are those that continue to forge global links despite intensely complex economic environments. They are the ones making urbanization work to their advantage by providing the vast opportunities of global integration to their people; measuring cities’ international presence captures the most accurate picture of the way the world works.”
The index is a nice graphical way to ‘get’ how a city compares on several sub-indices with competitors. It adds additional depth to Florida’s creative class thesis and bolsters Sanjeev Sanyal’s point that global cities are somewhat good at everything, though not necessarily the best at any one thing. Singapore, according to the index, really needs to work on boosting the cultural experience index and the political engagement index. We need to ramp up the information exchange index too. There is already a fair amount of work in progress on the former two right now, but perhaps we should be pegging ourselves versus other Asian cities explicitly on all indexes and measuring our speed of change vs theirs.
Oh yes, here is the index.
Other Asian cities have the benefit of a physical hinterland (HK/BJ/SH-China; Bangkok-Thailand, Tokyo-Japan) while Singapore has none. Sanyal’s suggestion is leverage on the diaspora (Singaporeans and ex Singapore residents) to become our hinterland, which would redefine the ideas of citizenship, very interesting thoughts on boosting the human capital index.
How about cultural experience? Yes, we can have mega integrated resorts, world class parks by the bay etc and I am not diminishing their importance. But Toronto is number 4 on the cultural experience index, after London, Paris and New York. What’s going on in Toronto? Florida moved to Toronto, citing it as a good example of the creative class city, with many diverse neighborhoods and cultural niches for all. This maps to the cultural experience index on the breadth and depth of cultural experiences on offer, a diversity of performances. Why does HK and Taipei not do as well as Seoul or Tokyo? These are all reasonably culturally homogeneous cities. Is it because they’ve not had an Olympics or similarly world-level events to open up their niches to world attention?
The political engagement index measures how much influence a city has on world policy making. It goes beyond national policy makers being based in one city (Beijing, Washington DC), or global policy makers like the World Bank, IMF, UN etc (NYC, Brussels, Paris) or lots of NGOs clustered in developing world cities (Bangkok) etc. My thoughts are with the shift in power due to the rise of the rest, there will likely be a parallel set of institutions for Asia, especially if the old Western institutions do not accept them as equals. There is also a demand for a new way of thinking and operating in the post American world, new thinktanks if you will. In both cases, they can be anchored in Singapore through diplomacy, hard work and neutrality. But I want to go beyond this, there is this gradual closing of the American mind as America turns inwards. This is not a foregone conclusion, but the shift is there. Like Europe’s closing in the early 1900s and the outward drift of brilliant minds to America, there will likely be a drift to Asia. How can we give these minds a fair and open ground for them to do their work, and in doing so, enrich the young minds of Asia?
Just some thoughts for now.