A global city (also called world city or sometimes alpha city or world center) is a city generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system. The concept comes from geography and urban studies and rests on the idea that globalization can be understood as largely created, facilitated, and enacted in strategic geographic locales according to a hierarchy of importance to the operation of the global system of finance and trade.
The most complex of these entities is the "global city," whereby the linkages binding a city have a direct and tangible effect on global affairs through socio-economic means. The use of "global city," as opposed to "megacity," was popularized by sociologist Saskia Sassen in her 1991 work, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, though the term "world city" to describe cities that control a disproportionate amount of global business dates to at least the May 1886 description of Liverpool by The Illustrated London News. Patrick Geddes also used the term "world city" later in 1915. Cities can also fall from such categorization, as in the case of cities that have become less cosmopolitan and less internationally renowned in the current era.
Global city status is considered to be beneficial and desired, and because of this many groups have tried to classify and rank which cities are seen as world cities or non-world cities. Although there is a consensus upon leading world cities, the criteria upon which a classification is made can affect which other cities are included. The criteria for identification tend either to be based on a yardstick value (e.g., if the producer-service sector is the largest sector then city X is a world city) or on an imminent determination (if the producer-service sector of city X is greater than the combined producer-service sectors of N other cities then city X is a world city.)
Although what constitutes a world city is still subject to debate, standard characteristics of world cities are:
- A variety of international financial services, notably in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy, and marketing
- Headquarters of several multinational corporations
- The existence of financial headquarters, a stock exchange and major financial institutions
- Domination of the trade and economy of a large surrounding area
- Major manufacturing centres with port and container facilities
- Considerable decision-making power on a daily basis and at a global level
- Centres of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture and politics
- Centres of media and communications for global networks
- Dominance of the national region with great international significance
- High percentage of residents employed in the services sector and information sector
- High-quality educational institutions, including renowned universities, international student attendance and research facilities
- Multi-functional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical and entertainment facilities in the country
The first attempt to define, categorize and rank global cities using relational data was made in 1998 by Jon Beaverstock, Richard G. Smith and Peter J. Taylor, who all worked at the time at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. Together, Beaverstock, Smith and Taylor established the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC). A roster of world cities was outlined in the GaWC Research Bulletin 5 and ranked cities based on their connectivity through four "advanced producer services": accountancy, advertising, banking/finance, and law. The GaWC inventory identifies three levels of global cities and several sub-ranks.
The 2004 rankings acknowledged several new indicators while continuing to rank city economics more heavily than political or cultural factors. The 2008 roster, similar to the 1998 version, is sorted into categories of "Alpha" world cities (with four sub-categories), "Beta" world cities (three sub-categories), "Gamma" world cities (three sub-categories) and additional cities with "High sufficiency" or "Sufficiency" presence. The following is a general guide to the rankings:
- Alpha++ cities are London and New York City, which are vastly more integrated with the global economy than all other cities.
- Alpha+ cities complement London and New York City by filling advanced service niches for the global economy.
- Alpha and Alpha- cities are cities that link major economic regions into the world economy.
- Beta level cities are cities that link moderate economic regions into the world economy.
- Gamma level cities are cities that link smaller economic regions into the world economy.
- Sufficiency level cities are cities that have a sufficient degree of services so as not to be obviously dependent on world cities.
The rankings for 2012 were:
Global Cities Index
In 2008, the American journal Foreign Policy, in conjunction with the Chicago-based consulting firm A.T. Kearney and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, published a ranking of global cities, based on consultation with Saskia Sassen, Witold Rybczynski, and others. Foreign Policy noted that "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." The ranking was updated in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
|1||New York City||61.7|
|56||3||Rio de Janeiro||15.6|
|70||9||Ho Chi Minh City||8.9|
Global Economic Power Index
In 2012, the first Global Economic Power Index, a "survey of the surveys" written by Richard Florida, was published by The Atlantic (to be differentiated from a namesake list published by the Martin Prosperity Institute), with cities ranked according to criteria reflecting their presence on similar lists as published by other entities:
|1||New York City||48|
Global Power City Index
The Institute for Urban Strategies at The Mori Memorial Foundation in Tokyo issued a comprehensive study of global cities in 2013. The ranking is based on six overall categories, "Economy", "Research & Development", "Cultural Interaction", "Livability", "Environment", and "Accessibility", with 70 individual indicators among them. This Japanese ranking also breaks down top ten world cities ranked in subjective categories such as "manager, researcher, artist, visitor and resident."
|2||New York City||1362.9|
The Wealth Report
"The Wealth Report" (a global perspective on prime property and wealth) is made by the London based estate agent Knight Frank LLP together with the Citi Private Bank. The report includes a "Global City Survey", evaluating which cities are considered the most important to the world’s HNWIs (high-net-worth individuals, having over $25million of investable assets). For the Global City Survey, Citi Private Bank’s wealth advisors, and Knight Frank’s luxury property specialists were asked to name the cities that they felt were the most important to HNWIs, in regard to: "economic activity", "political power", "knowledge and influence" and "quality of life".
|1||New York City||1||7||6||2|
Global City Competitiveness Index
In 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit (The Economist Group), ranked the competitiveness of global cities according to their demonstrated ability to attract capital, businesses, talent and visitors.
|1||New York City||71.4|
|76||Rio de Janeiro||44.9|
|109||Ho Chi Minh City||36.5|
- Financial centre
- Index of urban studies articles
- List of cities by GDP
- Megalopolis (city type)
- Primate city
- Ranally city rating system
- Sassen, Saskia - The global city: strategic site/new frontier
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- Global Power City Index 2013. Tokyo, Japan: Institute for Urban Strategies at The Mori Memorial Foundation. October 2013.
- "The Wealth Report 2013". Knight Frank LLP.
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