How global are Chinese cities?

The global aspect of Chinese cities has been widely studied, but the originality of Su, Xue and Agnew’s article is their focus on the political dimension of Chinese cities’ global status1.

This article does not look at where international companies’ headquarters are in China, but instead scrutinizes the location of international organisations, diplomatic agencies, and international non-governmental organisations and media agencies. For obvious reasons, most of them can be found in Beijing. Cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou also host a significant number of international organisations, but the authors notice that many smaller Chinese cities have also recently gained political influence on the international scene.

This article shows that the expansion of international organisation offices and their presence in China is a consequence of the central Chinese authorities’ political evolution over the last thirty years (new diplomatic relations and economic opening-up). After conducting interviews in Guangzhou, the authors argue that at the local level, the implantation of international offices is also motivated by several factors including a city’s regional position, its historical ties and the presence of a large international business community.

This study reveals the interconnection between economic and political influence on ranking global cities.

Furthermore, Chinese second-tier cities can strengthen their global status further as China improves its regional relations. A city like Kunming will gain more influence with the consolidation of the Greater Mekong region.

  1. SU Nian, XUE Desheng, John AGNEW (2014). World cities and international organizations: political global-city status of Chinese cities.  Chinese Geographical Science, 24(3), pp.362‒374. Retreived July 15, 2014 from  http://egeoscien.neigae.ac.cn/fileup/PDF/20140310.pdf []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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