Tag Archives: global cities

Arts, culture and the making of global cities

Arts, Culture And The Making Of Global CitiesLily Kong , Ching Chia-ho , Chou Tsu-Lung (2015), Arts, culture and the making of global cities. Creating new urban landscapes in Asia, Edward Elgar, 272 p.


  1.  Arts spaces, new urban landscapes and global cultural cities
  2. The National Grand Theatre in a city of monuments: discourse and reality in the construction of Beijing’s new cultural space
  3. Rivalling Beijing and the world: realizing Shanghai’s ambitions through cultural infrastructure
  4. Hong Kong’s dilemmas and the changing fates of West Kowloon Cultural District
  5. The making of a ?Renaissance City’: building cultural monuments in Singapore
  6. In search of new homes: the absent new cultural monument in Taipei
  7. Cultural creativity, clustering and the state in Beijing
  8. Remaking Shanghai’s old industrial spaces: the growth and growth of creative precincts
  9. Factories and animal depots: the ?new’ old spaces for the arts in Hong Kong
  10. Reusing old factory spaces in Taipei: the challenges of developing cultural
  11. From education to enterprise in Singapore: converting old schools to new artistic and aesthetic use
  12. Culture, globalization and urban landscapes References Index

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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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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Beijing’s rise as a global city

Wang, Feng (2013) Beijing as a globally fluent city. Washington, DC : Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy & Global Cities Initiative. 20 p. (accessed 28 October 2013)

Beijing is without any doubt already a global city. A symbol of China’s emergence as a global power, Beijing ranks among the world’s most influential cities. Beijing has developed into an important global city in a relatively short period of time. Beijing has benefited from efforts by the Chinese government and Beijing’s municipal government to elevate the city’s international reputation, and from Beijing’s legacy and position as China’s political and cultural center. There has also been massive investment in infrastructure to support business and innovation activities and to enhance Beijing’s global connectivity. However, Beijing’s rise as a global city is still incomplete.

Beijing’s global influence in terms of economic competitiveness and financial interconnectedness still do not measure up to the top cities in the world. In Beijing as a Globally Fluent City, Feng Wang examines four key questions on Beijing’s rise towards becoming a top tier global city:

  1. What kind of city does Beijing aspire to be?
  2. How can Beijing improve its governance?
  3. What does it take to build a more vibrant economy?
  4. How can Beijing’s global identity be further enhanced?
  • Wang Feng (Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy)

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Asian cities: colonial to global

Call for papers

  • Deadline: 31 January 2013
  • Date: April 2013 (exact day TBA)

‘Asian Cities: Colonial to Global’ is intended to be a multi-disciplinary seminar. Contributions are welcome from the fields of architecture, urbanism, geography, area studies, history, linguistics, religious studies, social science, anthropology, etc., but please remember that the point of departure will always be the built environment.

Note also that this seminar is not intended to be an investigation into theoretical issues relating to the field of postcolonialism, rather it seeks to investigate more practical issues relating to the more literally ‘post-colonial’ (in the sense of the era following independence from erstwhile colonial or imperial powers), and the effects this has had on the built environment.

Contributions are invited that cover the regions of East, Southeast and South Asia (including countries that were not colonized (such as Japan or Thailand) or were only partially colonized (such as China).

More information: http://www.iias.nl/event/asian-cities-colonial-global

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Cities of the future

In September 2012, the American review Foreign Policy published a special issue on Chinese cities. Ever since the 2010 World Exhibition in Shanghai, the international audience has shown an ever increasing interest in urbanisation issues in China, and several reviews have focused on this topic. The special issue of Foreign Policy can be seen as a response to a recent report published by the McKinsey Global Institute on the 75 most dynamic cities of 2025. According to this study, there will be more leading cities in China than in the USA.  Foreign Policy chose to focus on these Chinese cities, their infrastructures and the issues and opportunities created by their development. FP proposes several articles, interviews and picture galleries to help to understand the great urban challenges China is facing.
In 2011, for the first time, China’s urban population exceeded its rural population. Because of China’s large population and its continuous economic growth, new megacities are emerging, and Chinese cities are definitely cities of the future, as the title of the FP special issue indicates.  Wuhan and Chongqing are the next Chicago, or London. The growth of Chinese cities is a formidable impetus for change; several of the authors of articles in this issue have adopted a very optimistic and enthusiastic point of view regarding the massive urbanisation China is undergoing. Their articles explore the opportunities the new urban giants in China offer in terms of innovation and sustainable development.

  • For example, Dustin Roasa presents new inventions that may transform China’s urbanism, and place Beijing in the lead for sustainability.  Not only will Chinese cities house the tallest skyscrapers , but they will also become the cleanest and the most efficient cities, thanks to enormous investments in infrastructures. According to the author, China will surpass the USA in many innovative industries, with the result that Chinese cities will “affect the future of urban areas everywhere”.
  • The same enthusiasm, though with some reservations, is shared by Richard Dobbs and Jaana Remes in their comments on the McKinsey Global Institute’s index of the 75 most dynamic cities of 2025. Unexpectedly, China will have the highest proportion of leading cities, but, for the authors, issues of governance and speculation may threaten these Chinese cities’ capacity for world leadership.  Dobbs and Remes also give some recommendations with regard to sustainable development: basic infrastructures need to be improved in terms of building, shipping facilities and water supply, so that “a better China” may emerge.

Other articles are much more critical about China’s urbanisation. For most of these authors China’s urbanisation is still “a work in progress”, and improvement of infrastructures is not the most important challenge that Chinese cities will have to face. Rather, these authors consider political reforms to be urgently needed in order to sustain urban growth.

  • Isaac Town Fish regrets that Chinese cities are unpleasant to live in because of pollution and “sameness”.  He argues that the Chinese communist system must be blamed for these “depressing” cities.  Christina Larson disagrees with Town Fish on the sameness of Chinese cities. Although Chinese cities look similar because of their architecture, their “content” is very different; Larson made several field trips to three different Chinese cities: Guangdong, Urumqi and Shenyang. For the author, the economic reforms implemented in China over the last twenty years, have restored Chinese cities to their own pre-communist state: for instance Urumqi, a remote outpost from the 50’s to the 70’s, has now become a hub on the new Silk road.

Two articles deal specifically with Shanghai and Beijing, but it is to be regretted that there is no article covering the second tier cities, the ones that may become world cities in the next ten years.

  • According to Daniel Brook, Shanghai is not yet a global city, although it shows some of the characteristics of one. Shanghai deals with global commodities, offers global services, but still does not share global values, and so cannot stand up to comparison with New York, the most global city of all.
  • Michel Meyers’ Beijing may be seen as China’s centre, attracting millions of migrants, but even if Beijing is the seat of China’s political power, it retains some of the characteristics of a village, and is therefore not a global city either.
  • Ai Weiwei has said that Beijing lacks the freedom to become a global city. In an interview with Jonathan Landreth, this world renowned artist depicts Beijing as a “monster”.  Ai Weiwei strongly advocates for less state control, so that citizens can truly be part of this leading city, by making decisions, and so being truly involved in the city’s choices. Political reforms also need to be implemented at the local level, and municipal governments’ decisions need to be strictly scrutinised by both central authorities and local citizens.
  • Jonathan Kaiman makes this point in his article entitled “debt bomb”. Cities have carried out prestigious building programs for the sake of their “grandeur”, but as a result they are riddled with bad debts. The author warns against the possibility of the real estate bubble bursting in China, and blames the short term vision of municipal authorities.
  • But the future of Chinese cities may not be all that gloomy, for a new generation of political leaders is on its way. Geoff Dyer chooses to look at the emergence of a Chinese urban intelligentsia and focuses on the case of Wang Yang, the CCP secretary for Guangdong. According to the author, Wang Yang has achieved important political reforms in his province, promoting transparency and encouraging civil society.  Geoff Dyer hopes that this kind of leader will be nominated for the new Politburo.

At first glance, we may assume that the writers have not visited the same cities, since there is a clear distinction between those who consider Chinese cities a success, and even a possible model for European and American cities to follow, and those who feel that numerous political reforms need to be carried out if Chinese cities are to become sustainable. But, on closer inspection, it seems obvious that all the writers are all right. Chinese cities are dynamic, and Shanghai has woken up from a long, dreamless night. These cities offer huge opportunities, but at the same time it is only the beginning of their transformation.  These cities have the political will, the financial means (although they must get rid of bad debts), the economic growth and the demographic trends to become global cities and challenge the domination of New York, London or Tokyo.  However, they need to be open up to their own inhabitants.  That is why, as Ai Weiwei has said, democracy is needed. World cities have always been places where people can exchange ideas and concepts freely, and so let innovation thrive. New York, the most global of cities, has attracted millions of immigrants, not only for her economic dynamism but also for the freedom she has offered.




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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