Which Cities Have the Most Global Clout?

New York and London top the list in a new ranking of 66 cities around the world. 

Image
Reuters

In the rivalry between the world's biggest cities, put another feather in the cap of New York. It bests London and Tokyo on a new Global Cities Index by A.T. Kearney and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The ranking is based on five* key factors: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. It covers the 66 largest cities around the world.

Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong round out the top five. Los Angeles is 6th, Chicago 7th, Washington, D.C. 10th, Boston 15th, Toronto 16th, and San Francisco 17th.

This new list is consistent with a ranking of the World's Most Economically Powerful Cities, with Tokyo, New York, London, Chicago and Paris in the top five spots, published last fall here on Cities. While the leading global cities remain stable, globalization is increasing the turbulence and churning faced by other large world cities, as the study notes:

Despite the financial turmoil of the past few years, New York and London have consistently led the rankings in all three editions of the Global Cities Index. Paris and Tokyo, although they alternate positions this year, are always far above the rest of the top 10, while changes in ranking among cities in the middle section of the GCI are more volatile.

This is how the ranking breakdown among all 66 cities.

(Click the graph for a larger image)

In a comment accompanying the study, Saskia Sassen of Columbia University notes that globalization today is less about relationships among nation states and more about key "urban axes that bring together key cities." She identifies the following "most significant urban vectors" of the coming decade as follows:

  • Washington, New York, and Chicago. These cities are becoming more important geopolitically than the United States is as a country.
  • Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Beijing is the center of power, but Hong Kong's geopolitical role is critical; Shanghai is above all the leading national industrial and financial center.
  • Berlin and Frankfurt. As an axis, Berlin and Frankfurt time and again emerge as the bulwark for the European Union. If not for the EU, these cities would not be as significant geopolitically.
  • Istanbul and Ankara. Istanbul has long been described as the hinge between West and East, with a rich imperial culture and deep knowledge about how to govern such intersections. In combination with Ankara, it is rapidly becoming a major global policy nexus.
  • Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia. These cities form the new politico-economic heavyweight axis next to now-established China. Brazil's development bank is richer than the World Bank, and its economic power is large and ascendant.
  • Cairo and Beirut. These cities rearticulate what the Middle East means as a region. Beirut has long and well established politico-economic networks worldwide; Cairo has the multitudes and a history of empire.
  • Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi. Finally, a step into what has not yet happened but might arrive sooner than we expect: a global environmental and social agenda rising from the current economic paralysis and financial excess. These cities have the critical mass and mix of institutions long devoted to social questions and justice for the powerless, with Nairobi's habitat increasingly important in a rapidly urbanizing world and a powerful new leadership. All three cities—long overshadowed by global finance and mega-militaries—could emerge as crucial actors in making a global commons, which will be important for the global economy.

Top image: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

*Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to six key factors in A.T. Kearney's Global Cities Index. The correct number is five.

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here