Transnational relationships, which refer to those activities that step across nation-state boundaries, are the precondition of establishing the Transnational Organizations (TOs). That is to say, the main mission of these organizations is coordinating and mediating international affairs between countries. The history of TOs can be traced back to Age of Exploration. In those early days, one country sent accredited envoys to others and set up embassies or consulates in order to promote diplomatic and trading relations. It is not until the middle of seventeenth century that the polytonality TOs agreement emerged, which was marked by the signing of the Westphalia Treaty. This is the first International Organization that could manage international affairs involving more than three countries. From then on, International Organizations (IOs), as the means of dealing with international relationships, developed so quickly that the amount of them increased like the spring bamboo shoot (Beck, 2000; Karns and Mingst, 2010). According to the data of Union of International Associations (UIA), there were 213 IOs of all kinds in the world before World War I and that number reached to 955 in the 1950s. After the World War II, IOs faced a second boom time. In the 1970s, the total number of IOs increased to more than 20,000 and now 60,0001.
The rapid increase of IOs coincides with the development of globalization and they play a significant role on the development of cities during the process (Baylis and Smith, 2001; Rao, 2005). This article will explore the political dynamic of global cities’ formation by focusing on the spatial distribution of Transnational Organizations in Chinese cities. Four parts were divided to illustrate the story. In the first part, I will briefly review the literature about relationships between global cities and TOs. This part mainly discusses the works of John Friedmann and Peter Taylor. Other related researchers’ work will be listed as well. The aim of this is to shape a context of the research. Methodology is explained in the second part. It shows how data was collected as well as the field studies and interviews were carried out. The TOs will be classified in this part. In the third part, the spatial distribution will be illustrated in details and location factors will be concluded. Throughout this part, I will show the situation and distribution characteristics of TOs in China. Finally there will be a conclusion that summarizes the TOs’ siting strategy.
Global Cites and Transnational Organizations
Scholars in the field of international relations firstly emphasized the role of IOs. At that time, IOs were treated as super-national actors and defined as the manager of global governance and orders (Archer, 1983; Armstrong, et al. 2004). Researchers believed that IOs could be the efficient means in dealing with global problems in the age of globalization (Yu, 2006). Then, researchers in social science (primarily in sociology and human geography) joined the discussion. These scholars mainly focused on spatial issues. They considered the TOs as the production of globalization and treated them as an important aspect of city development. John Friedmann and Paul Knox use TOs as one important index in ranking world cities and promote their world cities’ hierarchy system (Friedmann and Wolff, 1982; Friedmann, 1986; Knox and Taylor, 1995). Based on Friedmann’s framework, David Simon claims that TOs are the undeniable force of urban development. As an example, he mentions that because the Union Nations set up an office in the African city, Nairobi, its global status has been greatly promoted and became one of important center in Africa (Simon, 1995).
Despite its contribution to global cities theory, Friedmann’s work has confronted a lot of criticisms. These criticisms are mainly from Peter Taylor and his colleagues. They borrow Castells’ space of flows theory and promote their own world-cities network theory (Beaverstock, et al. 2000; Taylor, 2004). He mentions that there is no evidence to support world-city hierarchy system and all the data is state-centric and only reflects the attributes of the state (Taylor, 1997). In order to overcome this problem, he collects data from 100 Advanced Producer Service Firms (APSFs) located in 316 cities and calculates the connectivity of these cities (Taylor, 2001; Taylor, et al, 2002). Although the results of Taylor’s work are similar with Saskia Sassen’s findings, both of them regarded New York, London, Tokyo and Paris as the hyper level global cities (Sassen, 1991; Sassen, 2002), the former promotes the thought of sub-nodes. Cities, which are the nodes of the network, could not create the network themselves. In fact, the actors, such as APSFs and TOs are the real creators of world-cities network. In 2004, he continued his research by using the data of 74 global NGOs in 178 cities and calculated the connectivity of these cities with his interlocking network model again. The result shows that Nairobi stayed at the top of all cities (Taylor, 2004).
Gradually, more and more researchers join the discussion of exploring the political dynamic of global cities’ formation. The edited book Cities and Global Governance: New Sites for International Relations (Amen, 2011) is the work that linked cities and global governance together. The authors in the book treat Transnational Organizations as an important actor in global governance (Segbers, 2011; Taylor, 2011). Thus, TOs that located in the cities help to realize the cities’ global function and attract more TOs. Therefore, if there were large number of TOs agglomerated in a city, it will be a global governance center. These cities are metropolitan areas that serve as policy hubs, major political-diplomatic communities, and strategic information complexes of global import. Calder and Freytas use the term “global political city” to define these cities, which included Brussels, Moscow, Beijing and Washington D.C (De Freytas and Calder, 2009).
With the development of the New Republic of China, especially after the Open Door Policy, Chinese cities have experienced a great re-evaluation both in their economic and political position in the world. This development is not limited to the China itself, but to the other nations as well. Xue’s research on Chinese cities has already shown that the global status of Chinese cities has experienced a general promotion during past thirty years. On one hand, cities such as Wuhan, Chongqing and Kunming were rarely involved in global activities before but now show a high globalization level. On the other hand, cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are still staying in the top positions of Chinese cities (Zhou, 2008; Xue, 2010). Beijing ranked at Alpha level and Guangzhou also entered into the Beta minus level in the global urban analysis in 2008 (Taylor, 2011). It is indisputable that this great development resulted from the economic development and Open Door Policy, but additionally, TOs play significant roles. A huge number of Embassies/Consulates, Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Culture and educational institutions set up their offices in Beijing and other hinterland cities. It is easy to observe this ‘initial global political cities image’ in China.
Definition and Methodology
There are many definitions of Transnational Organizations. The broadly used one is derived from the Yearbook of International Organizations. It defined IOs as a unity which is composed by two or more than two countries2. They have their own institutions and the aim is to help their members to pursue the maximum profit in international affairs. Here in the article, the author borrows this definition but is not limited to it. Those foreign organizations, of which have offices in China, including Embassies/Consulates, Foreign Chamber of Commerce and Foreign Media and Cultural Institutions, are all called Transnational Organizations. Their mission is to promote international cooperation with Chinese cities. IOs generally do not include transnational corporations because the former are non-profit institutions. Table 1 is the typology of transnational organizations in this article.
Table 1: Typology of Transnational Organizations
Although only three kinds of TOs were collected, they are divided into two categories in terms of their different functions. The first type is called Comprehensive Transnational Organizations (CTOs), which specially refers to Embassies and Consulates. As it named, the function of these organizations is comprehensive. They are involved not only in stabilizing the diplomatic relationships between countries, but also promoting commercial cooperation and culture communication. The second type is named as Technical Transnational Organizations (TTOs), which refers to Foreign Chamber of Commerce and Cultural and Media Institutions. These organizations usually have a unique function, such as the former only helps their members for international trading affairs and the latter for culture communication. According to their different special function, organizations that help members’ economic affairs were called Economic Technical Transnational Organizations (ETTOs) and otherwise Culture Technical Transnational Organizations (CTTOs)
The data that used in the article is collected through various channels. This work began in August and ended in September 2009. The author searched for each City’s Yearbooks, Yellow Pages and official websites to find information on the three kinds of TOs. The information that collected included the name, site and time of founding. Finally, the data altogether includes 672 TOs in 22 cities. Table 2 shows the list of TOs that distribute in the cities.
Table 2: List of Cities according to Transnational Organizations
This data is used for creating the distribution map of TOs in China. There are also information from six TOs in Guangzhou, these information are collected through interview with a senior official of each Organization. Each interview lasted for 40 to 60 minutes and main questions were frequently asked including:
The six organizations’ information is listed in table 3.
Table 3: List of example Transnational Organizations in Guangzhou
SPATIAL CHARACTERS OF TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
There are 673 TOs located in 22 Chinese cities. The proportions of Embassies and Consulates, Foreign Media and Culture Institutions, and Foreign Chambers of Commerce are 43.88%, 44.68% and 11.44% respectively. The origins of these organizations are mainly from North America, especially United States, European countries and Asia. The United States is the largest counterpart in terms of the amount of TOs. Other countries such as South Korea, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and Germany are also the major origins of TOs.
Most of the 22 Chinese cities are the capital cities and municipal cities. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are the top three clusters of TOs. They account for the majority of each kind of organization. In addition to Shanghai and Guangzhou, other coastal cities house a few of TOs, such as Qingdao, Dalian, Tianjin, Xiamen and Shenzhen. Inland cities house less TOs compared to the coastal cities. Shenyang, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan and Xi’an are the major sites of TOs among hinterland cities. Figure 1 is the distribution map of TOs in mainland cities.
Figure 1: Spatial distribution of transnational organizations in Mainland China
According to the cross data analysis, the obvious site of TOs is Beijing, followed by Shanghai and Guangzhou. These three cities account for nearly 90 percent of the total amount, the other 19 cities only have 10 percent of the TOs. In the following part of this section, each kind of organization’s spatial characteristics will be illustrated and their diffusion route be summarized.
Spatial Characters of Comprehensive Transnational Organizations
There are 292 CTOs, in which embassies account for 50 percent and consulates for the other half. The first spatial character is a large number of organizations are only clustered in a very few cities. The data shows nearly 300 of this kind of organizations distributed in only 15 cities. Even among these cities, CTOs are agglomerated in three cities. Beijing has the largest proportion. There are 150 embassies, which account for 50 percent, located in the city. Shanghai and Guangzhou are also the major sites of CTOs. These two cities have 63 and 37 consulates respectively. Compared to these three cities, the other 12 cities only have a few of this kind of organizations. These few organizations, again, are concentrated in four cities, which include Chongqing, Shenyang, Chengdu and Kunming. The other 8 cities each only have 1 or 2 consulates.
In addition to the ‘cluster’ character, path diffusion is the second character of CTOs. The path starts from Beijing and goes to the east and south center of China, Shanghai and Guangzhou, then on to other surrounding cities and spreads to the middle or mid-west part of the continent. Table 41 shows development of CTOs.
Table 4: Number of CTOs in Chinese cities since 1950s
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, only a few countries set up embassies in Beijing. Shanghai had only one consulate at that time. It was not until the 1970s the rapid increase emerged. Large number of diplomatic regencies built their offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The Open Door Policy in 1978 and thirty years’ economic development reinforced and consolidated this trend. Shanghai and Guangzhou became the real CTOs clusters in the east and south parts of China. This path has expanded to the middle and mid-west part of China in recent years. Cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing set up many new consulates during past ten years.
The example of the United States embassy and consulates in China could well reflect this path diffusion character. China and the United States reestablished diplomatic relationships in 1979. The contracts and documents between the two countries mentioned that the American government was permitted to set up six diplomatic regencies in China. The United States government could decide the location of these institutions. The United States embassy, which was the first diplomatic institution, was set up in Beijing at that year. Later the same year, two branch offices, the United States Consulates opened in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Several years later, in 1985 and 1987, consulates in Chongqing and Shenyang set up their offices in the city and finally in 2008 United States consulate in Wuhan was built. Figure 2 shows the consular district of each consulate in order to show this path diffusion.
Figure 2: The development of United States diplomatic agencies in China
(a) Consular district before 1980s
(b) Consular district in 1990s
(c) Consular district in 2008
I want to explain the path diffusion further. This distribution route reflects the relationships between the United States and certain Chinese cities or regions. More institutions mean more affairs need to be dealt with. The institution’s location in a city directly reflects the amount of international affairs in that area. The United States embassy in Beijing was first set up and in charge of the whole area of China. People who live in the southern part wanted to get their visa had to travel to the distant capital. As the increasing demands from the immigrants, it was impossible and inconvenient for both the embassy and the people. The United States government chose Guangzhou and Shanghai to set up their second and third diplomatic agencies in China. Although these two consulates are affiliated with the embassy, their function in the region is the same as the latter. Consulates in Chongqing, Shenyang and Wuhan were set up for the same reasons as in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Each consulate responds to a certain area and the city where it is located would be the center.
Spatial Characters of Technical Transnational Organizations
There are 381 Technical Transnational Organizations (TTOs) distributed in 17 Chinese cities. In this section, three spatial characters of TTOs will be summarized. These three characters are mainly reflected from ETTOs. The CTTOs are only distributed in five cities; their spatial character will be mentioned in the final part of this section.
The first spatial character of ETTOs is also the cluster effect. Unlike the CTOs, the cluster of the ETTOs is smaller, which means the total amount of Economical Technical Transnational Organizations is fewer and they are distributed in more cities. As the data shows, 77 Foreign Chambers of Commerce are distributed in 17 Chinese cities. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are still the top three clusters. They account for nearly 60 percent of the total number. Beijing and Shanghai house most of this kind organization, 20 and 15 respectively. Guangzhou has 10 and is a little less than the two cities. Other 14 cities have 31 organizations and most of them still agglomerated in Chengdu, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Shenyang. The rest of other cities each have only one or two ETTOs.
The second spatial character, the path diffusion, is still as same as CTOs. It begins from Beijing and spread to Shanghai and Guangzhou, and then to the rest of the Chinese cities. Table 5 shows the ETTOs’ development in the major cities.
Table 5: Number of ETTOs since 1990s
Take United State Chamber of Commerce in China as an example to illustrate this path diffusion character. In 1991, the first U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Beijing was set up and responsible for all its members in China. At that time, Beijing is the center for all the members. This situation has been changed since the opening of Shanghai and Guangzhou offices. These two offices take response for the east and south regions’ members respectively. With the development of American enterprises in other regions, Wuhan and Chongqing offices were set up in 2008 and 2009. These two offices are in charge of the central and west parts’ members.
The third spatial character is summarized in a region scale. It was found out that there is a hierarchy system when examine the spatial distribution of ETTOs. This vertical system exists within the organizations from the same origin and can be evaluated into a horizontal system. Take German Chamber of Commerce as an example. Before 1996, the office of AHK in south China firstly located in Hong Kong. At that time, Hong Kong had not been returned to China and it was not convenient for the AHK office to deal with their members’ trading issues in Pearl River Delta. The solution of this embarrassment is to set up an extra office in Guangzhou and take care of members in PRD, but this office belongs to the Hong Kong office. In 1995, the German consulate in Guangzhou was opened and a lot of cooperation between Guangzhou and Germany were built up and large number of German enterprises entered into PRD. Because of the geographical disadvantage, Hong Kong office lost its prime position in PRD. In 1999, headquarter of AHK in Berlin made the decision that the former Guangzhou extra office should be updated into a regional office and in charge of south China area. Thus, the Guangzhou office was no longer belonging to Hong Kong office, they stayed at the same level from then on.
Figure 3 is the evaluation model of ETTOs in Pearl River Delta. This evaluation also reflects the changing position of host cities. Hong Kong is the leading center in the region of PRD before 1997; the cities in the region largely rely on the development of Hong Kong. With the development of PRD, although Hong Kong still plays significant roles in the region, the cities shaped their own industries and directly connect to the world economy. Among these mainland cities, Guangzhou gradually become the second center of PRD by her political and historical advantages.
Figure 3: Evaluation of Economic Technical Transnational Organizations in PRD
CTTOs only located in five cities, this character largely because the Chinese government set up a lot of rules to restrict their location. Most of media institutions are located in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
LOCATION FACTORS OF TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: CASE OF GUANGZHOU CITY
In this section, I will use the information from field studies and interviews to explore the locations factors of TOs. Guangzhou ranks third in term of the amount of TOs. After 30 years of the Open Door Policy, she is the most important center in south China, even in the world. The city can be a good example among Chinese cities to explore the political roles to the city. I directly quote the saying of interviewers in the following part and list the factors one by one.
Comprehensive Transnational Organizations
The location factors of CTOs are complex. Five reasons can be listed to illustrate why these organizations choose Guangzhou as their site. These factors are described through three continuous scales, which include national scale, regional scale and city scale.
The director in the information center of United States Consulate in Guangzhou said:
The other key factor is the amount of international affairs that happens in the region. CTOs are required to deal with visa related issues and children adoption issues. These two affairs occurred in huge numbers in south regions. In 2008, the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou issued more than 30,000 immigrant visa and 90,000 non-immigrant visa. It is the world busiest institution among the counterparts. Also in the same year, it dealt with more than 3,700 adoption cases and became the world 2nd busiest children adoption institution.
As the capital of Guangdong Province, it is also the political center of PRD. The state governments and other political institution of Guangzhou are all located in the city. This surrounding helps CTOs to choose their site in Guangzhou. Economic status is another important facet. Guangzhou city is keeping a great power of economic development. The following words came from the director of information center of United States consulate:
Aside from its core political-economic status, cultural-education development is also a very important element required. Most of the famous universities in south China are agglomerated in Guangzhou, such as Sun Yat-Sen University, South China Normal University and South China University of Technology, etc. Figure 5 shows the economic and education status of cities in PRD, Guangzhou is noticeably higher than other cities.
Figure 5: GDP and the number of college student in southern cities of China
Technical Transnational Organizations
Compare to the CTOs, the location factors of TTOs is simpler. These organizations are mainly concerned the functional reasons. To ETTOs, they usually choose the cities that have a lot of members because this will be convenient to protect their right and profit. To CTTOs, strict regulations limit their location. Otherwise they tend to choose those cities with higher education levels. Aside from these functional reasons, TTOs are attracted by CTOs. They always site in cities where the consulate locate.
The factor that affects the location of ETTOs is more related to their members. They will site their office in which city have most of members. Figure 6 shows the amount of foreign enterprises in south four provinces. This region contains more than 30 percent of all enterprises in China.
Figure 6: The amount of foreign enterprises in south four provinces, 1999-2008
Figure 7: Distribution of American enterprises in south cities of China, 2008 and 2009
This factor is concluded from the interview with the president of American Chamber of Commerce·South China. There are two branch offices of American Chamber of Commerce (ACC). One is in Guangzhou and the other is in Shenzhen. The office in Guangzhou was set up in 1998, which aims to help the membership in PRD. Figure 7 is the distribution of ACCG members in PRD. It shows that within more than 1600 enterprises, 54.5 percent are located in Guangzhou. Except Guangzhou, Shenzhen is also a main site of the members. In order to serving them more conveniently, the AAC Shenzhen office was set up in 2005.
The second factor related the ETTOs’ location is that they concerned about the site of their home country’s consulate.
The location factor of CTTOs is also functional related, but the difference is they concern more about the culture and education development of the city or region.
The former president of DAAD also mentioned they willing to close to their country’s consulate.
I want to summarize this section here and then continue discuss the topic in the final part. Guangzhou is a good example to illustrate the location factors of TOs. The site strategy of Comprehensive Transnational Organizations is more complex and it is carried out in three continuous scales. Firstly, they need to concern about the diplomatic relationships between two countries in a national scale and then the regional policy advantages. Because these polices will stimulate the development of regional economy and thus attract the CTOs. International affair in the region is also the important factors for CTOs’ site decision-making process. The third scale is the city itself. Compared to other cities, Guangzhou has a long history in developing CTOs and is a strong political-economic power center. This makes Guangzhou to be the appropriate location for the agglomeration of CTOs. For TTOs, the location factors are simpler. They concern more about the functional reasons, such as their members and the culture-education level of the city.
That is not to say, TTOs do not concern with those reasons that affect CTOs. During the interviews, almost all of TTOs mentioned that they would like to choose a site near their consulate. It means that they also care about those factors that are attracting CTOs, for example, regional economy and political-economic status of the city. But they treat these factors as the basement of setting their offices. In other words, the opening of the CTOs is the foundation of establishing related TTOs. If we go back to the nature of CTOs, we could conclude that political dynamics is one of most important attribution to the site of TOs. It is this political factor that largely promotes the cities’ global status.
This point of view is different from the traditional ones that pay more attention to the economic dynamics. Globalization or global cities’ formation is a three dimensional process, which including political, economical and cultural dynamics. These three dimensions are interlocked with each other and arbitrary estimation of their importance is unfair. Their roles in global cities’ formation are different in terms of different perspectives, such as global economy will be more important if we use FIRE firm’s networks model but this will be changed if we use TOs networks.
We have not gone that far because this is just the beginning of the research. In this article, I use TOs to try to introduce the global cities’ dynamics from a political perspective. In the first part, I briefly review the literatures on global cities theory. Most of the research focus on the economic issues and use Transnational Corporations as the objects. TOs are discussed in recent years and many hotspots, such as ‘city global governance’ and ‘regulation school’ began to treat TOs as their main research objects. In the second part, I explain the methodology and the data of this paper. The data analysis constitutes the third and the fourth parts. In these two parts I determine the spatial distribution characters of TOs in Chinese cities and also their location factors in Guangzhou city.
Using TOs, the political roles in global cities’ formation process is more important than other two dimension of globalization. This will be the basic point of this research. Actually, this exploratory research is in its infancy stage. We have colleagues to do the field studies in European countries and also United States. The global political networks and global actors will be discussed in the future.
Thank you to Prof. John Agnew, who works in the Department of Geography UCLA. Without his generous help, I could not finish this paper. When I stay in UCLA, we discussed this idea again and again. He offered me lots of suggestions and asked me to correct the language mistakes. I also want to say thank you to my English teachers, Ms. Lucia and Erika Drazen, they read the manuscript, rewrite the sentences and make the paper becoming better and better.
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* Nian Su, Urban and Regional Research Center, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University
** Desheng Xue, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University
1. The data comes from the Yearbook of International Organizations, UIA, 2008-2009. Summarized by the author.
2. This definition was summarized from the Yearbook of International Organizations. In the book the international organizations were divided into 15 types. The author use the most widely one. More details for the definition, use the website of http://www.uia.be/.
3. The abbreviate name of the cities are as follows: BJ=Beijing; SH=Shanghai; GZ=Guangzhou; CD=Chengdu; SY=Shenyang; KM=Kunming; CQ=Chongqing; WU=Wuhan; XA=Xi’an; NN=Nanning; ULMQ=Urumqi; HHHT=Hohhot; LS=Lhasa; SZ=Shenzhen. These abbreviate also applies to table. 5. In table.4, only 275 CTOs are listed because some of them miss the information of established time.