GaWC Research Bulletin 94

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This Research Bulletin has been published in J Gugler (ed) (2004) World Cities beyond the West: Globalization, Development, and Inequality Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-26.

Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


Introduction (World Cities beyond the West)

J. Gugler*


There is a first-world elitist bias to the globalization literature. Globalization is written from the metropolitan centre. Many of these writings are guilty of doing "bad geography" by only examining one or two representations of globalization. (Short et al. 2000: 317)

The notion of "world cities" has become prominent in the social sciences in recent years, and the literature has expanded at a rapid pace. Most of this literature, however, remains focused on rich countries.1 This volume, in contrast, is concerned with poor countries. It deals with cities in these countries that play major regional and global roles. These cities differ from their counterparts in rich countries in a number of ways.2 They are more subject to the economic, political, and cultural impact of major foreign actors - governments, corporations, international organizations, universities, media industries. The resources they can draw on are much more limited even as they too have to make heavy investments in infrastructure to meet the standards expected by foreign investors and professionals. And their population is younger.

This book is the first to systematically cover those cities in the under-researched poor countries that most clearly can be considered world cities, whereas previous work has focused rather haphazardly on one or a few cities, a region at best. Several of the cities presented are here considered for the first time in terms of the major regional and global roles they play. In systematically covering world cities across four continents, I use the term "poor countries" rather loosely. In particular, I have included Singapore: poor within living memory, the city state demanded inclusion for the profound transformations that catapulted it among rich countries within less than a generation. It can also be argued that Singapore would not be a rich country today but for the fact that it is a city state. The point is dramatically demonstrated by Hong Kong: the city-colony was in the same league as Singapore until it rejoined China in 1997 and became a city among others, albeit with a special status, in the world's largest poor country.

Our joint endeavor distinguishes itself from most previous work in two other major respects. For one, we move beyond the economic realm to consider the political and cultural dimensions. For another, instead of remaining within narrow disciplinary boundaries, this volume brings together leading authorities on each of these cities who are identified with several disciplines and pursue a range of different approaches. Most identify themselves as geographers or sociologists, two are based in interdisciplinary "urban centers" of research and teaching, and three bridge the academic/practice divide: an economist works at the World Bank, an urban planner has been Senior Urban Advisor to a national government for a number of years, a political scientist has been an activist in a workers movement since it played a leading role in forcing a military regime out of power. Our ideological inclinations vary as well.

In all, fourteen authors from diverse backgrounds bring their particular expertise to bear on twelve world cities across four continents. They present the full array of perspectives on world cities in poor countries. Having critically engaged each other and four discussants at a conference - some of us had a workshop as well - their contributions combine to provide a complex picture of world cities in poor countries. They convey how these cities have followed various historical pathways to their present position; they offer multiple perspectives on the interplay between internal and external forces; and they demonstrate that any comprehensive discussion of world cities has to engage a multiplicity of perspectives. We thus establish the basis for a more general understanding of world cities and provide new impetus to their analysis.3

As we look back on our undertaking to systematically cover world cities in poor countries three conclusions stand out. First, these cities are extraordinarily diverse. They have had very different histories, their present economic and political circumstances vary, they are variously articulated with their respective regions and across the globe, and their demographic dynamics differ. The foremost conclusion of our systematic approach is how problematic most generalizations about world cities are.

Second, the transformation of the city center into an elite enclave is one pattern that is common to virtually all our cities. It reflects the fact that the standard of living of a significant proportion of the population in these cities has dramatically improved. It also conveys strikingly that the severe inequalities characteristic of most poor countries, and of their cities in particular, have been further exacerbated in most world cities. At the same time, increased integration in the global economy has exposed the populations of these cities to sudden reversals of fortune that are not cushioned by public systems of support such as exist in rich countries.

The third conclusion that these accounts of twelve cities across four continents impose is that any general analysis of world cities has to recognize, along with the forces of globalization, the strength of the state and the power of popular movements. Of course - our first conclusion applies - states may be weak, popular movements may be dormant, but for more than half the cities considered here either the state or a popular movement has constituted a major driving force.


Cities in poor countries are important. In demographic terms, most of the world's largest cities are in poor countries. According to the most recent estimates, 12 out of the world's 16 largest cities, each with more than ten million inhabitants, were in poor countries in the year 2000. Three of the cities we consider here, Mexico City, Mumbai/Bombay, and São Paulo, with between 16 and 18 million people, were among the world's five largest cities (United Nations, 2002). But the selection of cities for this volume has not been guided by sheer population size - half the cities considered here have populations of less than ten million (Table 1). Rather, we are presenting a selection of strategic places.

Some of the cities presented here play major roles in the global economy, all hold dominant positions at the regional level or within very large countries such as China and India. In terms of the "new global dimensions" emphasized by discussions of world cities, these cities concentrate command functions and are key locations for finance and specialized services for firms. They "function as regional or global nodes in the world economy," they are "global cities" as defined by Sassen (2000: 4, 59). The only two globally comprehensive data sets available at this time serve to make the point.4

Beaverstock, Taylor, and Smith (1999) scored cities as global service centers in terms of the significant presence of major firms providing producer services in accountancy, advertizing, banking/finance, and law.5 More recently Peter Taylor et al. (2002) have moved beyond the mere presence of such offices to their importance and to their significance in terms of the global firms they represent to offer a measure of global network connectivity. They again drew on global service firms, this time covering accountancy, advertizing, banking/finance, insurance, law, and management consultancy. But they now focused on the office networks of the one hundred firms they studied. They assessed the service value of the offices in a given city in terms of their size and their extra-locational functions, e.g. as regional headquarters. And they measured the global network connectivity of a city by multiplying the service value of each firm present in the city by the firm's service value in every other city and summing the product for the firms (Table 1). Four of the cities presented in this volume ranked among the 18 cities scoring highest in 2000, and they included all the cities in developing countries in that top tiers. Another seven of our cities were among the 25 cities ranked next.6 Cairo, however, stood only in 59th position. Still, the Middle Eastern metropolis merits inclusion for the major economic, political, and cultural role it plays in the region. Cairo also illustrates how a region's fortunes, or in this case ill fortunes, affect a city's global role.

A measure of the command functions located in world cities is provided by Godfrey and Zhou (1999, 2000) who surveyed the headquarters of the world's 100 largest corporations, as measured by gross annual revenue, and their first-level subsidiaries. Only four had their headquarters in cities covered here in 1996: three in Seoul and one in Shanghai. But when we consider the first-level subsidiaries of those top one hundred corporations, a quite different picture emerges that attests to the role these cities play within their regions: five of our cities rank among the ten cities that had more than 22 first-level subsidiaries, and they included all the cities in poor countries among those ten. Another three of our cities were among the next 22 cities, home to more than 14 first-level subsidiaries (Table 1).7 The strong showing of Seoul and Shanghai on this measure stands in striking contrast to their low global network connectivity. While these cities are the seats of considerable corporate power, they remain relatively self-centered in the provision of producer services.

The stock market capitalizations of eight of our cities exceeded US$ 110 billion in 2001, putting them amongst the world's 23 largest stock markets (World Bank, 2002).8 Most of our cities are home to their country's only stock market. The exceptions, Jakarta, São Paulo, and Shanghai, boast the country's predominant stock market. The capitalization of stock markets bears little relationship to global network connectivity or command functions. Rather it is a function of the size of the national economy the stock market represents, i.e. the product of income level and population size (Table 1). Singapore, however, is enlarged beyond its national base by the role it plays in regional finance, and to a lesser extent such is the case of Johannesburg.

International flights offer a measure of the connectedness of cities. I have used data on the number of foreign cities that can be reached with scheduled direct flights (Table 1). They show no relationship to any of the three indicators considered so far but rather present a distinct dimension of world city status. Specific factors appear to account for the major differences across our cities. Moscow stands out as offering as many direct flights, disproportionately provided by Aeroflot, to foreign destinations as New York, even if the frequency of flights and the passenger volume is considerably lower. Singapore, in spite of its tiny population, ranks second, testimony to the success of its government in making it an attractive point of transit and the national airline a carrier of choice. Jakarta, on the other hand, appears to have been dramatically affected by its political/economic crisis.

I have further distinguished between destinations within a country's region and those beyond. In East Asia, Hong Kong overshadows Shanghai in connections beyond the region. Both have few direct flights to destinations within East Asia, whereas Seoul connects with many cities in China. In Southeast Asia, Bangkok rivals Singapore in interregional connectedness, due in part to its attractions as a tourist destination, while being little connected within the region. In South Asia, Bombay/Mumbai suffers from India's political isolation vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors. Cairo is equally well connected with Africa and the Middle East. Johannesburg has more direct flights to African destinations than any of our other cities, or London for that matter. São Paulo and Mexico City are evenly matched in terms of direct flights to destinations in the Americas South of the Rio Grande, but tourist traffic to the Caribbean and Mexico puts New York far ahead of them. Mexico City is well connected with U.S. cities - and appears to lose many of its passengers headed beyond the Americas to U.S. airlines.

World cities in poor countries do not have the reach of the major global players in terms of the "new global dimensions." However, they do not simply stand in an hierarchical relationship as intermediaries for New York, London, or Tokyo. Sometimes they are collaborators: foreign interests draw on Hong Kong expertise in approaching China. But in China as elsewhere these cities are also competitors at the regional level: Johannesburg capital has been competing with British, French, and U.S. interests in Africa South of the Sahara since the end of the international sanctions against the apartheid regime.

A focus on the "new global dimensions" plays to the strengths of a few world cities in rich countries and overlooks their vulnerability. The United States, for example, has a large trade surplus in services, but that has been dwarfed for many years by even larger trade deficits in goods that make the world's biggest economy utterly dependent on foreign credit. A more encompassing approach to the world economy brings to the fore the importance of a number of cities in poor countries. If world cities in poor countries are second-level players in the "new global dimensions," they have proved themselves formidable competitors in manufacturing. Here their role is not regionally circumscribed. In manufactures such as automobiles, they supply their region but also export to what used to be known as "industrial countries." In other manufactures, ranging from textiles to consumer electrical goods to electronics, they have by and large displaced manufacturing in the now "deindustrializing" countries that constitute their principal markets. Already by 1996, nearly one out of five transnational corporations was based in a poor country (Sassen, 2000: 23).

A full appreciation of the strategic roles cities in poor countries play requires that we broaden our purview to embrace the realm of culture. Two dimensions stand out. Several of the cities presented here are important media producers and/or play a global role in propagating an ideology. The most prominent example of a city as ideological proponent is historic rather than contemporary. Moscow emerged as the center of Russian Orthodoxy in the mid-fifteenth century and came to celebrate its role as the "third Rome," a place where liturgy would never be compromised by the politics of religion as it had been in Rome and Constantinople. Then, with the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution, Moscow became the leader of the socialist revolution. Today the New Labor Movement in São Paulo prides itself on exporting its ideas across the globe. But the prime contemporary example of a city playing a major ideological role is Singapore. Its proclamation of "Asian values" is all too readily dismissed by Western commentators who fail to acknowledge the relationship between these values and the remarkable economic achievements of this and other Asian countries.9

In the leisure media, in film, television, and music, a number of our cities dominate their regions, and some reach well beyond. In the early years after the Bolshevik revolution, Moscow became the global leader in cinematographic innovation. Today the film production of Bollywood, i.e. the film studios of Bombay/Mumbai, and other Indian studios exceeds that of the U.S. by two thirds. They supply 95% of the Indian market, three times the share national film production holds in any other country, except for the U.S. (Barbaroux, 2001). Bollywood exports to the large Indian diaspora as well to regional markets, e.g. in Africa. Cairo, the "Hollywood of the Orient," is the predominant producer for the Arab World. Johannesburg is set to play a similar role in Africa South of the Sahara. Hong Kong and Shanghai have moved beyond their regional audiences to make inroads in Hollywood's heartland.10

The cities considered here are major players in the regional and global economy, and some play a major cultural role in their region and beyond. Their scope for political action, however, is usually quite limited. Political action in the international arena remains by and large the prerogative of states; the era when city states exercised political control over large regions is long gone. Several of the cities we consider here are not even the capitals of their countries.11 World cities are, however, key sites for protest movements. Various constituencies are represented in force and their agitation is likely to be well covered by national and international media. The impact of popular movements in Mumbai and São Paulo has been particularly far-reaching, but several more of our cities spawned protest movements that led to regime change.


The cities we consider here are remarkably diverse. We have just had some indications how their regional and global articulations vary. In addition four dimensions of differentiation stand out: the historical, the economic, the political, and the demographic.

Our cities, spread across four continents, are heirs to a large array of cultures. The vagaries of history intersected with locational advantages to establish their strategic position. Most have a long history - Cairo became the capital of Egypt more than a thousand years ago, others are more recent colonial creations. And their historical legacies vary greatly. The roles these cities have played at the national, regional, and global level have changed over time. For example, it may be argued that Moscow has been a world city for centuries, but its role changed dramatically under three different political regimes. At the same time there is a striking continuity in that it is these cities' service functions rather than manufacture that continue to distinguish them.

Eventually our cities came to be profoundly affected by the West, the more so as nearly all took on major significance in the era of European expansion. Most emerged in the 19th century as the principal trading and transshipment center for a rich hinterland. Usually they were developed by European interests as part of a commercial network based on colonial control. In São Paulo much of this development took place after Portugal had relinquished control and was the work of European settlers. In the case of Shanghai, European powers were not prepared to colonize China, but established firm control in this along with a few other coastal cities. When the Japanese entered the fray at the beginning of the 20th century, they occupied Korea and developed Seoul. They failed in their subsequent attempt to control China. The Kingdom of Siam maintained its control over Bangkok, but the city's rise was also due to its strategic maritime location.

Only two of our cities were developed inland by European interests. Both were situated in settler colonies. Mexico City, while built on a pre-colonial capital, emerged as a major administrative and commercial center in the Spanish Empire. British and Dutch settlers established Johannesburg on the wealth of the world's richest gold deposits. Moscow distinguishes itself by both its inland location and the indigenous roots of its emergence as a world city.

Spatial patterns and architecture bear witness to history. Given the cost of investments in infrastructure, housing, manufacturing plants, and office space, changes usually come slowly, but they tend to accelerate in times of boom or bust. The form the physical expansion of cities takes may vary, but each city connects increasingly with other expanding urban areas, making boundary definitions ever more problematic: the most recent United Nations (2002) estimate puts the population of Johannesburg at 3.0 million, but about 7.3 million people live in the metropolitan area.12

The cities considered here are significantly involved in the global economy, but they remain affected by the national economies to which they belong (Table 1). Leaving aside Singapore and South Korea, with income levels that put them among the rich countries, we may distinguish two categories of poor countries where our cities are situated: middle-income countries, i.e. Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Thailand, with per capita gross national incomes (GNI), at purchasing power parity (PPP),13 ranging from US$ 5,415 to US$ 8,770 in 2001; and low-income countries, i.e. China, Egypt, India, and Indonesia, with 2001 PPP GNI per capita at between US$ 2,450 and US$ 4,260. As countries's income levels vary, so do their definitions of "the poor" and "the middle class," and the size of the categories so defined.

Past history and present opportunities of cities are shaped by the region in which they are situated, and by the competition of other cities in the region. Once China embarked on free-market reforms, Hong Kong faced increasing competition from Shanghai even as the opportunities in the world's largest market expanded dramatically. Seoul stands in the shadow of Tokyo. Bangkok's position was strengthened as some of its neighbors faltered. Cairo's opportunities have been severely limited by political conflicts in the Middle East that culminated in a series of wars - but the opportunities of its regional competitors, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, were even more diminished. Johannesburg began to take on a leading role in Africa South of the Sahara once the South African apartheid regime was removed, but this is the world's poorest region, and major countries are rent by political conflict and war.14

Some cities have secured a specific niche in their regional economy. Bangkok has established itself as a regional center for tourism, health services, and administrative services for corporations and international organizations in Asia. The film industry of Mumbai dominates South Asia. São Paulo boasts the largest concentration of industry in Latin America. Mexico City seeks to become the region's financial center.

Many of the cities we consider here have operated within a quite stable political environment for a generation or more. Elsewhere, changes in political regime led to profound transformations. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the abrupt transition to a market economy have brought wrenching changes to Moscow. The collapse of the apartheid state in South Africa transforms Johannesburg. And the political crisis that continues to unfold in Indonesia holds the prospect of altogether altering the course on which Jakarta has been proceeding.

The political context in which cities evolve toward world city status varies greatly. Hong Kong flourished under the laissez-faire capitalism established by Britain in its crown colony. The corporatist state in Singapore was remarkably successful in pursuing programs of social engineering that transformed social relations. Shanghai is booming under continuing state-party control that has slowed down the dismantling of inefficient state industries and provided a shield during the Liquidity Crisis that burst on emerging economies in the 1990s. If the state is powerful in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore, it was successfully challenged by the labor movement in São Paulo which played a key role in the demise of the military regime in Brazil and continues to push for further democratization.15 In Brazil and elsewhere, more or less forceful trends towards democratization entail pressures for decentralization and devolution that take resources away from cities that were heretofore privileged, especially so if they held capital city status. The conflict is likely to be exacerbated where city, state and/or national government are controlled by different parties, as is often the case in Mexico City, Mumbai, and São Paulo.16

Their cosmopolitan history has bequeathed racial, ethnic, and/or religious diversity on most of our cities. Such diversities are usually reflected in spatial segregation and often come to the fore in political conflicts even as group identities are manipulated. Religious difference has become a central element in the politics of Mumbai, and its citizenry has suffered repeated outbursts of sectarian violence. As the intersections of class and race shift in Johannesburg, it remains to be seen how race relations evolve, and whether ethnic divisions among Africans that were fostered under white minority rule have been effectively buried.

The distinctive demographic characteristic of cities in poor countries is that their populations are younger than those of their counterparts in rich countries. Three factors all affect the age distribution in that same direction. Urban dwellers in poor countries tend to have higher fertility; their life expectancy is shorter; and many cities experience substantial in-migration from rural areas. Rural-urban migration adds a further distinguishing feature in some settings where urban residents maintain close ties with what they consider their "home."17 Beyond such generalizations, there is considerable variation in the demographic dynamics of the cities considered here in terms of both natural population growth and migration.

The demographic transition is more or less advanced in the countries where these cities are situated (Table 1). We may distinguish two stages. Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa are well into the transition, with annual rates of population growth ranging from 1.4 to 2.0 per cent in the 1990s.18 China, South Korea, and Thailand are even further along with growth rates around one percent, but it remains to be seen whether population growth in China will rebound as the severe restrictions on fertility are relaxed. Russia had joined industrial countries with very low growth rates earlier, but the marginally negative growth rates reported in the 1990s are commonly assumed to constitute a temporary phenomenon due to the country's profound crisis. Rapid changes in urban fertility and mortality translate into slower population growth, increasing dependency ratios, and fewer new entrants into the labor force. The last effect comes with a considerable time lag, but it is reenforced by the expansion of educational systems.

The demographic transition affects urban population growth directly as well as indirectly. A slowdown in natural population growth is likely to occur earlier in urban areas, and especially so in cosmopolitan cities such as those presented here. The indirect effect comes later as natural population growth slows down in rural areas and reduces the pressures for out-migration to urban areas.

High rates of rural-urban migration used to cause much alarm, but in recent years population growth in most of our cities has been little different from national growth (Table 1). Taking into account that urban natural population growth tends to be lower in urban than in rural areas, total city growth rates approaching national rates still imply a certain amount of net rural-urban migration. But by now rural-urban migration makes a substantial impact only in a few cities: Bangkok, Jakarta, Johannesburg, and Mumbai. In the case of Johannesburg, the disappearance of the apartheid-era restrictions on the movement of Africans precipitated a large influx of Africans formerly restricted to rural areas and the relocation of Africans and whites within the metropolitan area.

A number of countries, most prominently China, the Soviet Union, and South Africa, have controlled migration towards their cities, more or less successfully. It would appear that wherever it is politically acceptable to thus create second-class citizens, and where migration controls can be enforced with some degree of effectiveness, governments attempt to limit rural-urban migration and/or migration to the most privileged cities. States of course remain sovereign to control immigration even as they promote free trade and have lost all control over communication. The city state Singapore could regulate migration across its borders according to the requirements of its labor market. Hong Kong was in a similar situation while it was a British crown colony. Now, as a Special Administrative Region of China, it continues to effectively control migration. When a Court of Final Appeal ruling opened the doors to the immigration of an estimated 1.5 million Chinese, the Hong Kong government had the decision overturned by the Chinese legislature. Moscow continues to control in-migration in spite of federal legislation abolishing the Soviet-era restrictions on the free movement of Russian citizens.


The specificity of the cities presented here intersects with the disciplinary and ideological bent of the authors to provide accounts that vary greatly in focus. In particular, they vary in the emphasis put on three driving forces: the global political economy, the state, and popular movements. The extent to which the contributions privilege one over the other serves to organize the book.

Globalizing Cities

Their skylines distinguish world cities from other cities in developing countries. Heavy investments in infrastructure are required to meet the standards expected by foreign investors and professionals. These cities, unlike their counterparts in rich countries, tend to furthermore attract a disproportionate share of investment in manufacturing. They crowd out other cities competing for foreign investment and what limited investment capital can be mobilized within the national economy.

Weiping Wu and Shahid Yusuf detail how the dramatic policy changes of the recent past in China have translated into huge investments in industry and infrastructure in Shanghai. In one of the poorest countries amongst those we are considering here, investment in the urban infrastructure of the premier industrial city ballooned from six billion yuan in 1991 to 53 billion in 1998. To take just one example, the paved road surface per capita doubled over those seven years. Wu and Yusuf argue that for Shanghai to succeed in the global competition, China has to continue the process of opening up to the outside world. Presumably this will entail further exacerbating inequalities across the huge country.

Yeong-Hyun Kim demonstrates that while strategies to attain world city status, or to consolidate such status, invariably give high priority to attracting foreign investment and expertise, international standing can be pursued through other avenues as well. She relates how Seoul followed its success in dramatically expanding manufacturing and exports by attracting world-class sports events. The city modernized its infrastructure for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the high-profile media event gained Seoul international recognition. International tourism rose, and the city emerged from its cultural isolation. The trend was reenforced as Seoul hosted the 2002 World Cup Finals. Beijing's efforts to follow the example of Seoul succeeded in making it the third Asian city to host the Summer Olympics, in 2008.

The Asian Miracle, the Debt Crisis of the 1980s, the Russian Implosion, the Liquidity Crisis of the 1990s, and the current global recession have demonstrated time and again that the economic fortunes of countries can change quite abruptly. The impact of the global economy, in boom and in crash, is felt most dramatically in world cities heavily dependent on foreign investments, exports, and tourism. Huge inflows of capital are followed by abrupt reversals. Markets for exports shrink overnight. Tourists suddenly stay away. The consequences are particularly severe in poor countries where the people exposed to such sudden reversals of fortune are not cushioned by public systems of support such as exist in rich countries. Instead these shocks are mediated, to a greater extent than in rich countries, through political systems, social structures, and cultural patterns. Moscow has remained shielded from the worst consequences of Russia's precipitous decline by its powerful political position. In Bangkok, family support, the solidarity of workplace communities, and the employment practices of Japanese firms, cushioned severe economic shocks and allowed the city to strengthen its position relative to most of its foreign competitors.

Douglas Webster points out that globalization, and its crises, differentially affect different parts of the city and different sectors of its population. Globalization policies have often been pursued at the expense of the elderly, children, and women, and they are usually more vulnerable than others in times of crisis. Webster relates how the consequences of hyper growth and economic crises varied across Bangkok, its suburbs, and its periphery.

Janet Abu-Lughod emphasizes how Egypt's open door policy has burdened the lower and lower-middle classes, how investments in Cairo's infrastructure have taken resources from social services for the poor. She suggests that the rising support for the Islamic movement may be related in part to the relative decline in the living standard of these classes. The success of the chauvinistic Shiv Sena movement in Mumbai can be similarly traced to ever-increasing inequalities.

As the global involvement of cities in poor countries increased, a significant proportion of their population came to pursue a dramatically improved standard of living. It contrasts sharply with the living conditions of those around them: if a two-class structure is becoming more pronounced in rich countries, the chasm is exacerbated in most poor countries. Three or four of our cities, however, boast remarkably low levels of poverty relative to both, the inequalities thought to be characteristic of world cities, and the general inequality that prevails in nearly all poor countries. While they were situated in poor countries, they could control the in-migration of poor, either at international borders, i.e. Hong Kong and Singapore, or through restrictions on migration, e.g. Moscow and, until recently, Shanghai. These cities admitted only those poor they could productively employ, and their welfare policies were not swamped by those kept outside the gates.

The most visible manifestation of the sizeable new consumer elite is the striking transformation of the city center to be found in virtually all our cities. Offices, hotels, luxury housing, and up-scale shops and restaurants displace low-income residents. If Moscow's center was both privileged and heterogenous in social composition in Soviet times, low-income earners now give way to those successful under the new dispensation, their foreign partners, and office buildings. In Jakarta, the government embarked on the wholesale "modernization" of the city center, eradicating the kampung. The Seoul Olympics lent legitimacy to massive urban restructuring that involved the displacement of poor neighborhoods over public opposition. Elsewhere long-established residents have at times offered resistance. It was fairly ineffectual in Cairo's formerly walled city, where housing stock was left to decay, or cleared to widen thoroughfares and give tourists unobstructed views of major mosques: in recent decades the population in the medieval quarters declined from close to half a million to 300,000. In Mexico City, on the other hand, the working class has shown considerable capacity for political organization in defense of its residential interests and remained predominant in the inner-city; still, even there population in the city center has declined dramatically.

High-standard infrastructure and distinctive enclaves of those incredibly rich by local standards set world cities apart from other cities in poor countries. Their industrial, commercial, and financial opportunities draw a disproportionate share of local and foreign capital. And the exceptional opportunities their labor markets promise encourage in-migration not only from rural areas but also from other cities. They drain human capital - the best educated, most skilled, strongly motivated from within the country and beyond. And their expanding middle class offers employment to a large number of low-income service workers, especially in domestic work, retail sales, and security services.19 The sex ratio of these cities are likely to be affected by their regional and global status in three ways: urban-urban migration entails less family separation than rural-urban migration; to the extent that male migrants from rural areas find better opportunities in these cities than in other cities, they are more likely to have their families join them; and women migrating independently find these cities more attractive in terms of both job opportunities and the rapidly changing position of women in such cosmopolitan cities. All three effects entail higher proportions of women in these strategic cities than in other cities.

Peter Ward reminds us that while we speak of global cities, such cities are much more involved with some regions than with others. This is the case of New York, London, and Tokyo, but it applies even more so to the cities we consider here. Mexico City is a particularly striking case because, unlike any other of the countries in which our cities situated, Mexico has a common border with a rich country, indeed the world's largest economy. More than half of foreign investment comes from the U.S. The shift from import-substituting industrialization to exported-oriented growth marginalized Mexico City in some measure as it encouraged manufacture closer to the U.S. market. The integration of the two quite dissimilar economies has been given further impetus by the establishment of NAFTA. At the same time, Mexico City enjoys the opportunity to take advantage of its key position in two overlapping regions: North America and Latin America. In particular, Mexico City aspires to become the principal Latin American center for financial services.

The Importance of the State

The state plays an important role in the affairs of world cities, but its impact varies across our twelve countries. Many of our cities have been profoundly transformed by state power - which came in state socialist as well as corporatist capitalist variants. Of course the former, Russia and China, have abandoned the state socialist model and are engaged in transitions which have turned out to be extremely difficult, the outcomes yet be seen.

James Bater shows how political transformations through three regimes profoundly affected the fortunes of Moscow. Moscow was the most important commercial and industrial region of the Russian Empire for virtually all of the Tsarist period, but it lost its position as the Empire's capital to St. Petersburg in 1712. The global-local connection was strong in Soviet days when Moscow's role as the center of world communism translated into a privileged position for its citizenry and shaped the very ecology of the city. At this time Moscow is as yet in the early stages of establishing its role as a major player in the global economy. But its dominant position in a large economy, rich in natural resources and human capital, and its reach over neighboring countries in eastern Europe and Asia hold out great promise.

Beijing played a role similar to that of Moscow in the ideological confrontations, support of allies, and proxy wars of the second half of the 20th century. If this was the epoch of the Cold War in Western eyes, it was also the time of a fierce contest between Beijing and Moscow, over the leadership of developing countries in particular. Today China is further along than Russia in establishing itself as a major force in the global economy. The difference in the distance traveled is evidenced by the contrast between Moscow's small stock exchange and the large capitalization of its Shanghai counterpart. Indeed, Shanghai boasts a stock market far larger than any other in the developing world except for Hong Kong, now also part of China (Table 1). At the same time China, because of the size of its economy, enjoys greater freedom of action vis-à-vis foreign political powers and world markets than is the lot of any other poor country. Still, with China's entry in the World Trade Organization the policy of shielding inefficient state industries from competition will have to be abandoned.

The rapid integration of parts of the Chinese economy with the global economy has entailed the emergence of severe inequalities within cities and among regions across the huge country. Urban inequalities will be further exacerbated as state industries are abandoned to their fate in the market economy. These inequalities stand in stark contrast to the rather egalitarian patterns of earlier days, even if those days saw severe urban/rural inequities that in effect relegated rural dwellers to second-class citizenship.20 It remains to be seen whether the state-party apparatus can continue to effectively contain urban protest and regional dissension.

Alvin So recounts how Hong Kong pursued a trajectory separate from China since it became a British colony in 1842. He provides an analysis of the interplay between the colonial power, the powerful state next door overshadowing the tiny enclave, and regional dynamics that forged the fortunes of Hong Kong. The rulers changed in 1997, and the Hong Kong "Special Administrative Region" is no longer all that separate from China. At this time it would appear that the future of Hong Kong will be even more closely directed by government in Hong Kong and in Bejing. As a British colony Hong Kong could by and large restrict immigration to those that could be productively employed, and the authorities have continued to effectively control migration. We may surmise, however, that the Chinese government, given a choice, will direct resources away from Hong Kong which stands as an island of privilege in a poor country.

Janet Salaff examines how the state's social engineering transformed the lives of Singapore's citizenry. An expanding system of quality education and training established a highly skilled labour force. A pension scheme ensured a high savings rate. Central city slums and village settlements were replaced by high-rise buildings, and the apartments were increasingly owner-occupied. The population thus was drawn ever more tightly into the market economy, and a growing proportion of women joined the labor force. Singaporeans became less dependent on the support of kin and neighbors. Residential and occupational mobility further weakened community ties. The assurance of economic security in old age, the employment of women, and anti-natal policies led to a precipitous drop in fertility. Within less than a generation, the state had "modernized" the family. This transformation greatly reduced differences in family styles, even while it reproduced class differences. These policies were explicitly designed as part and parcel of a corporatist approach to economic development that made Singapore into an affluent world city within just a generation. The success of these policies in turn provided the resources for the ambitious social programs. Unlike cities with rural hinterlands, these programs were shielded from poor that could not be productively employed: they were kept outside the city state's gates.

Dean Forbes details how the Suharto regime's "New Order" politics shaped Jakarta. The Indonesian economy and polity were centralized in the national capital which is the hub of domestic and international transport networks. Almost half of all employment created by foreign and domestic investment in Indonesia has been located in Jabotabek, the metropolitan area. Wages were higher, and standards of living superior, than elsewhere in Indonesia, but unlike Moscow, Hong Kong, and Singapore, Jakarta was unable to control in-migration. The city thus became characterized by stark social and economic disparities. When the Liquidity Crisis hit in 1997, an autocratic regime that had lasted more than three decades soon disintegrated. The economic shock, more strongly felt in Jakarta than elsewhere in Indonesia, thus was exacerbated by the political developments. Pressures mounted for political power and economic resources to be decentralized across the far-flung country. The resolution of the continuing political crisis will profoundly affect Jakarta's future. In the meantime political uncertainty constrains its global aspirations.

The Strength of Popular Movements

Political changes tend to be initiated in world cities. They are home to powerful financial and commercial interests, a sizeable professional class, a substantial working class, and a large student body. Such environments are more receptive to global social trends, and they develop their own variants. And they provide an attractive arena for protest movements - which is likely to be well covered by national and international media. Popular movements in these cities constitute an important third level of political actors beyond the global and the state.

Jakarta has been the primary setting for the political and economic crises that shook Indonesia over the last few years. Student and worker demonstrations were an important catalyst in the events leading to the resignation of Suharto. Student groups maintained demonstrations of opposition to the successor regime of Habibie. Students and other demonstrators provided an important source of support for the election of Wahid and, to a lesser extent, his successor Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Maria Helena Moreira Alves shows how urban workers successfully changed the politics of São Paulo and beyond. If the state transformed the lives of Singapore's citizenry, São Paulo's workers transformed the local and national polities. The concentration of foreign and national investment had made São Paulo into Latin America's foremost industrial city - and it spawned the New Labor Movement in the late 1970's. The movement came to play a major role in undermining the military regime and bringing civilian rule to Brazil eventually. From the labor movement the powerful Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) emerged. The PT came to control São Paulo, other major cities, and some states. Its leader Luis Ignácio da Silva was elected President of Brazil in 2002. São Paulo had become an "exporter of ideas," ideas that transformed the politics of Brazil, that shaped the negotiations over the protections for labor in MERCOSUR, the common market of the Southern Cone, and that reverberate across the globe in organizations such as the World Social Forum. São Paulo is a remarkable case of globalization profoundly impacting a city through foreign direct investment, of an effective labor movement arising in the multinational production sites, and of this movement in turn having a profound impact on the city, on the nation, on the region, and across the globe.

Sujata Patel joins Alves in emphasizing the importance of local popular movements. However, the movements in São Paulo and Mumbai are quite distinct in terms of recruitment and ideology. In São Paulo the movement was launched and continues to be spearheaded by an industrial worker elite, whereas the Shiv Sena in Mumbai effectively displaced an earlier trade union movement that in its heyday had wielded considerable power. The Shiv Sena set out as an ethnic movement recruiting from the Marathi-speaking underclass to fight for the rights of the "sons-of-the-soil." Subsequently it shifted to projecting itself as a Hindu party. Shiv Sena's populist religious mobilization reenforced similar trends in the State of Maharashtra and at the national level. Throughout the movement defined itself in opposition to communists and secularists and promoted vigilante politics. Traditions of democracy, multiculturalism, and civility have declined in a city that used to pride itself on being India's most cosmopolitan city.

Owen Crankshaw and Susan Parnell, in the last contribution, relate the transformation Johannesburg experiences at this time. Soweto, the large city were the majority of Johannesburg's African workers had been ghettoized, was the scene of the fiercest and most effective internal opposition to the apartheid regime. In this case, unlike São Paulo and Mumbai, a global popular movement played a major role in supporting the opposition and boycotting South Africa - a process of globalization quite different from the common understanding of globalization. Now we witness the unraveling of the urban configuration the white minority regime created and see Johannesburg taking on a leading role in Africa South of the Sahara. Alongside the demise of apartheid policies, a dramatic decline in manufacturing employment and an increase in service sector employment have contributed to growing intra-racial inequality between urbanized Africans and immigrants from rural areas.


This volume is the first to systematically cover those cities in poor countries that most clearly can be considered world cities. It considers twelve cities in four continents in their economic, political, and cultural dimensions. Leading authorities on these cities, representing several disciplines, offer a range of different approaches.

Three conclusions stand out. For one, these cities are extraordinarily diverse. They have had very different histories, their present economic and political circumstances vary, they are variously articulated with their respective regions and across the globe, and their demographic dynamics differ. The foremost conclusion of our systematic approach is how problematic most generalizations about world cities are. This diversity has policy implications. Any policy intended to improve a city's global standing needs to focus on specific circumstances rather than simply trying to emulate some presumed model.

Globalization has brought dramatic improvements in the standard of living of a significant proportion of the population in these cities. The most visible manifestation of this consumer elite is the striking transformation of the city center to be found in virtually all our cities. The consequent displacement of inner-city residents is only the most striking aspect of the more general issue: the severe inequalities characteristic of most poor countries, and of their cities in particular, have been further exacerbated in most of these world cities. At the same time, as the economic fortunes of these cities have become ever more closely entwined with the global economy, their populations have been exposed to sudden reversals of fortune that are not cushioned by public systems of support such as exist in rich countries.

The final conclusion that these accounts impose is that any general analysis of world cities has to recognize, along with the forces of globalization, the strength of the state and the power of popular movements. States have demarcated the path to world city status taken by several of our cities. While the policies pursued were usually intended to further global integration, they were also very much shaped by political and cultural context and differed from one state to another. In several more cities popular movements imposed their imprint. The state and civil society have to be brought into the analysis of world cities.


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* This is the Introduction to an edited volume World Cities Beyond the West: Globalization, Development and Inequality to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2003. The Table of Contents may be found at the end of the Introduction. The editor can be reached at

1. The academic debate on world cities was launched by Friedmann (1986) and reprised in World Cities in a World System (Knox and Taylor, 1995). Sassen's The Global City (2001, first published in 1991) stands as the landmark study. Sassen (1997) and Yeoh (1999) offer overviews of the burgeoning field - and demonstrate how lopsided its development has been in terms of research and analysis remaining by and large limited to rich countries.

2. See, however, Dick and Rimmer (1998) who argue the convergence of spatial patterns between south-east Asian and U.S. cities. And Cohen (1996) suggests that cities in the "North" and the "South" are becoming more alike in the problems they share: growing unemployment, declining infrastructure, deteriorating environment, collapsing social compact, and institutional weakness.

3. Ward (1995) has pointed out how research in poor countries on major topics such as urban social movements, informal-formal sector interactions and interdependence, and the dynamics of household and female insertion in the labor market, has stimulated work elsewhere.

4. Short et al. (1996) present such other data as were available on cities as major financial centers, seats of corporation headquarters, telecommunication nodes, transportation nodes, and sites of global spectacles by the mid-1990s. These data were extremely limited, and their significance was quite problematic. There has not been much progress since except for the work of P.J. Taylor and his associates and of Brian Godfrey and Yu Zhou that I draw on here.

5. Taylor (2000) offers a spirited argument for the significance of these indicators in assessing world city status.

6. Another five cities in poor countries ranked among the 43 cities with the highest global network connecticity: Beijing, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, and Warsaw. Except for Istanbul, they are situated in regions where cities included in this volume score higher and are more important in other respects as well.

7. Another six cities in poor countries are among the 32 cities that had more than 14 first-level subsidiaries of the world's 100 largest corporations: Beijing, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Istanbul, and Manila.

8. Only two other cities in poor countries, Kuala Lumpur and Rio de Janeiro, had stock market capitalizations exceeding US$ 110 billion.

9. Teheran may be similarly seen as a global ideological center, in this case a resurgent Islam that rejects Western ways.

10. Larkin's (1998: 140-92) analysis of the success of Bollywood productions in Northern Nigeria, where they have all but displaced films from Hollywood and Hong Kong, serves to emphasize that conceptions of global cultural flows that privilege the centrality of the West fail to recognize the common historical process of peripheries that are engaged alongside centers in contemporary cultural production.

11. I included Shanghai rather than Beijing in this volume because of its growing importance in the global economy, but the capital of the world's largest, and increasingly powerful, nation clearly plays a major regional and global role.

12. Excellent satellite images of all our cities, except Singapore, are presented in Beckel (2001).

13. Purchasing power parity converts currencies to U.S. dollars according to their purchasing power, i.e. one dollar has the same purchasing power over domestic GNI that the U.S. dollar has over U.S. GNI.

14. When Nigeria and the Belgian Congo / Zaïre became independent in 1960, Lagos and Léopoldville/Kinshasa appeared set to become the major regional centers in Africa South of the Sahara, while Johannesburg was handicapped by the increasing isolation of the apartheid regime. But four decades of disastrous political developments in the two countries thwarted the potential of their leading cities.

15. Robert's (1997) quite recent discussion of "citizenship," i.e. political, civil, and social rights, in Latin America, which had Brazil lagging the countries of the Southern Cone, may already be in need of revision.

16. Even in the absence of major party divisions, nearly all the cities considered here suffer from divided jurisdictions that impede the effective administration of their metropolitan areas.

17. For a discussion of the urban-rural connection in Africa, and the major social and political implications, see Gugler (2002).

18. Hong Kong and Singapore have rather high growth rates, but a large part of their population growth is due to immigration.

19. Brockerhoff (1999) has shown, for developing countries, that the largest cities of countries and their capitals tended to grow substantially faster than other cities between the 1970s and the 1990s. Regional and global status might be expected to likewise stimulate in-migration and boost population growth. However, recent growth of our cities is not particularly high compared to other cities in the same countries.

20. Whyte and Parish (1984) produced the classic account of what was the largest program of urban social engineering ever, perhaps the most far-reaching as well: the efforts to transform the city that were carried out in China - and abandoned. Chen and Parish (1996) and Davis (1997) provide updates.


Table 1: Economic and Demographic Indicators for Cities and Countries
















(US$ million)



inter-regional, and

total international

destinations of

direct flights1









rate (%)










rate (%)


GNI at


per capita



Hong Kong




12 + 63 = 75






Hong Kong SAR2





34 + 74 = 108







São Paulo




174 + 85 + 22 = 47







Mexico City




167 + 325 + 9 = 57







Bombay/ Mumbai




3 + 47 = 50











4 + 25 = 29











14 + 77 = 91









1 + 16


16 + 24 = 40











48 + 86 = 134









3 + 23


42 + 51 = 93






South Korea





40 + 26 = 66






South Africa





188 + 209 + 39 = 77









5 + 45


113 + 169 = 282






United Kingdom

New York


24 + 45


514 + 810 + 75 = 134






United States



30 + 36


10 + 71 = 81







1 International flights within a city's region (East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Western Europe, Middle East, Africa, the Americas) and between regions scheduled for September 2001.

2 Special Administrative Region of China.

3 The stock market capitalization includes other stock market(s) in the same country.

4 International flights to destinations in South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico.

5 Flights to destinations in the U.S. and Canada.

6 The annual population growth rate is for a longer period.

7 International flights to destinations in South America, the Caribbean, and Central America.

8 International flights to destinations in Africa.

9 International flights to destinations in the Middle East.

10 Flights to destinations in Canada.


Global network connectivity from Taylor (2002); headquarters and subsidiaries from Godfrey and Zhou (1999, 2000); flight departures from OAG (2001); city population and annual growth from United Nations (2002); country data, including stock market capitalization, from World Bank (2002).

World Cities in Poor Countries: Table of Contents

The Authors

Josef Gugler

I The Impact of the Global Political Economy

1. Shanghai: Remaking China's Future Global City
Weiping Wu and Shahid Yusuf

2. Seoul: Complementing Economic Success with Games
Yeong-Hyun Kim

3. Bangkok: Evolution and Adaptation Under Stress
Douglas Webster

4. Cairo: Too Many People, Not Enough Land, Too Few Resources
Janet L. Abu-Lughod

5. Mexico City's Future in an Era of Globalization
Peter M. Ward

II The Impact of the State

6. Moscow's Changing Fortunes Under Three Regimes
James H. Bater

7. Hong Kong's Pathway to Becoming a Global City
Alvin Y. So

8. Singapore: Forming the Family for a World City
Janet W. Salaff

9. Jakarta: Globalization, Economic Crisis, and Social Change
Dean Forbes

III The Impact of Popular Movements

10. São Paulo: The Political and Socio-Economic Transformations Wrought by the New Labor Movement in the City and Beyond
Maria Helena Moreira Alves

11. Bombay/Mumbai: Globalization, Inequalities, and Politics
Sujata Patel

12. Johannesburg: Race, Inequality, and Urbanization
Owen Crankshaw and Susan Parnell

Saskia Sassen


Edited and posted on the web on 14th October 2002

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in J Gugler (ed) (2004) World Cities beyond the West: Globalization, Development, and Inequality Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-26