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How to Be a Global City

The 2008 Global Cities Index

There is no single correct path a city should tread to become global. But how should cities that want to boost their international profile go about it? They could follow any of the tried-and-true models that came before them. Just look at the various ways some of this year’s 60 global cities manage to use urbanization and globalization to their advantage.

Open Cities

What they look like: Large cities with a free press, open markets, easy access to information and technology, low barriers to foreign trade and investment, and loads of cultural opportunities. They often rely on a heavy service industry and are outward looking, rather than focused on domestic affairs.

Who they are: New York (#1), London (#2), Paris (#3)

Lifestyle Centers

What they look like: Laid-back cities that enjoy a high quality of life and focus on having fun. They attract worldly people and offer cultural experiences to spare.

Who they are: Los Angeles (#6), Toronto (#10)

Regional Gateways

What they look like: Efficient economic powerhouses with favorable incentives for businesses and easy access to the natural resources of their region. They attract smart, well-trained people from around the world, and they often must reinvent themselves to remain competitive.

Who they are: Hong Kong (#5), Singapore (#7), Chicago (#8)

National Leaders

What they look like: Large cities that shape the collective identity of their countries. They usually have homogenous populations, and their new urban policies tend to evoke a shared history. They do well in international business, but not because they’re necessarily globally connected; in these places, foreign firms can find something no other city offers.

Who they are: Tokyo (#4), Seoul (#9), Beijing (#12)

Policy Hubs

What they look like: Cities with outsized influence on national and international policy debates. Their think tanks, international organizations, and political institutions shape policies that affect all people, and they tend to be full of diplomats and journalists from somewhere else.

Who they are: Washington (#11), Brussels (#13)

Platform Cities

What they look like: Large hubs in typically small countries that attract huge amounts of investment through their strategic locations and international connections. Firms don’t set up shop in these cities to invest in the local economy; they move there so they can reach important foreign financial markets without dealing with the region’s political headaches.

Who they are: Amsterdam (#23), Dubai (#27), Copenhagen (#36)

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