The nature character and spatial distribution of world cities: Increasing globalisation has had major impacts on the world urban system. As a result a group of cities has emerged as key nodes in the organisation and functioning of the world, known as World Cities. World cities, such as London and New York are a product of cultural and economic globalisation and act as nodal points for the multiplicity of linkages and interconnections that sustain the functioning of the world economy. These cities have developed distinct characteristics as a result of their dynamic nature, and are spatially distributed around the world.
The emergence of World cities has been due to the globalisation of economic activity, which involves the development of stronger links between various countries. There has been a great acceleration in globalisation and the growth of world cities – due to:
•Technologic development in transport and communication •Deregulation of trade and financial markets •The emergence of and role played by Trans National Corporations (TNC’s) •New ways of undergoing business operations and economic activity •Emergence of a global market for lifestyle related commodities
This process of globalisation and the growth of world cities have had a number of impacts:
•Economic restructuring – A rapid expansion in world trade and relocation of labour intensive manufacturing processes to developing nations (megacities) with cheaper labour. World cities are emerging from the internationalisation of economic activity. TNCs are a key player in this rapid expansion as they have an increase in economic influence not only deciding what to produce but where to produce and distribute it.
•Spatial restructuring patterns in developed areas – the shift from residential and commercial investment in suburbs to higher-cost inner city housing and ‘edge cities’ or ‘technoburbs’ which are distinct urban nodes with larger metropolitan areas. This often targets low income areas which pushes low income people further away from these nodes.
•Social restructuring patterns in developed areas- Urban societies have become more polarised with greater amounts of poverty and wealth. The middle class is stagnating in terms of wealth although there is a splitting into a lower middle class with low paid service sector jobs and an upper middle class who are multiskilled such as in the information based industries. The industrial work class is declining in living standards. The outcome of this restructuring is an increase in disparity in terms of social advantages and disadvantages.
World cities are nodes in the global economy which hold national and international significance due to their economic and cultural influence; World cities possess this economic and cultural authority through various characteristics described below.
-They are command points in the organisation of the global economy -Key locations for a full range of financial services -Markets for a vast range of goods and services
-Existence of social infrastructure that facilitates contact between people face-to-face -A centre for a range of cultural facilities -Provides the opportunity to live a distinctive cultural lifestyle
World cities are spatially dispersed, mainly across the developed world, yet globally integrated through systems of exchange and production. Within the global network of world cities exist several sub systems:
•Western European subsystem – centred on London and Paris. This contains the highest concentration of world cities as it is the it is the initial site of the industrial revolution leading to the interconnection of these cities to each other.
•North American subsystem- centred on New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This is the second largest concentration of world cities as its industrial revolution led to it being a leading manufacturing region of the world and then the leading service region of the world.
•Asian subsystem- centred on Tokyo, Singapore and more recently Shanghai. The Asian world cities most importantly connect regional manufacturing areas such as India and China through Mumbai and Shanghai respectively into the world economy. Other centres such as Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong are also world cities due to their past industrialisation following World War II.
•Southern Hemisphere- linked by Sydney, Johannesburg and Sao Paulo. The southern hemisphere is largely disconnected as much of South America and Africa is still in a developing state but key cities such as Sydney and Sao Paulo connect the respective regions of Australia and Brazil into the global economy.
Due to continued globalisation, a number of projected spatial trends also exist:
•An increase in African cities into a global network may be seen in the future. Africa is a resource rich area, especially in raw minerals and it also has a large population available. These areas are currently marginalised from the global system as there is a lack of infrastructure which allows for the expansion of these economies on a global scale. Despite this marginalisation they do still have connectivity to Europe exporting goods such as oil.
•A shift of power to Asian cities- The Asian region has been industrialising since the end of World War II and cities such as Tokyo have major connectivity and influence as world cities. The economic growth seen areas such as China and India may lead to a high concentration of world cities in this region and a shift in global cultural and economic power.
•An increase in South American cities into the global network. Through countries such as Brazil, which has maintained GDP growth rates of around 10%, as well as this other countries have regional importance which can be linked to the global network through cities such as Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.
•An increase in Middle East cities into the global network. Countries such as the United Arab Emirates have sustained high economic growth rates due to oil exportation which has then been invested into infrastructure such as for tourism. An example of this is in Dubai with major investment in hotels.
This new system of world cities based on the presences of information-based activities is an essential part of the global hierarchy.