You Should Know

You Should Know

What Makes a Global City?

adapted from Richard C. Longworth's On Global Cities

Everybody is talking about global cities. Global cities are where the action is. They shape our world. But what makes a global city? Here's what you should know.
Photo: iSTOCK
Photo: iSTOCK

Global cities drive the global economy.

Some―London, Tokyo, New York―command several sectors. Others―Los Angeles, Brussels, Frankfurt―dominate only one.

They are large, but size alone is not enough.

Cities under one million need not apply. But some of the world’s largest cities—megacities such as Lagos, Kolkata, Karachi—may never be global cities.

They are magnets—

for the best and brightest from around the world, including their nations’ young people.
Photo: iSTOCK

They thrive on great universities,

provide good schools for children, and solid education and skills development for the workers needed to support a city.

They have large foreign-born populations.

Immigrants are attracted to jobs in global cities and, once there, add new blood and verve to the urban vitality.
Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

They are global taste-makers and cultural capitals.

Museums, symphonies, theaters, restaurants, sports, and nightlife are a cause and effect of a global city. Global citizens want to have fun.

They are destinations.

Tourists share their impressions and experiences with others, creating the buzz needed to attract more visitors.

They are politically engaged.

National capitals have an advantage, but non-capital global cities also have consulates, think tanks, and international conferences.

They are hubs of connectivity.

Their infrastructure, including major airports and top-flight broadband, link them around the clock with other global cities.

They are led by global visionaries.

Global city leaders understand their cities’ place in the global economy, and sell this global focus to voters for whom all politics may be local.
Photo: Ana Miyares

They value high quality of life.

This includes public transit, a clean environment, safe streets, good health care, and efficient and honest local government.

They are open.

National policies that limit immigration, restrict trade, censor the media or digital communication make it harder for global cities to thrive.
Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

They are coming to Chicago.

Join some of the world’s leading thinkers at the 2017 Chicago Forum on Global Cities, hosted June 7-9 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times.
©2017 Chicago Council on Global Affairs