Nature and Spatial Distribution of World Cities
A world city is a large city that has outstripped it’s national urban network and acts as a gate way for it’s region or country into the global economy where they are in a position to command and control. World cities are defined by their characteristics which include such things as being home to the head quarters for many Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and being the seat of political power in the country. Because of their nature and characteristics, world cities are often in a position where they can dominate the global economy and other urban centers become dependent on the decisions made in world cities. The spatial distribution of world cities varies between the three types of world cities. There are dominant, major and secondary world cities.
Nature and Character of World Cities
World cities generally have most of or all of the following characteristics, they are:
• Centers of political power
• Home to many of the worlds TNCs
• Centers of world trade and communications
• Leaders in banking and finance
• Centers of specialized high-order business services, especially international law and finance
• World leaders in entertainment and lifestyle
• Tourist hot spots
• Command centers in the global economy
With the emergence of globalization the global economy has seen increased integration and impact between individual nations and economies. This has caused a shift to occur from trade relations being controlled by governments to a situation where the global economy is dominated by TNCs. To illustrate this over 50% of world trade is within or between TNCs. Globalization has been assisted and essentially made possible through improved technology, especially telecommunications technology such as the internet and improved transport. This increased integration has made possible the centralization of command and control functions in a small number of dominant world cities because information and resources can be sent between these centers instantaneously. Therefore the concentration of power in these world cities is increasing and they are becoming more and more dominant over the global economy. World cities are in essence the network that makes up the global economy. The reason why leaders in the world of commerce are increasingly locating themselves in world cities is so that they can network with other businesses like themselves, access the latest market trends and developments while they enjoy the lifestyle and cultural opportunities available in world cities.
As the command and control function in the global economy is increasingly centralized to world cities, individual nations are losing their ability to make decisions independent of the global economy. Therefore world cities are the places where major financial and corporate institutions are congregated and where decisions are made that drive the global economy. Hence the reason why there cities come into positions of domination over the global economy. An example of this is the car industry in South Australia, recently TNCs have closed car manufacturing plants in an effort to reduce their costs of production and move the plants to a place where the cost of labor are cheaper. This example shows how the decisions made in world cities have far reaching effects, in this case on job creation and economic success in South Australia. These decisions that significantly effect the local economy of south Australia where not even made in Australia and in this way world cities have the ability to command and control the global economy. In regard to the physical nature and character of world cities, or their built environment, they tend to be at the forefront in terms of social infrastructure that allows for face-to-face interaction between people so as to develop global business and social networks. Therefore world cities have office buildings, international hotels, conference centers, apartment blocks and prestige residences. They also have specialized areas of the city where a certain type of service can be located, e.g; the financial district. World cities also offer opportunities for highly paid professionals to enjoy a pampered
and glamorous lifestyle. As a part of this lifestyle while businesses are in negotiations, they like to have the opportunity to treat their clients or business partners to luxury food, accommodation and world class entertainment. This social infrastructure is then re-enforced by efficient, world-class transportation systems in order to maintain their global reach.
Spatial Distribution of World Cities
There are three groups of world cities, these groups are dominant, major and secondary world cities. The dominant cities are London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. These cities exercise the most power over the global economy. One step down are the major world cities, these cities do not have the all encompassing power of the dominant cities however they do link large national economies to the global system. Examples of these cities are Zurich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and Osaka. There are then the secondary world cities, including Sydney, Milan and Chicago. Secondary world cities provide a link between their regions to the global economy. The largest concentration of world cities is in Western Europe which is home to approximately 12 of them, including London, Rome and Berlin. Closely following Western Europe, the USA is home to at least 8 world cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Houston. Asia has approximately 7, including Tokyo and Singapore. On other continents world cities are relatively sparse, they include Johannesburg in Africa, Sydney in Australia as well as Mexico City in Central America and Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires in South America. Out of 32 world cities (2004) only 4 are located in the southern hemisphere. Very few of these world cities are in developing countries, the thing that defines world cities is their role in key global economic functions rather than simply the size of their populations. World cities are characterized by the links that they have to the global economy and the degree to which they are integrated in the command and control mechanism of the global system. These links include such things as being centres of political power as well as being home to many head quarters for TNCs. These links put these cities in a position to dominate the rest of the global economy, so that they are dependent on the decisions made in world cities.