Essay about Global Cities

The term “global city” was first used by Saskia Sassen, a well-known world specialist in urban strategies. It is also referred to as “world city” or world-class city”. This is a term which she describes or categorizes a city/ies which has a great deal of effect and influence on global affairs. Such cities create a “hub” for economic, political and cultural changes all across the globe.

The concept of a global city should be taken as a component of a global network of strategic sites. No global city exist as a single entity but serves as a function of cross-border networks, having “production functions” in their economic, political, cultural and even lifestyle areas being interlinked with other global cities.

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There are various criteria that categorize a city as a global city. Two main criteria are economic production function, which has to do with the city having the resources and capabilities necessary in managing its global operations of firms and markets, both local and foreign/multi-nationals. Global cities are able to ensure the existence, reproduction and renovation of these resources and capabilities through various forms of leadership and international economic diplomacy.

The political production function on the other hand pertains to producing or strengthening the professional elites, and creates a conducive environment for these national, and or foreign corporate professionals. Such a conducive environment is achieved by global cities since these are partly denationalized, furthering its ability to attract large foreign businesses and related expatriate communities.

In addition to these two main criteria, “culture production function” is also an important global ingredient. It must have a world-class culture, with world-renowned cultural institutions such as museums and universities, including its Lifestyle issues. It has a lively cultural scene, hosting film festivals, premieres, a thriving music or theatre scene such as that in Broadway. There is also an increasing presence of the servicing class which caters for the lifestyle of the new professionals and managerial elites. Such as nannies, housekeepers, etc. which serves as an indicator of a global city. It is also marked by physical expansions for its urban glamour zone (See “What you need to be a Global City”).

Other key important characteristics which global cities share include international, first-name familiarity. Such cities have gained world-wide popularity that the mere mention of its name is accepted and equated to its country, such as when one mentions Paris; it is automatically understood to mean Paris, France. Tokyo is readily assumed to mean Tokyo, Japan without mentioning the country or political subdivisions. It must also have a great influence and participation in world affairs.

A global city is the center of a metropolitan area possessing a fairly large population of at least one million people. As a major economic center, it should have an advanced transportation system which includes and international airport, that serves as a host for several international airlines; several freeways and large mass transit network. Global cities are also characterized by advanced communications infrastructure such as fiber optics, Wi-Fi networks, cellular phone services, and other high-speed lines of communications with which national and foreign firms can rely on.

Traditionally, the cities of London, New York city, Paris, and Tokyo known as the “big four” world cities have become the symbols of global capitalism. The goal of building a “world-class” city has become an obsession to some and has gained success in emerging new world-city such as Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Sydney, and Toronto all of which have become large and influential.

The Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC), in its attempt to categorize world cities ranked cities based on provision of “advanced producer services” in areas of accountancy, finance and law, advertising which are owned by foreign or international firms. GaWC came up with categorization of these world cities in three levels and several sub-ranks. Those that were given much consideration were cities having multi-national companies that provided financial and consulting services rather than being a cultural or political centre. These three major categories are the alpha (full service); beta (major); and gamma (minor) world cities.

The “big four” world-cities received the highest rank, followed by Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore. Receiving the highest rank among Beta world cities are San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto, and Zurich. Second ranks on this category are Brussels, Madrid, Mexico City, Sao Paulo. These are followed by Moscow and Seoul. Gamma world cities with first ranking are Amsterdam, Boston, Caracas, Dallas, and Geneva among others. Next in rank within this category include Bangkok, Beijing, Montreal, Rome, Stockholm and Warsaw. Last in ranking among minor world cities are Atlanta, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manila, Miami, Shanghai, Munich, Kuala Lumpur, and Istanbul (See “Global City” from Wikipedia).

The inventory done by GaWc in 1999 undoubtedly considered Amsterdam a global city, despite ranking it in the third category. Based on the above mentioned characteristics, Amsterdam fits the category. It is the seat of one of the world’s chief stock exchanges, at the same time boasting of having a major port.

Amsterdam is also world-renown for its diamond-cutting industry, and one of the great commercial, intellectual, and artistic capitals of Europe. What makes it unique is the North Sea Canal which opened in 1876 which accommodates large oceangoing vessels, connected by the older North Holland Canal. In fact, the city is cut by about 40 concentric and radial canals containing streets and crossed by 400 bridges. These canals gave the city its nickname, “Venice of the North”.

The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal connects the city with the Rhine delta, and consequently with the industrial North West Germany. There is considerable transit trade within these canals. Its manufacturing firms include clothing, printed materials and metal goods. This city is a major road and rail hub, with Schiphol airport serving as an established hub for several international airlines. The Amsterdam Area is strategically positioned with a network of air, road, water, rail and cable connections to the rest of Europe. Its international airport and major seaport makes the city a multi-model hub, providing easy global accessibility because of its unique position as a gateway to all major European markets.

Tourism is an important industry since the city offers a unique experience with many old and picturesque houses along the canals which are now mostly used as offices and warehouses. Amsterdam is built on wooden and concrete piles because of its underlying soft ground. It is an ethnically diverse city with new residents from former Dutch colonies such as Indonesia and Suriname.

Amsterdam is home to art works done by world-famous Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, found in Rijksmuseum or National Museum built in 1808 by Bonaparte. Of equally famous are the Van Gogh museum, the house of Anne Frank, and Rembrandt’s house. The Concertgebouw Orchestra provides a lively cultural scene. Cultural institutions include the University of Amsterdam founded as an academy way back in 1632 and achieved university status by 1876, and has been serving as the largest learning center in Netherlands. The Free University (Calvinist) is also found in this city (See “Amsterdam”).

Likewise, the Economic Intelligence Unit’s Global Outlook Country Forecast Ranking of 2005 has named Netherlands as the best country to do business in the euro zone. Every five years, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) draws a list of ten best countries with which to do business and Netherlands is in sixth place, the highest among other countries in the euro zone. Amsterdam as Netherland’s capital is a thriving hub for business and industry. It has continued its traditional openness to the world and thus creating an excellent business environment able to offer a competitive cost to quality ratio, and an elite international network of professional services designed to assist international businesses. It also offers highly educated, flexible and motivated workforce with a high degree of English proficiency compared to other European countries.

International network of service providers in the city allows great outsourcing opportunities. Amsterdam is one of the most ‘wired’ regions in Europe, where the largest Internet exchange on the continent, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) is located. The area has attracted many international ICT and telecoms companies because of its excellent IT infrastructure. Amsterdam also boasts of a strong creative industry such as advertising, design and publishing.

Guy Hayward has noted Amsterdam’s rise as a key player in the global advertising market. One such example is 180, an Amsterdam-based agency which is snatching multinational clients from traditional groups in London or New York. It has housed diverse nationalities, represented by twenty nationalities in its roughly estimated ninety employees. Such a scenario is not unusual in Amsterdam where other firms are attracting marketers’ attention such as Wiede+Kennedy, and Strawberry Frog ( E. Pfanner, “A World of Expertise at Home in Amsterdam)

 It is a centre for life sciences activities in Europe, with a well established infrastructure, informatics and biomedical research. It has a high standard of expertise in areas including integrative bio-informatics and genomics for the treatment of infectious inflammatory and multi-factoral diseases, oncology, immunology, cardiology, cell and medical biology, including neurosciences. It contains the highest concentration of knowledge within the country.

The Amsterdam Area is one the world’s favorite places to live and work, offering a high quality of life for its constituents. Even foreign visitors and expatriates feel quickly at home. The city has been a ‘melting pot’ for many centuries. The city of Amsterdam has truly gained world-wide popularity with other nationals because of its lively, international, and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Allowing dual citizenship has made the city home to a number of foreign nationals. The second largest Japanese community in Europe can be found in Amstelveen. A variety of international schools, associations and social centers in Amsterdam Area caters to its large community of expatriates (See “Doing Business in Amsterdam”).

As part of the new city marketing campaign, I amsterdam is the new motto for Amsterdam Area to assert itself continually on the international stage. Showcasing the city’s strengths for centuries are its enterprising, innovative and creative qualities, making its mark on the global level (See “Amsterdam City Marketing”).


  1. “What you need to be a Global City”.
  2. “Global City” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  3. “Amsterdam”.
  4. Pfanner, E.  “A World of Expertise at Home in Amsterdam”.
  5. “Doing Business in Amsterdam”.
  6. “Amsterdam City Marketing”.


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