Now that China’s State Council has released its blueprint for turning the Pearl River Delta into the “Greater Bay Area” with the ambitious goal to create a “world class city cluster” by 2022, what is the comparative status of cities of the region in the global network of world cities?
The Globalisation and World Cities Network (GaWC) has been tracking inter-city relations and networks between world cities for more than 20 years. The GaWC researchers at Loughborough University (UK) are analysing the network power of cites based on interlinkages, transactions and flows between the individual cities. They believe this is a good thing, increasing knowledge and people flows to enable the development of world cities.
Looking at the data between 2000 and today, Shenzhen and Guangzhou have significantly increased their transactions with other international cities, but Macau and Zhuhai are still very much emerging cities.
During this time, Hong Kong has always been the most connected city (a so-called Alpha + city), following the two even more connected cities (Alpha ++) New York and London.
Source: GaWC City Link Classification 2018 (link here)
The other cities mentioned in the Chinese government’s Greater Bay plan (Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing) are, despite being large cities, not internationally connected and currently not part of the global network of world cities. Size is not a criteria for being a globally connected world city; both Zurich and Frankfurt are “Alpha” cities with a population about the size of Macau.
The aspiration of the Chinese government to develop the Greater Bay Area into dynamic innovation and knowledge spaces comparable to the greater Tokyo and San Francisco area, however, takes time and requires more than a government plan.
The GaWC data clearly shows that Hong Kong has been the only globally connected city in the Pearl River Delta over a long time; Guangzhou and Shenzhen reached world city connectivity much later and Zhuhai and Macau have only begun building world wide connections in the past decade.
Will cities of the Pearl River Delta become part of the world-wide network of global nodes and hubs faster through the Greater Bay Plan? Perhaps the next edition of the GaWC will show whether Jiangmen or Zhaoqing have improved their global connectivity to appear on the list.
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