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Chicago’s Global Clout: Now and In the Future

Two new reports see Chicago’s position among world cities staying relatively stable, at least compared to our national peers; the real growth will be among China’s biggest cities. On the other hand, we’re “becoming more important geopolitically than the United States is as a country,” so we’ve got that going for us.

chicago bean millennium park

 

Good news! While some folks think Washington D.C. is eating our lunch thanks to the growth of the federal government and its attendant lobbyists, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the management consultants at A.T. Kearney think we’re ship-shape:

The categories are, in order from left to right: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. Some of the methodology is sensible (“headquarters of major global corporations"), some of it seems like a bit of a stretch (“robustness of results when searching for the city name in major languages"), but I’m unsurprised to see that Chicago is pretty well balanced—not dominant in anything, but a solid role-player of a city.

The exception is “political engagement,” or “how a city influences global policy dialogue.” We should get a little boost from NATO (“number of political conferences a city hosts"), though a think-tank arguing that number of think-tanks is a metric seems like pressing on the scale. Besides, we have a school of economics named after us, or at least my alma mater, that’s widely accused of having destroyed the American economy. Let’s see your think-tank do that; I think that should count for something. If not, Obama’s last act as president should be to name Chicago the nation’s capital. Seeing as D.C. suffers in “cultural experience” (food, sports, tourists, museums, etc.) we’ll send them Grant Achatz, Hot Doug’s, and the Cubs in exchange. D.C. is gaining on us, but they’ve got a lot of gastronomy to go before they get there.

And there’s this: Washington, New York, and Chicago (not LA) are “becoming more important geopolitically than the United States is as a country.” How’s that? “Geopolitical urban vectors,” according to Saskia Sassen:

“[G]eopolitical urban vectors are becoming a sort of infrastructure for the global economy, which is increasingly not about state-to-state transactions, but rather about urban axes that bring together key cities.

It’s an extremely world-is-flat, globalist look at cities, but since a lot of people have been puzzled as to why we’d go to the trouble of bringing NATO and the G8 here, I think it’s a good look into that mindset. Speaking of which, h/t Richard Florida.

(Which counts a lot. If I was mayor, I’d be ambivalent about NATO but extremely pro-World Cup as a much more awesome example of globalization. Everyone has their issue.)

Meanwhile, McKinsey & Co. looked into their Magic 8-Ball and saw our future in less fine-grained terms:

That would represent a substantial slip from 2010 in terms of GDP, but status quo in terms of American cities. It’s the growth of China that’s the big story.

 

Photograph: terren in Virginia (CC by 2.0)

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