THe Blog

May 02, 2016

Megacities, Not Nations, Are the World’s Dominant, Enduring Social Structures

 

In this Quartz article, Parag Khanna emphasizes megacities and megacity regions are "magnets for regional wealth....[and have] been the most significant contributor to shifting the world’s focal point of economic activity". These cityregions "deserve more nuanced treatment on our maps than simply as homogeneous black dots" he says.

 

"This map from my new book, Connectography, shows the distribution of the entire world’s population, with yellow representing the most dense areas. These zones are, not surprisingly, where you find the dashed ovals that represent the world’s burgeoning megacities, each of which represents a large percentage of national GDP (indicated by the larger circles) in addition to its role as a global hub...

 

By 2025, there will be at least 40 such megacities. The population of the greater Mexico City region is larger than that of Australia, as is that of Chongqing, a collection of connected urban enclaves in China spanning an area the size of Austria. Cities that were once hundreds of kilometers apart have now effectively fused into massive urban archipelagos, the largest of which is Japan’s Taiheiyo Belt that encompasses two-thirds of Japan’s population in the Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka megalopolis...

 

China’s Pearl River delta, Greater São Paulo, and Mumbai-Pune are also becoming more integrated through infrastructure. At least a dozen such megacity corridors have emerged already. China is in the process of reorganizing itself around two dozen giant megacity clusters of up to 100 million citizens each. And yet by 2030, the second-largest city in the world behind Tokyo is expected not to be in China, but Manila in the Philippines...

 

America’s rising multi-city clusters are as significant as any of these, even if their populations are smaller. Three in particular stand out. First, the East Coast corridor from Boston through New York to Washington, DC contains America’s academic brain, financial center, and political capital (the only thing missing is a high-speed railway to serve as the regional spine)...

 

There are far more functional cities in the world today than there are viable states. Indeed, cities are often the islands of governance and order in far weaker states where they extract whatever rents they can from the surrounding country while also being indifferent to it. This is how Lagos views Nigeria, Karachi views Pakistan, and Mumbai views India: the less interference from the capital, the better...

 

It is, of course, very difficult if not impossible to neatly disentangle the interdependencies between city and state, whether territorially, demographically, economically, ecologically, or socially. That is not the point. Across the world, city leaders and their key businesses set up Special Economic Zones and directly recruit investors into their orbit to ensure that their workers are hired and benefits accrue locally rather than nationally. This is all the sovereignty they want."

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