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Q1: What common features do major world cities do you expect to have?
The world has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of major world cities in this century. This phenomenon also signals a shift in the balance of international economics, away from Europe towards Asia. Per haps the predominant question concerning this issue is what constitutes a major world city. This can best be explained by examining the features that major world cities share.
Generally, major world cities are often the capitals of the countries concerned. Sydney, for example, is the capital city of Australia. A major world city is cosmopolitan. As such, it is not surprising that all world cities are economic hubs and are the centres of commercial activity in their countries. They are the economic centres of the world. It is interesting to note that usually, these cities’ economies are tertiary based, meaning they are more service-oriented and place less emphasis on industry and agriculture. Singapore, for example, is renowned for the tertiary facet of her economy and often “exports” knowledge of her services to other countries. Major world cities often have high productivity rates as well. Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul are all examples of this.
A skyline of skyscrapers is perhaps the most recognisable feature of a major world city. Due to the lack of land in the city’s economic heart, it is commonplace to see buildings of superlative proportions in major world cities. The infrastructure in these places is also highly developed and they have interconnecting networks of roads and buildings and are likely to boast some of the most advanced telecommunications networks in the world. These cities also have great airports and seaports so as to facilitate visits from foreign businessmen or tourists. Amsterdam and Singapore, for example, have the finest airports and seaports in the world. The technology in these cities is also likely to be highly sophisticated, as can be seen in Tokyo and New York. Due to the abovementioned factors, world cities often host international conventions and meetings. Geneva is often the meeting place of the signatories of treaties, and similarly the United Nations headquarters is located in New York.
Major world cities often possess lower infant mortality rates and higher life expectancy rates, compared to other parts of their own countries. This can be largely explained by the advanced medical and health care services in these cities. Berlin, for example, has one of the best medical services in the world. This, however, is coupled with the extremely high costs of living in the cities. People from all over the world, even Japanese, complain about how exorbitant prices are in Tokyo. However, this high cost of living is often accompanied by a high standard of living as well, which basically means that residents of these cities enjoy an amazing array of goods and services, nearly everything from the wonderful West and the fabulous East, so to speak.
However, apart from all these “boons” that are associated with major world cities there are the hectic and often suffocating lifestyles of their residents. These cities often have very high literacy rates, which often mean that society in these cities is largely meritocratic. This is especially so in Asian cities such as Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore. Everyone is struggling to climb the corporate ladder and be competitive. As a result, the residents of the cities often suffer from severe stress and in extreme cases, depression. Observers comment that people from these cities often do not realise there is a lighter side to life, that they often have no time to stop and “smell the roses”. This “rat race” prevalent in most, if not all, major world cities is said to have a debilitating effect on their residents, who become so caught up in the competition. nothing else matters to them.
Another telling characteristic is perhaps the high crime rates generally associated with these cities. Apart from exceptions such as Singapore, most of these cities, like New York and Amsterdam, have appalling crime rates. This is perhaps an inevitable aspect of living in the midst of glitz and glamour. Residents who cannot catch up in the “rat race” often resort to crime to satisfy their wants. Furthermore, the infrastructure and even the social aspects of these cities are often conducive to criminal activities. Amsterdam is often used as a meeting point for drug traffickers to exchange their goods.
It is not difficult to see that major world cities do in deed share a lot of similarities. No matter how many similarities there are economically, physically or socially, however, each major city will have its own unique set of characteristics, which give each city its unique character.