Global Cities: Sydney

Angelina A.Malasenkova,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University
Ilya R.Lavrov,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

The article aims to disclose the main resources of globalization in order to explain the phenomenon of global cities. The study is based on the analysis of Sydney as the example of global gateways. The new concept of city operation within the globalization includes concentration of economic, information, scientific, transport and other resources in the huge world centers. Nowadays, the growing participation of other actors in the system of international relations has created the context within which new strategic territories as regions and cities extend their influence. The authors are aimed at resolving the research problem by answering the main questions: what are the new resources provided by globalization, what is the potential of Sydney in terms of historical, economic, technological, cultural and political aspects and, finally, how the city uses globalization to preserve the status of a global city. The study is based on the theoretical approaches developed by prominent political scientists, sociologists and urbanists. The authors have analyzed the secondary data and world ratings to come to conclusions.

Key words: globalization, global gateway, global economy, global city, Sydney, postcolonial states, concentration of resources, world rating.



Contemporary state of globalization to a large degree is characterized by concentration of economic, information, scientific, transport and other resources in the huge world centers regarded as the “gateways to the global economy” (Andersson, 2000). Cross-border economic processes such as flaws of capital, labor, goods and services have long been common for the space of international relations. However, globalization has transformed to a greater extend the inter-state system where the main actors were national states (Sassen, 2004). Today, the growing participation of other actors in the system of international relations has created the context within which new strategic territories articulate the new system.

The concept of global cities became extremely important amid such circumstances. Sub-national actors, especially cities and regions, can interact at regional, national and global levels influencing the global market conjuncture. Thus, the must general definition of a global city presupposes an urban center that enjoys significant competitive advantages and that serves as a hub within a globalized economic system

In terms of developing global gateways, these are networks of confidence, which play a significant role. The key thesis to assess the effectiveness of global cities is the way of how such networks are pulled or pushed (Sergeev, Kazantsev, 2007).

According to the Russian political scientists V. Sergeev and A. Kazantsev, a greater part of modern global gateways developed in Western Europe and postcolonial states as Australia (Sergeev, Kazantsev, 2007). From this perspective, Sydney represents the object of this research. The goal of the study is to define main factors and resources provided by globalization, which allow Sydney to operate as a global city.

The authors of the study aim to resolve the following research problems:

  • To uncover the factors of globalization, which allow modern cities to extend the influence;
  • To disclose historical premises enabling Sydney to acquire the status of a global city;
  • To define the distinctive features of Australian cultural zone;
  • To analyze the main achievements of Sydney in the world ranking;
  • To demonstrate how Sydney uses the globalization in order to develop.

The main question of the research is what resources in the era of globalization allow Sydney to become a global city.

Main body

The analysis of the formulated problem presupposes exploring existent approaches described in the researches of prominent political scientists. The author of the term "global city", professor of sociology at the University of Chicago Saskia Sassen notes that in the twentieth century, among the largest cities, specific megacities began to stand out, endowed with colossal financial, managerial, informational and political functions. They are the main centers of activity in the system of international relations.

According to S. Sassen, "global cities are post-industrial centers that occupy a strategic position in the world economy due to the concentration of management and control functions, as well as specializing in professional business services; they are maximally integrated into the world economy and largely draw resources and development opportunities due to or as a result of interaction in global urban networks» (Sassen, 2004).

Manuel Castells, who developed the theory of the new sociology of the city and information cities, highlights that the distinctive feature of such cities is the concentration of administrative, managerial and production functions on a global scale. Cities, according to the author, form information and power units where important decisions are made and transmitted towards global economic networks (Castells, 1989). Thus, the author was the first to mention a new feature of the global city – its information component. That is to say, global cities play a crucial role in the development of the information society. They create the necessary network of variations in decision-making at the highest level in various spheres and significantly differ from other cities at a global scale.

The concept of Professor S. Mcquire suggests that the global city becomes a media city. In other words, digital networks operating within the media scene begin to form the social profile of the global city resident, his way of thinking and views, with digital technologies altering the idea of time and space, thereby developing competitive strategies of the global city among other cities (McQuire, 2008). Thus, a socio-economic competitive gap is created within the global city due to the maximum use of media technologies in the information space.

The results of an international study on the interaction of global cities and nation States, conducted under the leadership of Professor G. Clark, highlighted the positive characteristics of global cities and negative consequences (Clark, 2014). Among positive characteristics, there are concentration of economic sectors, emplacement of headquarters of international companies, developed labor market, attractiveness for tourism due to political and cultural circumstances. Negative consequences are the dependence on ensuring the functioning of the administrative apparatus of national States and governments, which does not allow the development of independent city management, overloaded transport systems, environmental problems, and social disunion.

In order to conceptualize the key definition, the authors describe a global city as a center of attraction of all economic and political processes that form the network of development. Supported by existing researches on global cities, it is possible to identify the following key resources of attraction of networks: the presence of large financial centers, administrative and managerial resources, economic resources (including natural wealth), information and technological resources, cultural potential, means of communication, transport networks.

From the historical perspective, Sydney is one of the most important centers of resources attraction in the colonial state of Australia. Being a successor of Western European political tradition, Australia has the potential not only to cooperate with other actors within the globalization process, but also to create the opportunity for its cities to become influential members of globalized international affairs.

Sydney as a creative city

Along with the common approaches to studying the features of large cities, the concept of "creative cities" especially stands out today. These are the cities that attract creative people and develop innovative trends in society at the global and regional levels. As for Sidney, it has been a member of UNESCO Creative Cities since 2010 as an “undisputed film and television production hub” (Creative Cities Network: Sydney). Sydney is the leading city of Australia when it comes to the screen sector: more than 60% of all people employed nationally in production and post-production businesses are based here. Besides, the city is full of various architectural wonders and is especially famous for its Opera House.

The key factor of a creative city’s transformation is the developing of art and the cultural environment. Global cities tend to have no appropriate conditions for the development of an individual’s personality, however, some of them, like Sydney, turned out to be quite susceptible to creativity and as a result creative people see such cities as very comfortable for their lifestyle. And it’s certain that “the creativity of those who live in and run cities will determine future success” (Landry, 2012).

Sydney as a “melting pot”

The people of Sydney are representatives of two hundred nationalities and cultures. More than 5 million people live in and around the city (as of 2020)[1]. Sydney was founded in 1788 as the first European settlement on the Australian continent, therefore, immigrants from all over the world have always been a huge part of the population.  As a result, there are many ethnic neighborhoods (one of them being the biggest Chinatown in the world), the presence of which demonstrates the ability of different groups of people to get along in the same city.

According to Global Power City 2019, Sydney is ranked 23rd in the world in terms of "cultural integration". This is not a very high position, but Sydney is next in the ranking with such important global cities as Brussels, Shanghai and Milan.

Source: Global Power City Index – Yearbook 2019

Sydney should try to increase its rating on this indicator to strengthen its position in the overall rating, because among the top ten cities, Sydney has the lowest value of the indicator “Cultural Interaction” (pink), while on indicators such as "Economy" and "Livability" Sydney is in the lead, and even takes the first place among the top 10 on the indicator “Environment”. There are many opportunities for Sydney to grow because the indicator "Cultural Interaction" is a complex one. A diverse collection of regional areas, including the Hunter Valley wineries, the natural beauty of the blue mountains and Australia's best beaches are located not far from the city. A lot of tourists complement and strengthen the image of Sydney as a desirable place to travel to and a potential place to live.

Source: Global Power City Index – Yearbook 2019

Sydney as a comfortable city to live in

When it comes to the “Livability” indicator, Sydney is ranked 20th in the rating. Its advantages are a high level of security, low cost of medical services and “the quality of the environment” (high air quality and presence of different nature peculiarities). The developed urban environment, well-planned and well-maintained streets, the control of cars, and the opportunities for urban activity that allow people to feel involved in urban life are crucial for global cities. Sydney is one the most comfortable cities for life and its residents are involved in urban life and are active participants in the process of improving the city.

Sydney as an economic center

The "Economy" indicator is the most significant one in terms of describing any global city. Sydney’s economy is ranked 8th among all the global cities. Along with the economic and demographic growth, Sydney and the surrounding areas have become the center and driving force of major structural changes in the Australian economy. Although investment and employment in manufacturing have declined relatively, there has been a significant increase in services, especially in the financial, property and business segments. Sydney produces 70% of the economic output of the state of New South Wales and 20% of Australian production. Sydney is also a major player internationally, with more economic output than many of its regional competitors, including Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thus, Sydney did not just develop as a traditional concentric city, but instead stretched along the coast and inland as a network of loosely connected centers and, consequently, a fragmented government and economy.

Sydney's growth is accelerating, with 1.2 million more people expected in the city by 2031, and GDP is expected to increase by 50% by the same year.

Sydney as a global city which exploits the advantages of globalisation

Globalization allows more actors to become participants in social networks that are based on horizontal connections, which allows cities such as Sydney to interact freely and freely with other players at all levels and in all areas. Sydney's cosmopolitan potential, based on historical and cultural backgrounds, allows the city to flexibly adapt to the demands of its internal and external environment. In the era of globalization, global cities, even if they operate in different paradigms, are beginning to increasingly acquire common features that help them interact with each other. At the same time, a critical role should be given to the unique image of the city, and Sydney definitely "has its own face". The functioning of the system on a global scale makes it necessary to create special focal points – large cities of a high level of hierarchy, such as Sydney, which would act as the leading centers for the exercise of power and would perform other important functions (for instance, strategy development). Not only do global cities exploit the benefits of globalization, but also the very process of globalization needs the presence of such nodes.


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