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close this bookEmerging World Cities in Pacific Asia (UNU, 1996, 528 pages)
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View the documentThe functional world city system
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What this book offers

Within the framework of the recent global economic restructuring and the acceleration of globalization tendencies following the conclusion of the Cold War, this book is aimed at a systematic appraisal of the internal and external factors as they affect individual cities and national urban systems within Pacific Asia. Pacific Asia, which is synonymous with the Western Pacific Rim, includes the countries in East and South-East Asia. It is recognized that many of the indices that would measure globalization influences at the national or city levels are not published or easily constructed. Consequently, proximate indicators are often used and data are incomplete and unsatisfactory. Be that as it may, the project participants used a number of variables to measure a range of influences not just confined to the economic sphere.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 examines the functional linkages of the Asia-Pacific region in two chapters, which establish the conceptual and overall background in which the changing urban system in the region can be better understood and later chapters can be related. In particular, the mega-trends that have an effect on globalization processes are highlighted. The interplay between global structural adjustments and the role of cities is illustrated for Pacific Asia. What this book lacks is a systematic examination of the nature and pattern of financial flows within the region and their relations to the world cities in the region. As an illustration of changing functional linkages, Peter Rimmer has detailed the recent innovations in transportation and telecommunications in the region and the way in which cities are shifting in importance and centrality. A new trend appears to be emerging, giving enhanced importance to certain large cities that have benefited from economies of concentration and infrastructure investment.

Part 2 surveys the extent to which globalization has affected individual cities as well as national urban systems in eight chapters. These cover most countries along the Western Pacific Rim and reflect their differential responses to the shifting global economy and their own changing positions within it. The relationships between the economic structural adjustments experienced in individual countries, on the one hand, and globalization forces and urban transformation, on the other, are reflected in a number of cases that have been selected for this study.

The clearest expression of the changing roles of a city in the region over time can be seen in Tokyo. Three stages of development may be distinguished. In the 1960s, Tokyo clearly emerged as a national magnet in the Japanese economy, to which population and development were drawn. Then, in the 1970s Tokyo developed and strengthened with greater contributions to the national economy by developing itself as a financial, telecommunications, and transnational corporation centre. At the same time, decentralization of its manufacturing capacity, while keeping central managerial functions, began to be evident within Japan. However, its full integration as a world city emerged only in the 1980s, when Tokyo developed a new division of labour and industrial restructuring by relocating manufacturing production to cities abroad, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, again retaining key central managerial functions and R&D within Japan. The comparative advantage of Tokyo and cities within the Asia-Pacific region was being capitalized in the process. Japan emerged as one of the leading economies in the world. Tokyo's status as a world city grew as a consequence, for it had become increasingly integrated with the global and regional economies. Its importance within the Japanese urban system has also increased, as it has become a giant urban agglomeration of more than 30 million inhabitants within its daily commuting distance.

The recent development of Seoul and Taipei further epitomizes the regional response to economic globalization and the seizing of new economic opportunities as the Asian NIEs are in a position to seek development beyond their shores. In both cases, labour-intensive manufacturing has been decentralized to offshore locations, such as countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), coastal China, and, recently, Viet Nam, where labour and other costs of production are lower, leaving capital-intensive types of production within their countries. The urban pattern within South Korea and Taiwan, however, has shown some interesting contrasts. Within South Korea, Seoul has emerged as the overarching urban agglomeration and the problem has been to halt Seoul's unwanted growth since the 1980s. In Taiwan, on the other hand, Taipei has grown at a more subdued pace, with the southern port city of Kaoshiung exerting a countervailing effect to give rise to an urban corridor across the island from north to south. The kind of urban concentration exhibited in Seoul is absent in Taiwan.

Looked at in a regional context and over time, Japanese offshore industrial relocation to the Asian NIEs in the 1960s and 1970s may be viewed as the first wave of regional economic development. Similar developments in the ASEAN countries in the 1970s and 1980s constituted the second wave. In the 1960s and 1970s, ASEAN countries had limited manufacturing development in import-substitution industries. Rapid economic development actually began in 1985, with the Plaza Accord and the remarkable appreciation of the Japanese yen. Japan was anxious to relocate its manufacturing production abroad within the region in order to maintain its competitive edge. This was followed by a similar appreciation of their currencies by South Korea and Taiwan in 1986 and 1987. They, too, were keen to maintain their export manufacturing competitiveness and needed cheaper locations from which to do so. ASEAN countries presented just the right mix of conditions for this offshore manufacturing to take place. As a result, foreign direct investment in ASEAN countries increased sharply and this facilitated a major economic restructuring of these countries from being commodity exporters to manufacturing exporters in the 1980s. Structural reorientation also occurred in the early 1980s, when commodity prices collapsed, hence providing the ASEAN countries with timely and critical relief from their previous over-dependence on primary commodity exports for their national income. This new infusion of growth impulses has given renewed strength to their large cities. Thus Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Jabotabek have grown rapidly and in new functions. By virtue of their traditional and new-found importance, they have become well articulated with the new global economy. However, within these urban agglomerations, it is their fringe areas that have experienced the fastest rates of growth and the most rapid physical transformation. These areas have relatively more land and somewhat less stringent regulatory controls on manufacturing-related growth and investment by transnational corporations. The rapid growth and transformation of these urban fringe areas are components of physical and social change that have not been adequately dealt with by the governments concerned.

In contrast to the other ASEAN countries, the Philippines has been experiencing slow rates of growth for decades. Political instability and other problems have not made the island nation attractive to foreign investment compared with its neighbours, which experienced massive foreign investment particularly in the second half of the 1980s. In fact, because of economic stagnation, sustained emigration and labour migration to the Middle East countries have occurred for two decades. Consequently, Manila has been bypassed by some of the positive effects of globalization, and until recently persistent neglect of social and economic infrastructure has resulted in the deterioration of the quality of life, particularly for the urban poor.

The third wave of regional economic development refers to foreign investment and development in the coastal regions of China since the mid-1980s. The opening of China to the world for a new style of development began in 1978, with the adoption of an open policy and economic reforms, initially with the establishment of four Special Economic Zones in Guangdong and Fujian. This was accelerated in the late 1980s, with the end of the Cold War, as similar development was pursued in other coastal areas of China, such as in Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai (Pudong), and other port cities in north China. However, the focused and accelerated development along the coastal region has led to heightened economic and social disparity between the coastal and interior parts of China, with grave implications for policy formulation and the future. The coastal region's visible success and attraction have generated massive rural-urban and urban-urban migrations that have led to waves of floating population, variously estimated at 50-80 million, from less developed inland provinces and the rural areas within the coastal provinces. These population surges have created new opportunities as well as challenges for the coastal cities. China's coastal cities are being integrated with the economies within the Asia-Pacific region and increasingly with the world, but no world city in a functional sense has yet emerged to date.

Part 3 examines the phenomenon of urban transformation in Pacific Asia in a new climate of economic globalization at different scales. First, the expression of a borderless economy may be found in the Singapore Growth Triangle, in which the participating countries of Singapore, Malaysia (Johore), and Indonesia (Riau Islands) have displayed excellent economic complementarities. There is a clear division of labour, and population movement within the area is strictly controlled by territorial boundaries. Thus accelerated economic development takes place, within a controlled environment, and population movement is seemingly not a problem.

The Hong Kong-Zhujiang Delta represents another variant of the borderless economy, in which ever closer economic integration is occurring between Hong Kong and the Zhujiang Delta. Obvious economic disparity exists between Hong Kong and the delta region, but the lucrative symbiosis between the two lands is a powerful economic motivation for greater integration. This trend of closer economic integration will become even stronger in the future as Hong Kong is due to return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Although the region includes Macau-Zhuhai, it is really Hong Kong's economic and cultural influence over a large delta region that looms large in its current and future development. Many urban centres in the delta, including Guangzhou, are drawn to Hong Kong like a star cloud. The whole region, with Hong Kong providing key leadership in services, market information, and infrastructure, is growing rapidly and is a physical and economic entity to be reckoned with in the years to come. It has been forecast to become a huge urban agglomeration of 40 million inhabitants in the twenty-first century.

Finally, a bird's-eye view of the region seems to suggest the possibility that a large-scale urban corridor stretching between the Tokyo area and north-east China via the two Koreas is yet another borderless economy at an advanced stage of development. This extended urban belt connects four major megalopolises in North-East Asia and includes some of the most developed parts of Asia in terms of infrastructure provision, technology and economic power. In the present climate of political d├ętente, visionary plans for improved connectivity between the countries have been proposed, such as an underwater link between Pusan in South Korea and north Kyushu in Japan. Other more modest plans include the development of a bullet train within South Korea. All these can only improve the physical and social infrastructure for the benefit of all cities and their inhabitants concerned. The urban corridor is, in a sense, a forerunner of what the urban future will be like for other parts of the coastal region in Pacific Asia.