Expats: Beijing as global city?

February 02, 2010 | Posted by Chris

In a survey published today in the Global Times of China, a number of expatriates discuss a question that only occasionally comes up and is very difficult to answer: Is Beijing a global city? As it turns out, one's definition of a "global city" has much to do with one's response. For example, as the capital of China and the seat of much of its wealth and power, Beijing attracts a wide breadth of talent from inside and outside the country that comes to work or study. There is a large expatriate community in Beijing that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and the leaders of the world's largest governments and companies frequently pass through here. So from this perspective many people would agree with Kristen, a student from the US, who says, "Yes, I think Beijing is a global city because it's really diverse." On the other hand, if one defines "global city" in the strictest terms of belonging to an elite eschelon of the world's top few centers of innovation, then perhaps, no, Beijing is not yet the global city it wants to be. "China has been opened up for only 30 years, and I believe it needs another 10 years to become a global city like New York and London," says Alessandro, a student from Italy. Likewise, Zhang Aimin, an MBA student from the US, says, "If you say New York is a global city, then Beijing isn't one -- it is only a BIG city." Being such a subjective question, there is surely no single correct answer, and that is much of the fun of a city like Beijing: the city wears many hats and is only limited by the imaginations of people that are inspired by it.

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