PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (8): 1177-1186.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.08.001

Special Issue: 人口与城市研究

• Urban Geography & Regional Development •     Next Articles

Two debates and two trends:Review on world city research

XUE Desheng, HUANG Hemian   

  1. Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
  • Received:2013-04-01 Revised:2013-06-01 Online:2013-08-25 Published:2013-08-25

Abstract: This paper provides a review on the progress of world city research in the past 30 years. It attempts to argue that, in the 21st century, the focus of world city literature has shifted from proving the links between economic globalization and urban restructuring to revealing different pathways in world city formation. Two debates took place around 2000 have become turning points in the academic trajectory: (1) debate on world city types and driving forces led by Hill and Kim; (2) debate on world city history led by Abu-Lughod. This paper is organized into three sections. First, it briefly reviews the classical theories alongside with some early criticisms. In the 1980s, the world city theories founded by Friedmann and Sassen have caused a paradigm shift in urban studies. Cities have been seen as basing points of the new international division of labor. Although the classical theories are still the foundation of current research, scholars have criticized them for overemphasizing the economic factors, exaggerating the generality of New York model and neglecting historical analysis. Because of lacking solid empirical bases, these early criticisms have not challenged the classical theories radically. Secondly, it introduces the two debates and two following trends in detail. Based on the study of Tokyo and Seoul, Hill and Kim have led the first debate. As the important role of developmental state, they designated the two Asian cities as state-centred global cities, which were in sharp contrast to the market-certred ones, such as New York and London. Friedmann and Sassen have responds to their arguments and admitted that, the classical theories neglected the role of state. The second debate is about history of world cities. Through investigating the evolution of three American cities in a long-term, Abu-Lughod has explored their unique responses, called "personality", to globalization. Her historical-comparative method has opened up an important new theoretical perspective and aroused interest on historical analysis. As a result of the two debates, the discussions in this field have already been moved forward. Researches on "world city politics" and "world city history" have become two major trends in this new century. Finally, based on the reviews, it states some inspirations for world city research in China. With the rising of China, Chinese cities will play more important roles in the world. The research should not just follow the classical theories, but reveal the nature of Chinese modes, which will help to find the right way and enrich the world city theories.

Key words: comparative-historical method, driving forces, types, world cities, world city politics