So begins the introduction to a special cities issue of Foreign Policy, the centrepiece of which is a list of the “75 most dynamic cities of 2025”.
More than half the global population now lives in urban areas, and there’s no going back to the farm. With China leading the way, today’s global cities are surging ahead in population and economic heft, powering the world economy – and posing some very difficult problems for governments. But it’s not all about the Beijings, the New Yorks, and Tokyos. Drawn from the McKinsey Global Institute’s index of the world’s 75 Most Dynamic Cities, some of these up-and-coming commercial hubs – including Belo Horizonte, Fuzhou, and even Philadelphia – may surprise you. How many can you honestly say you’ve heard of, or visited? …
Quite simply, we are witnessing the biggest economic transformation the world has ever seen as the populations of cities in emerging markets expand and see their incomes rise as never before, producing massive geopolitical shifts.
It is no surprise that China tops this urban medal table, but the scale of its advantage here is staggering.
Of the 75 cities deemed the “powerhouses of the urban revolution”, as measured chiefly by projected per capita GDP growth rates, China fills 29 places. The combined nations of Europe count three – yup, three – spots, one fewer than Brazil alone.
Sydney and Melbourne make the cut, but there is no place for New Zealand. The US has 13 cities on the list.
But China is the big story. In 2025 it is likely to be home to more than 221 cities with a population of more than a million.
Sure, real estate bubbles may burst and China’s torrid growth rates may return to Earth, but across a range of macroeconomic scenarios, whether growth is slower or faster, our findings on patterns of urban growth hold: Barring some unforeseen disaster, the future of the world’s cities will largely be written in Chinese.