London named world's most influential city

Power and glory. Image: Diliff at Wikimedia Commons.

This week, London’s notoriously grumpy residents have a reason to celebrate: their city has been named the most influential in the world by Forbes magazine. The ancient enemies, New York and Paris, were pushed into second and third spots respectively.

The report’s authors measured the influence of 58 world cities by working out how “necessary” they were, either to a critical industry or to their respective corners of the world. To figure this out they looked at eight factors, including foreign investment, the concentration of corporate headquarters, connectivity by air, technology or media power, and racial diversity.

London scored highly on air connectivity, which was based on how many global cities can be reached directly from its airports at least three times a week (its proximity to Europe helped on that score). It also did well on foreign investment: its 328 foreign investment transactions per year were more than double New York's 143.

In other world rankings of cities, such the A.T. Kearney World Cities index or The Economist’s global Cities Competitiveness index, first place usually goes to either New York or London. But the former tends to have the edge, so London’s victory in the Forbes list is particularly sweet (or at least it will be, until the next ranking comes along).

But in a piece accompanying the list, Joel Kotkin, one of its authors, does take a bit of a dig at the country which London sits within:

“Inertia and smart use of it is a key theme that emerged in our evaluation of the top global cities. No city better exemplifies this than London, which after more than a century of imperial decline still ranks No. 1 in our survey. The United Kingdom may now be a second-rate power, but the City’s unparalleled legacy as a global financial capital still underpins its pre-eminence”.

Sentences like that should really help to heal the rift between London and the rest of Britain.

The ranking also highlighted a number of emerging world cities whose power is likely to grow over the next century.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them were in China: Beijing came in eighth and Shanghai 19th; both are expected to move up the ranks in future. The highest scoring Asian city, though, remains Singapore, which boasts a “tradition of British governance and law” and has infrastructure which is “among the best on the planet”.

Only one city in the developing world (Dubai) made the top 10. Others, like Sao Paulo, Abu Dhabi or Johannesburg, still need to “develop adequate infrastructure” if they hope to become contenders. 

Here’s the full top 10.

1. London

2. New York

3. Paris

4. Singapore

5. Tokyo

6. Hong Kong

7. Dubai

8. Beijing and Sydney [tied]

10. Los Angeles


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CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.