Commentary

Asia Rising

Wendell Cox has issued his most recent global study of population growth in urban areas, and the results are important, even sobering, for those trying to understand world economic and political dynamics. In an article for NewGeography.com, Wendell notes:

Things have changed markedly since 1950. Now, 13 of the 20 largest urban areas in the world are in Asia. Only three are in the United States or Europe (New York, Los Angeles and Moscow). For the first time in at least 200 years, none of the top 5 urban areas in the world are in the United States or Europe. Now, all five of the largest urban areas in the world are in Asia. There are now 26 megacities, up from 2 in 1950. At current growth rates, there could be 39 megacities by 2030, only five of which will be in the United States or Europe (New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris and Chicago)

Of course, population growth is not economic growth. Just because Jakarta is rising quickly, doesn’t mean it will be the next London or New York City. The key is how these nations are changing institutionally to accomodate these changes. Here, China has the edge because it has systematically released the creative energy of entrepreneurship through relatively free markets and stabilizing its property rights regime. China’s growth is not as much about foreign-direct investment (FDI) anymore as it is about indigenous growth.

So, the economic and political power is shifting to Asia, and the population trends reflect this trend.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.