Sydney Globalizing:
A World City in National, Pacific Asian
and International Context

Rolf Stein



This report was written primarily to contribute to the socio-economic and geographic foundation of the Bauhaus Kolleg III on the SERVE CITY, held between September 2001 and September 2002 at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. The work of the international participants taking part in the Kolleg is focussed on the consequences of the ‘merging of the service economy with telematics’ on architecture, urban planning, and the design of the wider life and economic space. The report gives an overview on contemporary urban development in Australia and its capital cities with special emphasis on Sydney. The development of Sydney as a global city is placed in the context of globalization and the emergence of global urban hierarchies. Both processes are closely interwoven with the rapid industrialization and urbanization in many Pacific Asian countries occurring over the past decades. Some of those newcomer countries now pursue determined policies to attract globalized knowledge- based, multimedia, and high technology industries into newly designed or revitalized urban regions. Sydney’s economic functions can then only be understood in relation to those of other important cities in Asia Pacific, which are, besides Tokyo, primarily Singapore and Hong Kong.

The following report is an enlarged and partly revised version of an earlier text (October 2001) concentrating on the general and national determinants of Sydney’s changing economic functions and structure. The sections describing the rise of Pacific Asia (2.2), especially the emergence of Hong Kong and Singapore as world cities (2.3), and recent results of research on world or global cities (5) have been greatly expanded or newly added, and the summary section (7) was reworked.

This broad perspective allows a better understanding of the socio-economic change occurring on the different spatial scales: globally, on the level of cities or hierarchies of cities and on subsystems of those, like in the Asia Pacific region or the Pacific Rim, nationally, in the changing relations between Australian cities, and locally, in the differing socio-economic structures within and between Australian cities. Naturally, many issues have to be touched upon in a text with such a broad scope and not all of them can discussed in depth. Also, the rapid change in almost any part of our lives with the burgeoning information and communication technologies, and continuing rapid changes in economic and social life appears to decrease the half-life of much scientific work. It seems that many of the ‘new realities’ (like the presumed advent of the service or information society or the e-conomy) make ‘old theories’ obsolete. But in these debates there is often, as Walker (1985:81) warned, a ‘tendency to confuse the contemporary with the new’. Though today’s technological achievements are unprecedented or possibly revolutionary, many organizational forms and relationships, for example, be it in work, within or between firms, or even regions and cities, are not as unparalleled as often proclaimed. And this applies to the wider social, economic, and political realm as well.

The work of the participants of the Bauhaus Kolleg and their ambitious presentations were very stimulating for the writing of this report, so was the support by many of the Bauhaus staff, in particular Regina Sonnabend. As the author of this report I appreciated the opportunity to take part in their collective endeavor and to explore the rich theoretical literature and empirical work of many other workers in the field.

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Sydney Globalizing: A World City in National,
Pacific Asian and International Context

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