London is the capital city of United Kingdom. This country is part of the world thanks to the globalization. It’s a process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected as a result of massively increased trade (hard power) and cultural exchange (soft power). Globalization has increased the production of goods and services. The biggest companies are multinational corporations with subsidiaries in many countries. Globalization has speeded up over the last half- century. However, being part of a global country not makes London a global city. So, what makes London a global city? A global city is a major urban area that has a significant role in controlling the international flows of capital and trade. Also called world city, this is a city generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system. The major global centers of the world are New York, London, Tokyo, Paris. They are hubs around which people, capital, information and goods revolve. The term global city was first used in 1991 by a sociologist called Saskia Sassen, in ‘The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo’.
London is the capital city of United Kingdom, but also is one of the largest cities in the world. This city owns the factors needed for being part of the globalization and makes London a global city. That is necessary for the integration of the city hat can also be called a megalopolis with his 8,5 million inhabitants. The London metropolitan area is the largest in the EU with a total population of 13.6 million. It includes a ‘melting pot’ of culture, and a population with a lot of origins. London is known as a the most cosmopolitan city in Europe.
For centuries, London has forged part of its identity to the rhythm of foreign migration. Even today, this metropolis attracts foreigners from all over the world. The ethnic diversity is one of a number key of the capital’s dynamism. For example, in 2006, the survey reported that 2.2 million Londoners were born abroad and over one third of the population are from India, Pakistan, Africa etc.
Accordingly, the cultural side of the city is as significant as the diversity of this one. There is a lot of sporting activities, cultural events, international exhibitions. A lot of well-known museums are in the town as well like the British Museum for example. Indeed, London’s 43 universities form the largest concentration of higher education in Europe. They are famous because of theirs high reputation of British universities around the world.
In addition to this, the capital is also the political heart of the country due to the presence of the British Parliament, 10 Downing Street (the prime minister’s residence) or even Buckingham Palace, the headquarters of the monarchy, etc.
Moreover, London remains the most attractive economic powerhouse for businesses and people in Europe. Indeed, London is an important center for international banking. Because of this, there are many banks in the city. London is also a center for investing. The city’s insurance companies, especially for ocean and air travel, are some of the largest in the world. The tourist industry is also an important part of London’s economy. More than 200,000 people in London work at jobs that are related to tourism. London has the highest GDB in Europe (more than 570 billion dollars), and has a big influence across the world because of it. It is the main airport hub in the world with two international airports connecting major international airlines. There are Central Business District in all global city, who is the main business and commercial area of a town or city.
There are two main Central Business District in London: the City and Canary Wharf. It permits a growth of the territory value, the self-reinforcing nature of co-existence in financial and business services, through the process of concentration, competition and innovation is not fully included in official statistics but this is not to understate its importance. One consequence of co-location of finance, business services and other companies is that pressure on available commercial space in London’s CBD are amongst the highest in the world compared to other international finance and business centers. To buy or rent in a CBD you need to be resourceful. The financial center includes the Canary Wharf business district east of the city, home to the headquarters of HSBC and Barclays, two of the largest banks in the world. It has the fifth-or sixth- largest metropolitan area GDP in the world depending on measurement. And, 33% of the top multinationals have their European/World headquarters in London. That’s why there is international company who are based in London like Reuters who is a world press agency (famous for its information in the financial fields). Or for another example, HSBC who is a Transnational (TNC’s) and British multinational bank, based in the financial center of Canary Wharf).
As we can see, London consolidates all the conditions of a global city, and it takes the advantages of them. However, these forms of powers can be challenged since the country is marginalized while London became a global city.
London is a global city and have all the advantages of a global city. Nevertheless, it is difficult for a city to only have advantages and have no disadvantages. The perfect city doesn’t exist yet and London is a world metropolis who is facing major urban challenges, the other side of a global city.
First of all, the social inequalities are the most visible problem and one of the most important. The precarity persist in London, for 50 years, through the evolution of the city and the time. The wealth is not shared like it has to be: it causes social tensions. The poverty rate reaches 35 %. In the fact, London is a beautiful and innovative city part of the globalization, but a very unequal city. We can see in the north and in the west of London, most of luxury district where are concentrated high-income populations, research activities, luxury shops and university centers. Central Business District are part of this high-level quality of life expansion. For instance, the Tower of London is located in the financial heart of London in the City. Instead of this wealthy way of life, the south and the east of London are not ‘lucky’ such as the City. That is to say that those area are poorer and are historical industrial settings where the work class and foreign populations live with difficulties. Hackney, Tower Hamlet are among the poorest neighborhoods in the UK. The separation between wealthy district (area with buildings in the background) and poor district (in the foreground) is really visible and demonstrate the impact and the importance of the socio- spatial inequalities. For instance, the average unemployment rate in London was 9% in 2010, while in neighborhoods like Southwark and Barking it reached double digits. Same city, but living standards radically opposed.
The difference can also be seen between different ethnic groups who suffer from inequalities and this phenomenon is called social polarization/socio-spatial segregation. London is a cosmopolitan city with a lot of mutlticulturalism, but the truth belongs to be hard to confront. We can’t set apart the socio-spatial segregation established for years. In London, we can find various communities district (Chinatownn, Benglatown, etc.) and multicultural city doesn’t mean a city without racism, that’s a prejudice.
There is also a phenomenon of gentrification that does not benefit to the poorest. The rehabilitation of some sites, especially for the Olympics Games, in the east of the metropolis permit only very rarely benefits the poor people who lived there. We can assist in a process of gentrification, the process by which a place, especially part of a city, changes from being a poor area to a richer one, where people from a higher social class live. Ordinary working people have been priced out of East London by gentrification so poor people can no longer afford to live there and have to move elsewhere.
Traffic jams and permanent parking problems is one of the urban challenges of the city. It causes also a high level of pollution of the city. This is a huge environmental problem. Actually, London suffers a lot from pollution because of the urban sprawl which consists in the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas.
Furthermore, the capital city experienced the financial crisis of 2008 (subprime crisis) and it has a big impact as London is one of the most important economic places in the world. The crisis was disastrous for the banking organizations based in London, Britain has been badly hit, and Hong Kong is threatening London’s leading position.
Therefore, the main trouble of the city are: the increase of social inequalities which is translated into a special segregation, the ecological aspect of the city and the rise of pollution which is the consequence of a large expansion not controlled of London, and the economic crisis who had an impact still present today in the powerful banks in London.
Urban Planning as an Answer to Challenges
First and foremost, the government tried to solve the segregation and socio-spatial inequalities. For a world-class metropolis, the role of planning policies must enable the city to maintain its world rank (expansion of the city, organization of the Olympic Games, brand image around the world, etc.) and at the same time, to resolve the challenges of integration in globalization.
However, as in all major world cities, the feeling of belonging to the host society is not acquired by all migrant populations. The issues are complex and crucial: in 2005, attacks in London by four young British suicide bombers of Pakistani and Jamaican origin brought the subject of integration in the news. The experience of the Brick Lane neighborhood is a perfect illustration of the issues facing the city in terms of urban and social challenges related to ethnic pluralism. Brick Lane is a district near the City, who received found for a development of a ‘Banglatown’ based on ‘Chinatown’ like in New York City. Today, there are shops, restaurants called ‘trendy’ that offer cuisine from India, also the name of the streets is translated into Bengali and all tourist guides encourage visitors to discover this neighborhood and with that the multiculturalism of London. It helps to the decrease of social and economic inequalities.
Indeed, there is a ‘green belt’, which is a lot of parks to reduce the strong ecological footprint of London.
By the way, London is so famous that it is a target for terrorist organizations. That’s a consequence of the globalization of the city.
To conclude, London is a huge metropolis located at the northwestern end of the European megalopolis of which it constitutes an essential urban and economic link. Beyond Europe, London is a global city whose landscape translates power. However, social and economic tensions, and socio-spatial discrimination, plus the pollution and other urban problem are challenges of the city.