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Introducing … The Most Dynamic Cities of 2025

An exclusive look at the 75 powerhouses of the urban revolution.

The list of the world's most dynamic cities is here.

If there's any bright spot in an otherwise dim outlook for the global economy, it's the rise of cities. With fragile growth in Europe and the United States, the shift in economic balance toward the East and South is happening with unprecedented speed and scale -- and it's happening through urbanization. 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 and a wave of new consumers whose spending power will change the way the world shops and invests.

More than ever, cities matter. Today, just 600 urban centers generate about 60 percent of global GDP. But though 600 cities will continue to account for the same share of global GDP in 2025, this elite group will have a very different membership. Over the next 15 years, the urban world's center of gravity will move farther south and, even more decisively, east.

Which is why we've put together this unique index of The Most Dynamic Cities of 2025, some 40 percent of which are in just one country: China. Many are places you've never heard of, from Fuzhou to Wuhan, and speak to the massive transformation of a country that looks to lead the 21st century's urban revolution as much as the United States reinvented the metropolis for the 20th. The West will not be quite eclipsed by 2025 -- 13 U.S. cities make the list, though only three in Europe -- but the sun is indeed setting. Even beyond the extraordinary 29 Chinese cities on the list, there are many -- from Luanda to Abu Dhabi, Ankara to Santiago -- that were small towns of the last century but are likely to be household names a few decades from now.

The list is drawn from the McKinsey Global Institute's exclusive Cityscope database of more than 2,650 cities, which uses internal projections for populations as well as data from local statistical offices and the United Nations, and is based largely on national per capita GDP growth rates. We think these 75 cities will make the greatest contribution to the global economy in the coming years. Put together, they are likely to supply more than 30 percent of all GDP growth between now and 2025. They are the world's economic engines.

Of course, the big cities of today -- the New Yorks and Tokyos, Londons and Chicagos -- are, without a doubt, still giants. Almost half of global GDP in 2010 came from only 362 cities in developed regions, with more than 20 percent of global GDP coming from 187 North American cities alone.

Fast-forward to 2025, though, and one-fourth of these developed-market cities will no longer make the top 600. By 2025, 99 new cities are expected to enter the top 600, all from the developing world and overwhelmingly -- 72 new cities -- from China. By 2025, the world's top 600 cities will be home to an estimated 220 million more people of working age and account for more than 30 percent of the expansion of the potential global workforce. Almost all this increase is likely to be in emerging markets -- and half of it in the leading cities of China and India.

China's urbanization is thundering along at an extraordinary pace; it's happening at 100 times the scale of the world's first country to urbanize -- Britain -- and at 10 times the speed. Over the past decade alone, China's share of people living in large cities has increased from 36 percent to nearly 50 percent. In 2010, China's metropolitan regions accounted for 78 percent of its GDP. If current trends hold, the Middle Kingdom's urban population will expand from approximately 570 million in 2005 to 925 million in 2025 -- an increase larger than the entire current population of the United States.

Projecting the evolution of cities is an inherently fraught business. The destinies of metropolises vary widely depending on the wisdom of their leaders, broad economic trends, the success of local business endeavors, and, of course, luck. So 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.

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Who Broke the U.N.?

Long a target for "reform," the United Nations has taken heat for a bloated bureaucracy and gridlocked Security Council. FP surveyed top experts about what role it should play in today's ever-more-tangled global conflicts, with Madeleine Albright guiding us through the results.

See the FP Survey on the U.N. here.

The amount of time that has been spent in think tanks and inside the U.S. State Department trying to figure out whether and how to reform the United Nations would be impossible to calculate. The refrain of "U.N. reform" is heard over and over, yet infighting and gridlock continue to block bolder U.N. action, as the latest situation in Syria makes clear.

Like any organization, the U.N. does need to be reformed -- from the structure and procedures of the Security Council, which 28 percent of Foreign Policy's survey respondents identify as the part of the U.N. most in need of rethinking, to the body's staffing, leadership, and budget. But reform is not an event; it is a process. Although people tend to blame "the U.N.," fundamentally it is a collection of nation-states, often with competing interests. No wonder more than 40 percent of the respondents consider this fact the greatest internal obstacle preventing the institution from being more effective.

Although two-thirds of respondents endorse the idea of enlarging the Security Council, the reality is that finding a way to do so is like trying to solve a Rubik's cube. For example, when I served at the U.N., European Union states often voted together. The logical move would have been to give the EU one permanent seat on the Security Council, but it's hard to visualize the British or the French giving up their individual seats. At that time, the United States supported Germany and Japan as additions to the Security Council's permanent members; respondents to The FP Survey list Japan and Germany as candidates for Security Council seats today. Their top choice by far, however, is India, which U.S. President Barack Obama has now also endorsed for a permanent seat. So the Rubik's cube continues to shift -- and yet the council's membership is unchanged.

Individual countries can take the lead on pushing for reforms, but they must be willing to adapt. When I was at the U.N., the United States pushed hard for management reform. At the very same time, we unilaterally decided we would pay only 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget (our allotment was more than 30 percent). We also drew criticism because of the way our fiscal year begins in October, while many other countries pay their bills in January. There I was, constantly saying, "You need to reform on this; you need to tighten your procedures; you need to do projections on what peacekeeping operations will cost," when everyone else was saying, "So when are you paying up?" It got to the point that our best friends, the British, stood up in the General Assembly and delivered a line they had waited more than 200 years to deliver: "No representation without taxation."

The issue of how to deal with Syria has once again prompted questions about not just the U.N.'s structure and procedures, but also its purpose -- whether and in what circumstances it has the "responsibility to protect" and whether its member states should ever take up that mantle on their own. I agree with the three-quarters of respondents who think the U.S. military should not intervene unilaterally in Syria. The reality is that there are always other channels. During negotiations over Kosovo in the 1990s, the Russians made very clear to me that they were going to veto whatever the United States was going to do. I then went back to my hotel room in Moscow and called every single ambassador backing intervention -- and then we went to NATO. Every situation is slightly different, but many options are on the table. I'm the first one to say it would be better to get a U.N. mandate for military action, but ultimately I am for what I have always called the "doability doctrine."

Americans tend to dislike the word "multilateralism" -- it has too many syllables and ends in an "ism." The reality, however, is that the U.N. is the world's most visible multilateral organization and has the most members. No one country, even the United States, can tackle the bundle of issues the world faces -- from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, economic inequality to environmental degradation.

I often tell my students that American decision-makers only have a handful of tools in the toolbox to achieve the kind of foreign policy they want: bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy; economic tools; threat of the use of force and use of force; law enforcement; and intelligence. That's it. I don't believe in multilateralism as an end in itself. But I believe in it as an important instrument of policy. If we start thinking that the United Nations doesn't work, that we don't have to pay our bills, or that everything in diplomacy will turn out exactly the way we want it, we are leaving out an indispensable tool.   

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