Saturday, November 24, 2012

The City Proper

That phrase means an urban political unit without its suburbs. Wikipedia has a list of the world’s top 65 of these (link). So why am I here today? Has yesterday’s list-making of world GDPs addicted me? Not really. We saw an old Spielberg film (1987) titled Empire of the Sun. It begins in Shanghai with a British family living in great splendor in a British neighborhood there—while Daddy worked downtown in a setting that, if you only had photographs of buildings, you’d take to be somewhere in Europe. That got me thinking about Shanghai—which so happens to be the world’s larges “city proper” with a population of 17.8 million people.

Shanghai is where Asia’s longest and the world’s third longest river, the Yangtze, enters the East China Sea. The British presence there in the late 1930s during the Japanese invasion of China—which the film was about—began with a similar invasion by the British during the Opium War (1839-1842). That incursion, and the weakness of the Chinese state, led to at least coastal exploitations of China for trade by European and American companies. All that ended when the rightly-named People’s Liberation Army took Shanghai in 1949. That, in turn, led to the wholesale migration of Europeans to Hong Kong (7.1 million), a city that ranks 26th on Wikipedia’s list.

The countries with the largest number of major cities? China ranks first. It has 11. Six of them are larger than our own New York (8.2 million), which ranks 19th, and the remaining five are all larger than our second and last city on the list, Los Angeles (3.8 million). India has 10, three larger than New York, eight larger than Los Angeles. The biggest is Mumbai (Bombay), with 12.5 million and ranked 4th over all. South Africa has three; of those Johannesburg (3.9 million) is larger than Los Angeles.

In addition to the United States, eight other countries are represented by two cities each: Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

All told, the list of the top 65 represent 34 countries. Yesterday I spoke of 175 total that reported GDP for 2011—but the full list was 214.

Now as for the film, it is very long (two hours and 32 minutes). It is a little too much like real life and therefore cannot be classed as “entertainment.” But well worth seeing. The world as it is…
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The image is the Great Seal of Shanghai courtesy of University of Florida. The image is copyrighted; I reproduce it with purchase and permission.

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