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* Book: Connectography: Mapping the Global Network Revolution. by Parag Khanna. W&N, 2016

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Jaap van Till:

"In Connectography, Parag Khanna guides us through the emerging global network civilization in which mega-cities*) compete over connectivity and borders are increasingly irrelevant. He travels from Ukraine to Iran, Mongolia to North Korea, London to Dubai and the Arctic Circle to the South China Sea – all to show how twenty-first-century conflict is a tug-of-war over pipelines and internet cables, advanced technologies and market access.

Yet Connectography offers a hopeful vision of the future. Khanna argues that new energy discoveries and innovations have eliminated the need for resource wars, global financial assets are being deployed to build productive infrastructure that can reduce inequality, and frail regions such as Africa and the Middle East are unscrambling their fraught colonial borders through ambitious new transportation corridors and power grids.

Beneath the chaos of a world that appears to be falling apart is a new foundation of connectivity pulling it together.

Or to say it more bluntly: transport and telecom links make nationstate borders less relevant and internet & trade routes the new power grid." (


Khanna spoke with CityLab at the The Atlantic‘s 5th annual Summit on the Economy:

* "Could you explain why cities are at the heart of this global shift in power?

Cities are a key element to that evolution for many reasons. First of all, the world has become urban. If you want to understand where people are, people are in cities. Second: economics. Most of the world’s economic power is concentrated in cities, and therefore they become the pivotal entities you need to analyze to understand the world economy. Thirdly, cities are increasingly connecting to each other. They’re forging their own diplomatic networks, [which] I call “diplomacity.”

Diplomacy among cities is the return of an ancient pattern. But it also dis-intermediates state structures. Cities building physical and institutional connectivity among each other, as well as growing demographic and economic power, is how they become the drivers of this new system.

So when I say, “geography is not destiny,” I mean it in two ways. First, in the sense that connectivity as a whole liberates people from their geography. And secondly, I mean that political geography is not determinant anymore, because cities are more important.

* In your book, you delve deep into the examples of well-connected cities, like Dubai, or emerging networks of connected megacities, like in the Pearl River Delta in China. Could you talk a little about these examples?

Each city that … [has] gotten itself on the map by way of elevating itself in the supply chain or by having Special Economic Zones—like Shenzhen or Dubai—is instructive to everyone around them. The key is not that we view these cities as zero-sum, because one of my main arguments is that inter-city [networking]is a positive-sum game—It’s like formula one. It’s not a zero-sum game like risk.

Cities look up to other cities in their region. The fact that Dubai is the first Middle Eastern city to be considered to be a “global city” is very inspiring to the people of Cairo, the people of Riyadh, the people of Beirut, and the people of even Addis Ababa. It’s very important that we have—in every region of the world—at least one global city with high-quality of life, high degree of connectivity.

* So where do the cities that aren’t the superstars of their region fit in?

My argument is that second-tier cities shouldn’t get hollowed out and neglected. They should get more connected to the big cities. They become back offices, back-end, supply-chain providers, lower-cost manufacturing centers—they become part of that urban area.

It’s such a shame that cities [that] are actually relatively close to Chicago are so impoverished; or the state of Connecticut has some of the richest towns in America, but also some of the poorest towns, even though they’re so close.

The difference is the degree of connectivity of those cities. How easily can their residents telecommute digitally or physically commute to jobs on high-speed rail? That is the difference. More connectivity leads to more distribution of wealth, that we know for sure. We need to see this not as an opposition—“Here’s our champion city, and here’s everyone else.” Everyone needs to be a team.

You’ve emphasized the benefits of connectivity, but also mentioned some of its drawbacks. How do cities maximize the positive and minimize the negative?

Cities, just [like] countries, have to think about balancing flow and friction. So cities want to have talent come in, but not terrorists. They want to have capital come in, but not “hot money” that destabilizes their financial system, or illicit funds. They want to have diverse food and fuel imports, but they don’t want to have pathogens and diseases. That is the daily challenge.

That comes down to technologies, institutions, agencies that help … government and cities manage those things. There’s no right answer; you see many places do it in different ways. The book is basically running you through examples that are good and bad.

* You also mention that cities—even connected ones—have problems with inequality and environmental sustainability. How can they solve these issues?

I think the spread of technologies across leading cities, things like the C40 does, are very very important. [C40 is a network of cities around the world working to tackle climate change.] I think it’s literally, empirically more important than our climate-treaty negotiations, because those are not binding. Meanwhile, what the C40 does … is lower the cost of technology. You don’t get China to implement CO2 scrubbers just by telling it to do so. You have to devise and deploy the technologies to make it cheap, and to make the factory owners say, “This will not harm my output.”

Investing in connectivity within megacities is how you empower people to have more economic opportunity; therefore, you reduce inequality." ( [2])

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