Shanghai at night
Photo © Zhang Wenjie, licenced under CC-BY 2.0, and adapted from the original

The role of city diplomacy in shaping soft power in the 21st century

March 2017

For the first time in history most people now live in cities. Cities are fundamental to economic and cultural development. They produce 80% of world GDP. They act as significant sources of soft power. 

In recent years diplomacy conducted by cities and their contribution to national influence has grown greatly in scale and importance. This trend is important, as the 21st century challenges of creating prosperous and stable societies around the world cannot be addressed by nation states alone. With globalisation, cities - long sources of prosperity and culture - will increasingly become important players in their own right in addressing international political, social, and security issues.

This paper examines how cities can shape their own destinies and help address urban, national and international challenges. Looking at international case studies of different cities, the conclusions have significant implications for organisations and individuals within cities, as well as for cities and nations themselves.

Author

Professor Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council and David Adam, Global Cities

See also