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Best-Performing Cities Asia 2014

Sep 17, 2014

This is the Milken Institute’s first-ever ranking of the economic performance of Asia’s major cities, revealing that in creating jobs and vibrant urban growth, the Chinese dragon still roars. Of Asia’s top ten cities, six are in the People’s Republic. Top of the pack: Shenzhen, the birthplace of modern Chinese economic reform.

For more than decade, the Milken Institute has analyzed and ranked the Best-Performing Cities in the United States, focused on which regional economies best fuel job and income growth. With the establishment of its Asia Center in Singapore, the Institute has adapted one of its most recognized tools to the cities and regions in Asia where jobs are being created and sustained. The Best-Performing Cities Asia Index is based on actual economic performance assessing job and income growth, and the strength of industries on the extent of economic value they add.

As the first of modern China’s special economic zones, top-ranked Shenzhen remains a major production hub, boosting factories that employ tens of thousands of workers who produce iPhones for Apple and assemble components for many other firms. Yet lately the city’s rapid progress up the economic ladder has been fuelled by higher value-added – and better-paying – industries such as telecommunications, finance, and biopharmaceuticals.

Three other Chinese cities – Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Tianjin – rounded out the top four, and Beijing placed seventh. Shanghai came in at 10th place; this major financial center developing a world-class skilled workforce hasn’t been able to compete with cities that host high-tech manufacturing.

Outside of China, Asia’s best-performing cities span the region, with India’s Delhi (#5), Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur (#6) and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City (#9) all claiming top ten spots. Singapore comes in at 8th, the only developed economy among the top 10, a remarkable showing since the survey’s methodology rewards fast-growing cities. The city-state is an economic role model on how to transition from a low-cost location to an open international economy, based on human capital, research, and innovation capacities.