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What Next for Great Cities?

In the era of COVID-19, megacities that lack competent management are bound to share the same fate as the great cities of the past. But competent management means addressing not just the virus but also deeper sources of malaise such as poverty and unaffordable housing.

PRINCETON – Has COVID-19 killed the megacity? The pandemic certainly is reshaping globalization, turning the hubs of the pre-2020 global economy into epicenters of contagion and leaving their future hanging in the balance. But the crisis also has simply highlighted megacities’ existing vulnerabilities and accelerated processes that were already underway.

By the start of this century, cities like London, New York, and Hong Kong had become central nodes in the global flow of money, people, and ideas. They were not just financial centers but also cultural metropoles, hives of creativity that depended on the bankers’ wealth and patronage. Entrepreneurs and innovators flocked in, hoping to remake themselves and the world.

But megacities also need a wide range of other workers with different skill sets. Hence, immigrants flocked to them, too, pursuing fortune or merely new opportunities for their children. Many dreamed of joining the creative elite. In due course, thriving global cities became melting pots.

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