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Revealed: Cities that rule the world -- and those on the rise

By Catriona Davies for CNN
  • Survey of influential cities names New York as the world's powerhouse
  • London slipped to second place in annual report
  • Berlin was the highest overall riser in global survey

London, England (CNN) -- Which cities rule the world? When it comes to economic activity, political and intellectual influence and great places to live, one recent report holds few surprises.

New York, London and Tokyo all rank high in all of these categories, according to a 2010 survey of top world cities by property consultancy Knight Frank.

But how do you measure what makes a city powerful? If you consider cities that have made great strides across these categories, then Beijing and Berlin are cities that can't be ignored either.

Knight Frank measures cities on four factors -- economic activity, political power, knowledge base and quality of life -- and then aggregates the scores to rank world cities.

Gallery: World's most livable cities
1. New York
2. London
3. Paris
4. Tokyo
5. Los Angeles
6. Brussels
7. Singapore
8. Berlin
9. Beijing
10. Toronto
Source: Knight Frank
Economic activity: Judged by economic output, income per head, financial and capital market activity and market share, number of international business headquarters in each city

Political power: Judged by calculating the importance of each city to global political thought and opinion, identifying where power is held and influence exercised

Knowledge and influence: Judged by assessing the educational status and the number and ranking of educational facilities

Quality of life: Judged by personal and political freedom, censorship, personal security, crime, political stability, health facilities, public services, transport, culture and leisure, climate and quality of the environment

According to its list, New York leads global powerhouses overall, overtaking London, which had topped the table last year.

Despite a reversal at the top in 2010, the leading four cities -- New York, London, Paris and Tokyo -- remained significantly ahead of any competition, scoring well ahead of their nearest rival, Los Angeles.

While these heavyweights rule on several fronts now, there are several up-and-coming cities to consider.

Chief among these emerging contenders is Berlin. Thanks to its quality of life, it was the highest overall riser in the survey, moving from 13th to eighth place.

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Although Berlin remains outside the top 10 for its economic activity, political power and knowledge and influence, it is now rated by Knight Frank to be second in the world behind Paris for quality of life.

Beijing emerged as the second highest climber in the report, now ninth overall in the world, up from 12th in 2009.

Its rising status can be attributed to its political power, and to a lesser extent its economic activity, according to the report. However, it does not feature in the top 10 for either its knowledge and influence or its quality of life.

As a political power, Beijing rose from seventh to fourth in the survey, overtaking London, Paris and Tokyo.

Jonathan Fenby, a former editor of the South China Morning Post, wrote in the report that the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a pivotal moment for the capital city.

"China has increasing self-confidence as a political player," said Fenby. "For the first 25 years of its economic growth, China kept a low profile in geopolitics, but it is now taking a much more high profile position."

Another key theme in the survey: Six of the top 10 economic powers are in Asia -- Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.

Of these, only three -- Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing -- appeared in Knight Frank's top 10 list overall, once political power, knowledge and influence and quality of life were taken into account.

Liam Bailey, head of residential research at the consultancy and author of the report, said: "For the rising cities of Asia, economic growth and greater political clout on their own will not succeed in propelling them to the top of the table in terms of locations where the world's most influential citizens want to have a first or even a second home."