No decision has been made to relocate the seat of government. It has just put up new barriers to migrants from the rest of China, making it almost impossible for most of them to buy cars or homes (to ease traffic jams and keep housing affordable, ostensibly). These are: power and influence (mostly political); income and wealth; educational standards (universities and graduates); cultural life (theatre, publishing, an art scene) and global connections (foreign residents, airports, tourists, foreign languages taught at school, phone calls, internet connections and so on). But order and efficiency are pluses when it comes to helping the world go round. New York was the perfect expression of both American power and the modern spirit, from its gravity-defying skyscrapers to its convention-breaking intellectuals, from its ethnic neighbourhoods to its unparalleled high culture. Washington, DC, looks a more plausible candidate for that. As you approach the rural central Florida city of Ocala, it’s easy to see why this is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.” For miles, brown and white board fences enclose squares of green pastures. In 1900 there were several contenders for the title of capital of the 20th century. If you were going to invent a global capital from scratch, you might well endow it with a broad mall, a domed capitol, neoclassical temples, a reflecting pool, a towering central obelisk. It ticks along like clockwork. As you walk through the world, visualize the capital and name of each country. Capitals of Europe. Let China decide, as the emperors once did, what tianxia actually means. And how could you tell? As early as 1767, an English potter negotiated a deal with the Cherokee Nation to ship five tons of Georgia clay back to the Wedgewood, a pottery company in England, for use in porcelain. Numerous irrelevancies can be advanced on behalf of rival cities. The European Union’s founding treaty honours Rome, and its engine was tuned in the ministries of Paris and Berlin, but they plonked its capital in boring old Brussels. It’s Asian, for a start. By one reckoning its greater area, counting the business hub of Gurgaon and other exurbs, is home to 21m people. Washington takes itself seriously too, but so it should: as in 19th-century London, decisions made there matter more to the rest of the world than those taken elsewhere. It was a hotbed of ideas about how to make cities better. The Imperial capital exudes power, but the federal one should be unthreatening. It also has over 170 museums.Click here to read my guide on how to save money in London. Land. Cities are products of trade. Kaskaskia was Illinois’s first state capital. Some of the forested areas around the active pits were mined in previous decades but have since been replanted with trees and other vegetation. Bujumbura is also the biggest city in Burundi and covers an area of 33.41 square miles and has a population of over 497,000 residents. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. But, as with population, so with economics and trade: size still isn’t everything. China’s emperors were once said to rule tianxia—all under heaven—even though in practice distant “barbarians” were beyond their control. China snaps at America’s heels, and yet it is the grey men in the grey Treasury Building here who still run the world’s biggest economy. Scoring: you get 100 points for each correct answer, plus an additional amount based on how quickly you select the correct option. New York’s claim to pre-eminence will rest on more than the weakness of its rivals. For all its monuments and avenues Washington can feel provincial, even languid. 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