This essay is about the pivotal role cities play in the current pattern of social, cultural, and political change in East Asia. Its starting premise is that the postwar era of nation state building and state-led change is ending and a different era - one that centers on global capitalism and new technological capacities - has been steadily emerging in the region over the last several decades. At the vortex of these new forces we find big, successful cities. In such cities, the forces of capitalism, cultural cosmopolitanism, and new technologies combine critically in a turbulent and heady new mix. As a result, while the effectiveness of state initiatives decreases, and government is under pressure to reform, privatize, and decentralize, the dynamic (and typically coastal) cities of East Asia are the center of powerful economic and cultural forces for change, and the source of alternative political agendas. Simultaneously, due to their rapid expansion, these cities have also become the locus of giant new problems for public management.