Milken examined job creation, income creation and the economic value of industries in various cities for its first Asia-focused index; it has conducted a similar survey in the U.S. for over a decade.
"As the first of modern China's special economic zones, top-ranked Shenzhen remains a major production hub, boasting factories that employ tens of thousands of workers who produce iPhones for Apple and assemble components for many other firms," said Ross DeVol, the Milken Institute's chief research officer and one of the authors of the study.
"Yet lately the city's rapid progress up the economic ladder has been fueled by higher value-added – and better-paying – industries such as telecommunications, finance, and bio-pharmaceuticals," he added.
Shenzhen, located in Southern China's Guangdong Province, has a population of approximately 15 million.
Six of the Asian cities ranked in the top ten were in China, with Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Tianjin rounding out the top four. China's capital, Beijing, ranked seventh and Shanghai ranked tenth.
Guangzhou, the capital of the Guangdong province and China's third-largest city, is considered a national transportation hub and trading port. Chengdu, the provincial capital of the Sichuan province, is a major city in Western China.Tianjin, in Northern China, is one of the five national central cities of the People's Republic of China.
Milken said that Shanghai, China's major financial centre and most populous city, lost out to other Chinese cities because it's unable to compete with high-tech manufacturing hubs.
"Our data-based index highlights the urban economies that are doing the best job in both creating jobs and transitioning to a higher value-added, more sustainable, growth rate," said DeVol.
Among other high performers India's Delhi ranked fifth, Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur in sixth position, Singapore ranked eighth and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City ranked ninth.
The report said that Singapore's ranking was remarkable considering it's the only developed economy in the top ten, and the survey's methodology tends to reward fast growing developing economies.
"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," added DeVol.
The Best-Performing Cities Asia index ranked cities based on their economic performance, looking specifically at growth in jobs, household income and high value-added industries over five years (2008 to 2013) to adjust for extreme variations in business cycles.
Cost of living comparisons or quality of life conditions, such as pollution levels or commute times, were not examined.