But in addition to narrowly defined economic issues, the increasing productivity created by expanding division of labor has underpinned the fundamental historical development of human civilizations and their interactions, creating the wider themes addressed in Xi Jinping's speech.
Humanity originated in small, primarily self-sufficient communities. Around 5,000 years ago, these developed into larger city-ruled territorial units, creating civilizations in the Tigris and Euphrates, in Egypt, in the Indus valley and in parts of China. Within Asia, as Xi Jinping put it in his Boao speech, "History, over the past millennia, has witnessed ancient civilizations appear and thrive along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, the Euphrates, and the Tigris River as well as in Southeast Asia."
In the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C., still larger territorial units coalesced, forming the recognizable core of modern cultures and states - the Qin and Han dynasties unified China, the Roman Empire united Europe and the Mauryan Empire ruled much of India. Then from the 7th century A.D. these three centers became even more strongly economically linked by the rise of Islamic empires in the Middle East and Central Asia. In 1492, Columbus created permanent economic ties across the Atlantic, integrating all the largest continents and thereby establishing for the first time a truly global system.
Modern globalization is the progressive deepening of this process, with constantly increasing proportions of the economy devoted to foreign trade and foreign investment.
Nevertheless, to turn to wider issues, global economic integration proceeded far more rapidly than integration of cultures and civilizations. Certainly in the modern world many features of life in Beijing, New York, Paris, London, Delhi and the like are similar. People drive cars, use subway systems, live in apartments, use smartphones and interact on social media. Even common short term worldwide cultural crazes develop now, South Korea's rise being reflected not only in the popularity of Samsung phones but in the more than two billion worldwide viewings of the video sensation, "Gangnam Style."
But when we reflect on the historically extremely differentiated origins of humanity, major differences between cultures and civilizations remain. In real life, human beings cannot be split into strictly economic and strictly civilizational parts - real humans possess both aspects. How, therefore, can not only economies but civilizations and cultures relate for mutual benefit?
This is an issue Xi Jinping has addressed on several occasions. In his speech at the Boao Forum, he dealt with the political aspect: "Countries may differ in size, strength or level of development, but they are all equal members of the international community with equal rights to participate in regional and international affairs."