Mahbubani points out that the global institutions imposed onto the world by the victors in the Second World War are, in practice, unfairly dominated by the West. "The great paradox of the 21st century is that this undemocratic world order is sustained by the world’s most democratic nation states, the Western states", he says. He is particularly scathing in his criticism of the US which has undermined the one institution that, according to him, provided the basis for a more fair global order—the UN General Assembly. It was supposed to be ‘the parliament of man’. However, the UN Security Council, a blatantly unrepresentative organisation, dominated by the US along with its two Western allies—Britain and France—rules whenever action has to be taken. The irony is that the US, thereafter, criticises the widely representative General Assembly as a toothless organisation and does not even pay its financial dues to it! The hypocrisy of the US, in projecting itself as the champion of democracy across the world, even justifying invasion of another country to impose democracy by force, receives a lot of Mahbubani’s ire. Indeed, the US and Britain invaded Iraq ignoring even the Security Council, leave alone the General Assembly!
Even deeper than the domination of geopolitical institutions is the West’s domination of theories of progress. "For centuries, the West has concocted many myths, the biggest myth it concocted being: the West is the true civilisation, while non-Westerners are savages," Mahbubani says. Along with the shift in the balance of economic power towards the East, particularly with the rise of China, there is a reassertion of the strength of Eastern civilisations. Mahbubani sees three major blocs contending for power—the US, the EU, and China. Examining them, he is most critical of the EU, which is holding on to visions of Europe’s past glories beyond their ‘sell-by’ dates. The US must evolve, he says and hopes it will. China is greatly misunderstood by the West. But this does not mean that its views are wrong. In fact, as Mahbubani explains, the Chinese have a deep understanding of the meaning of human freedom and of basic human wants. What they are bringing about is a huge improvement in the condition of a mass of humanity in their own way, which may not appeal to Western liberals, but which, therefore, should not be judged to be wrong.