The historical conflict between Tibet and China goes back almost a thousand years. Both sides use history to argue their point about the core issues in this dispute – Tibet's claim of independence and autonomy, and China's of suzerainty. This article looks at the historical roots of this conflict, particularly since 1949, when China began its gradual takeover of Tibet. Chinese policies toward Tibet, which have been driven by a desire to communize and sinicize Tibet, has been met by stiff resistance from the Tibetans, who see Han Chinese dominance as a force that will, over time, destroy Tibet's unique religion, language, culture, and history. This resistance has drawn the attention of the West, who see Chinese policies in Tibet as a symbol of the failings of Beijing's rulers to embrace a strong commitment to human rights at the same time that China is becoming a global economic power. The 14th Dalai Lama, a key figure in this conflict, and his government-in-exile have served as bridges to Western efforts to try to force Beijing to embrace more open, humane policies toward Tibetans throughout China. His retirement as political head of the exile government in 2011, coupled with China's growing economic and strategic power globally, raises serious questions about the willingness of the USA, and other democratic powers to risk their relationships with Beijing to continue to promote true human rights and autonomy throughout the Tibetan Plateau.