Whilst French is no advocate of the Chinese cause, he does plead for a realistic assessment of their role in Tibet. After inspecting the files of the Tibetan government in exile, it became clear to him that the much-touted figure of 1.2 million Tibetans dead as a direct result of Chinese rule could not be accepted, and the death tolls in some of the more sparsely populated areas were "unfeasibly high". But while he now believes that the figure for those killed as a result of Chinese rule is probably half a million, he does go on to say that this is "a devastating enough figure, in all conscience, which in no way diminishes the horror of what was done to Tibet". He does not accept the allegation that Tibet is still a country ruled by terror. Although he has no illusions about China’s role in Tibet, he maintains they now rule by "constant mental supervision, the absence of freedom".
French believes it is important to be realistic about Tibet, that it has suffered for too long from "the well-intentioned projections of visiting foreigners". He rightly points out that the enormous goodwill these projections have created and of course the unique status the Dalai Lama himself has achieved through his charisma, courage and faith might well stand in the way of a settlement with the Chinese, which French believes was possible at one stage. "Now," he says, "the Dalai Lama has come to represent too much; his return to Tibet with the world’s media travelling in his wake, hoovering up the biggest story of its kind since Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, would be profoundly destabilising to Communist rule."