Switching to digital television has become an established global trend. With all the major TV markets in developed countries now set to switch - or having already done so - China too has a strategy to replace its analogue television transmissions with digital technology across all TV platforms. However, except in Hong Kong, its approach is very different from that of most other countries. Elsewhere the priority has been to switch off analogue terrestrial transmissions to make more efficient use of spectrum, often against a background of satellite and cable growing in importance and diminishing the role of terrestrial reception. In China, however, converting analogue cable systems to digital has been the primary switchover activity. Progress in implementing digital terrestrial television has been slowed by China's decision to develop its own technical standards, and regulatory restrictions apply to direct satellite reception. This article explores why the Chinese route to switchover is different. Economic and political factors make a market-led policy difficult to design or apply. Moreover, China's motivation is different: rather than pushing to re-use analogue terrestrial spectrum, the government aims to support the interests of the TV receiver manufacturing industry and, especially, to improve the managed communication of information to the Chinese people.