China is one of a few countries with growing online restrictions. The state may have enjoyed a Great Leap forward in their economy lately, but definitely steps back in terms of digital rights. It is for this reason, many are in search of the best VPN for China not only to enjoy their freedom of visiting common websites but also for privacy. Whether you are in Beijing or Shanghai, here’s everything you need to know about using a China VPN and which service works best there.
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Virtual Censorship All-Around
People may be totally clueless about the fact that the Internet is not completely open for all. While the platform is ideally borderless, political situations make every Internet usage in a country unique. In China, for instance, the government contains outside information. Therefore, platforms considered harmful to Chinese interests are banned.
Wait for it – yes, Facebook, Twitter, and even Google is banned.
While this ban may seem unimaginable to some people, this is the reality in China. The Chinese media is heavily regulated, and most content on mainstream media stations needs government approval.
To the average person in the US or UK, not having access at all to these beloved sites would feel like a nightmare. China’s Internet police comprise around two million people monitoring online activity and shutting down sites deemed anti-China or a threat to the national interest. Information is restricted by the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party. Every time the Chinese Parliament or the People’s Representative Congress commences, servers and websites are blocked.
It’s safe to say that while we may disagree with what’s going on over there, the government restrictions in China are out of our control politically. It doesn’t feel like the situation is about to change soon. It’s a good thing, however, that a China VPN provides a radical solution to heavy Chinese Internet censorship or the so-called “Great Firewall” (GFW).
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Getting to Know the GFW
As you might have guessed, the GFW is the alias for the Chinese government’s Internet censorship program. To the Chinese, its official name is Golden Shield. This policy directs all government-owned ISPs to regulate traffic that goes in and out of China to a few access points only. This deputizes Chinese authorities to clamp down on foreign content and restrict cross-border traffic. This way, outside interference, and foreign content will not corrupt the country’s long-standing ideologies.
The Great Firewall can accomplish this through several methods. It can blocks IPs, tamper DNS sequences, conduct deep packet inspection, among others.
A relevant factoid: Despite China’s territorial claims spreads to Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, these areas are not covered by the GFW.
How a China VPN Works
To get around the GFW, a special app known as a VPN comes in handy. This is short for Virtual Private Network. It allows you to bypass the censorship of the Chinese Internet.
There are lots of choices, but it can be hard to find a VPN that works in China. Why? Because the Chinese Internet also can block access to VPNs.
IS VPN illegal in China? No. Although the GFW restricts VPNs, using one for your own personal purposes is not against the law. I will deal with these topics more later.
With that in mind, you will need the best VPN for China. For a VPN to conquer the Great Firewall, it has to have a few characteristics. First of all, a China VPN must have what is known as obfuscated servers. These servers can “evade” the GFW and give you access to the websites and apps that you need.
The next thing to know is that China also monitors people’s internet activity. If you don’t want a foreign government meddling with your business online, a VPN is a must. Aside from getting around the GFW, VPNs also hide your online data. This way, the best VPN for China ensures that snoopers will not know what you did on the Web.
Another thing to consider is speed. Not all VPNs are created equally, so not all of them can provide fast, reliable speeds. Also, not all of them is a VPN that works in China.
VPN that Works in China
Many VPNs may be called, but few can overcome China’s censors. A VPN that works in China can bypass any geo-restriction when others can’t. It seems the GFW can bypass some bypassers, so to speak. Did you know that there are well-recommended US-based services that can’t be used there? That’s why it’s important to stick to the best VPN for China.
Aside from that, it’s also possible that a presently working service can be immediately blocked or interrupted. I guess what I’m saying is that choosing the best VPN for China requires intense scrutiny and testing. Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you what VPN works in China.
The Best VPNs for China in 2023
In one of the most digitally-guarded countries in the world, what VPN to use in China? We’re here to guide you through this dilemma and help you choose the best VPN to use in China.
Over time, the list keeps growing thin because of the heavy crackdown on VPN use by the Chinese government. To make it to the list, each entry here has been personally tested by us in terms of whether they can overcome China’s Internet restrictions.
Presenting our list for the best VPN for China. We highly recommend any of the providers listed below if you want free Internet access in China. Read on, and we’ll tell you how to collect savings through a premium VPN paid subscription. We’ll even tell you how you can get a hold of free VPN China.
What Makes a Good China VPN?
I can personally attest to this, and several reviews also confirm my recommendation: ExpressVPN is the most consistently successful VPN against the Great Firewall. Certainly, this provider is relatively more expensive than the rest. Still, its proven record in China makes the buy completely worth it. Among the providers tested, it recorded the best uptime, reliable speeds, and is the most secure of them all. How did we arrive at this conclusion?
Criteria for the best VPN to use in China
Functional: Obviously, the most important criterion is that it is, in fact, a VPN that works in China. Remember that not all VPNs are qualified in this regard. Even the very popular VPNs are unable to bypass China’s Great Firewall.
Great Speeds: Limited data caps are a no-no. The best VPN for China is one that offers unlimited bandwidth and great speeds!
Number and server locations: Look for services that have the most number of servers located near China. By having more servers close to the country, they will be able to offer faster and more reliable speeds.
Unblocking: A good China VPN will be capable of unblocking access to popular streaming services such as Netflix.
Multiple device logins: Also, make sure that your service can allow simultaneous logins from as many devices as possible using a single subscription.
Customer support: There are unexpected issues that you encounter as in any VPN service. It’s always reassuring to have 24/7 live chat support to resolve problems.
Apps: Does the VPN have app support for mobile devices?
Security: Of course, you should scrutinize the security features of a service. When looking for a good China VPN, look for the following:
- A zero-log policy
- DNS leak prevention
- At least 128-bit AES encryption
- A kill switch
- Private (not Google) DNS servers
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Beware these VPNs: They Don’t Work in China
Just because it’s a paid VPN service doesn’t mean it’s going to work on all countries, especially China. While these VPNs might be excellent to use in the US or UK, they definitely don’t stand a chance against China’s Great Firewall.
So, keep away from the following:
- Private Internet Access
- VPN Gate
More about VPNs in China
Is there a free VPN that works in China?
Not that we want to discourage you from free VPN China services, but it’s best to avoid them in China. Why? Well, given their limited number of servers than paid ones, the probability of them overcoming the Great Firewall would be slim to none.
Let’s say the best free VPN for China can bypass it, you can’t expect it to be reliable since they usually operate with bandwidth and data restrictions. These free services also work on a quid pro quo. While they give away free VPN, they also profit off you by collecting your data and selling them to advertisers and other third parties.
It’s up to you, really. But based on our experience, a VPN to use in China should be well-thought-out.
A good China VPN: how much is it?
Basically, subscription plans have universal application. Meaning, providers don’t vary these from country to country. The cost of subscriptions only varies on the plan and provider you choose. On average, a paid subscription comes at US$5-$15 monthly. Of course, companies offer discount codes if you subscribe to their long-term plans.
Most providers today, especially our recommended top China VPN, give out money-back guarantees to subscribers. Therefore, if your China visit is short and doesn’t outlast the guarantee, canceling your account would be free.
Is VPN illegal in China?
No. Even with the GFW in place, VPN use is legal in China.
Well, in 2017, rumors flew that Chinese authorities would start hunting down VPN users and arrest them. This news certainly caused panic among US and European corporations operating in China. However, it’s time to fact check this assumption.
Nothing was ever said by the Chinese government that VPNs are illegal. This means that there is no blanket ban whatsoever. What’s banned are specific non-compliant services, especially those operating without the requisite licenses. Even if the Chinese government wants to crack down on dissenters, a wholesale ban is something China would not likely do.
First, it still does business with large foreign corporations. VPNs are legitimately used by global corporations, especially when they need to encrypt their own data for protection against espionage. What China is implementing at the moment is the heavy regulation of VPN providers.
Therefore, strictly speaking, using a VPN in China is NOT ILLEGAL. It’s just subject to several regulations, so it’s prudent that you choose a provider that has not been sanctioned in China. Using a non-approved service might ruin your experience with blocks, interruptions, and shutdowns.
Will a China VPN be laggy?
Normally, VPN use tends to slow your Internet connection down. However, a good service will only slow it down at negligible levels you won’t even notice much of a difference. Why do VPNs lead to slower connections, you ask?
Well, the first reason is that when you connect, data becomes re-routed via a server, so that takes additional time. The farther you get from a server location, the slower your connection gets. Another reason is that when your VPN service implements higher encryption protocols, it will also require extra time for encrypting and decrypting the data.
The normal limit of speed slowdown with VPN will be about 10 percent, more or less. This should be the average dip in a good VPN service. If the connection crawls by above that rate, then it could be one of several issues. There might be network congestion, ISP restrictions through bandwidth throttling, hardware overload, or VPN server congestion.
If you experience worse slowdowns, you might want to switch to VPN servers in a proximate location for faster speeds and higher bandwidth. An alternative location to China would be Singapore, Hong Kong, or China.
However, the moment your VPN becomes completely blocked, it could mean one thing: the Great Firewall has caught up with you. If you encounter this problem, then it’s a great idea to contact customer support.
Tips to keep VPN working in China
The problem with a heavily restricted Internet environment is that the situation may be unpredictable. Despite having enjoyed a decent VPN service today, it doesn’t mean the same will be the case tomorrow. You can still be blocked.
Anyway, when in a bind, the following tips can help:
- Switch to a different server
- Switch to another VPN protocol
- Change to port 433 (SSL)
- Choose a different protocol
By default, most VPN services used the OpenVPN protocol. If it’s configured well, this protocol can successfully go undetected by China’s Great Firewall. This doesn’t always happen, though. The OpenVPN can still be traced.
Windows’ SSTP protocol utilizes port 433 as a standard option. This option is supported by good VPNs like ExpressVPN and others. Since doing a wholesale blockage of port 443 would mess up the Internet, there’s a remote possibility that China will do that. Therefore, if you find yourself blocked, you can use port 433 as an option.
One other feasible protocol option is the L2TP/IPSec. This protocol has a lower chance of being blocked compared to OpenVPN. You need not worry about its availability, too. Let’s just say compared to OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec-powered VPNs have a higher chance of bypassing the GFW. Your devices usually feature L2TP, so it’s highly likely that your service will also have this feature. A good thing about L2TP is that it has comparable speed and encryption level with OpenVPN.
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It goes without saying that using the Internet in China is not the same as using it in other countries. We already know that the Internet is inherently insecure. Everyone must always be on the lookout for any malicious activity and ensure that each session is 100% secure.
Traveling to China can be a very challenging experience in today’s connected world. Many of the things we do today depend on the Internet. But the Great Firewall can be a nightmare for travelers and expatriates working there.
Keep in mind that VPN services such as ExpressVPN can enable you to experience the best of the World Wide Web when in China. You can rest assured that their services are reliable, fast, and dependable.