Best VPNs For China in 2021

It’s no secret that China is among some of the most surveilled countries in the world, locking down access to likely the most widely used apps, content, and websites available.

Written By: Adam Dagan Cyber security & Privacy expert

Many residents in China have every aspect of their online privacy under the watchful eyes of local authorities, which makes the existence and use of a VPN vitally important for residents and expats here.

Before we dive into which VPNs work best in China, you’ll want to come to terms with its ‘Great Firewall,’ which is its online censorship program, i.e., the virtual blockade that prevents access to the content you love and enjoy! We’ll dive deeper into the specifics later.

To get around blocked apps and websites such as Netflix, WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, and even Google, natives and visitors require a reliable (and working) VPN.

Our Pick of the Best Working VPNs in China

  • Excellent speeds - no slow down experience
  • Zero latency – smooth gaming experience
  • Ease of use - set up in a couple of minutes
  • No-logs policy - Your data is 100% untraceable.
  • Impressive security – military grade encryption
ExpressVPN
$8.32/mo 30 Days Moneyback
Available on:
Speed Test:
107ms Avg.
45.09Mbps Avg.
9.29Mbps Avg.
Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 8 ms 58.56 Mbps 12.25 Mbps
Quick connect US server 10 ms 54.52 Mbps 11.85 Mbps
Manual connect US server 12 ms 53.22 Mbps 11.12 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 140 ms 42.85 Mbps 6.69 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 133 ms 37.64 Mbps 9.21 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 82 ms 40.41 Mbps 11.09 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 180 ms 38.42 Mbps 6.01 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 291 ms 35.11 Mbps 6.09 Mbps
VPN locations:
145 Servers in
VPN locations: 92 Countries
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bhutan
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Jersey
  • Kenya
  • South Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macao
  • North Macedonia
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Myanmar [Burma]
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

The fastest VPN in the world is our #1 best-rated VPN for its outstanding security, consistent speed and reliability

Visit ExpressVPN
  • Fast, stable, and encrypted connections
  • Multi-device security for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
  • Proxy extensions for web browsers Chrome and Firefox
  • Up to 6 simultaneously connected devices
NordVPN
$3.71/mo 30 Days Moneyback
Available on:
Speed Test:
163ms Avg.
42.71Mbps Avg.
9.23Mbps Avg.
Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 11 ms 56.23 Mbps 11.71 Mbps
Quick connect US server 10 ms 49.83 Mbps 10.75 Mbps
Manual connect US server 15 ms 46.73 Mbps 10.64 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 148 ms 45.79 Mbps 11.11 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 241 ms 32.01 Mbps 10.85 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 84 ms 49.99 Mbps 11.28 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 361 ms 23.14 Mbps 1.69 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 434 ms 37.97 Mbps 5.84 Mbps
VPN locations:
80 Servers in
VPN locations: 59 Countries
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Chile
  • South Africa
  • India
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • Australia
  • Singapore
  • Japan
  • Hong Kong
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • France
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Ireland
  • Czech Republic
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Finland
  • Serbia
  • Austria
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Bulgaria
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Romania
  • Portugal
  • Luxembourg
  • Ukraine
  • Greece
  • Estonia
  • Iceland
  • Albania
  • Cyprus
  • Croatia
  • Moldova
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Georgia
  • North Macedonia

While NordVPN didn’t quite manage to make our number one spot, it’s an excellent VPN with a long list of security features and server locations that provide phenomenal value.

Visit NordVPN
PrivateVPN
30 Days Moneyback
Available on:
Speed Test:
0ms Avg.
0Mbps Avg.
0Mbps Avg.
VPN locations:
0 Servers in
VPN locations: 0 Countries

Visit PrivateVPN
  • No limits: you can connect as many devices to your account as you want
  • No logs: like many VPNs, Surfshark advertises a strict no-log policy
  • Security audit: its privacy and security features have been verified by third-party analysts
Surfshark
$2.49/mo 30 Days Moneyback
Available on:
Speed Test:
28.5ms Avg.
67Mbps Avg.
28.5Mbps Avg.
Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Quick connect UK server 34 ms 78 Mbps 23 Mbps
Quick connect US server 23 ms 56 Mbps 34 Mbps
VPN locations:
62 Servers in
VPN locations: 63 Countries
  • Albania
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Paraguay
  • United States
  • Israel
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Australia
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Surfshark is a great VPN that offers a wide range of unique features. It is easy to use, and has an impressive array of over 3,200 servers in 65 countries.

Visit Surfshark
  • Superfast - It is one of the world’s fastest VPN services
  • Strong security features - AES-256 bit encryption, antivirus software, secure servers and more
  • Windscribe’s Password Manager - keep your passwords secure and fully encrypted
  • Unblock streaming apps - no issues unblocking Netflix, Disney+, Amazing Prime Video and more
  • Generous guarantee plan - offers an extended 45-day money-back guarantee
Hotspot Shield
$0/mo 30 Days Moneyback
Available on:
Speed Test:
114.63ms Avg.
46.13Mbps Avg.
8.53Mbps Avg.
Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 11 ms 59.25 Mbps 12.13 Mbps
Quick connect US server 13 ms 55.67 Mbps 11.43 Mbps
Manual connect US server 15 ms 52.11 Mbps 9.14 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 116 ms 45.13 Mbps 7.65 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 135 ms 42.23 Mbps 7.05 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 100 ms 44.27 Mbps 8.63 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 242 ms 37.93 Mbps 6.23 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 285 ms 32.41 Mbps 6.01 Mbps
VPN locations:
138 Servers in
VPN locations: 99 Countries
  • United States
  • Argentina
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Jersey
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • North Macedonia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • India
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Macao
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar [Burma]
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Algeria
  • Cyprus
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Kenya
  • South Africa
  • United Arab Emirates

Hotspot Shield is an admirable VPN, that has one of the fastest speeds out there.

Visit Hotspot Shield

What is a VPN, and Why do You Need One in China? 

A Virtual Private Network is a tool that unlocks a world of content by hiding your IP address from Internet Service Providers that have the power to store logs of your browsing, streaming, and other online activities to local authorities.

From the moment you hit connect on your VPN provider’s app, a secure connection is established with a private server to transmit your traffic over an encrypted tunnel. The service shields your privacy and bypasses censorship controls in any location. 

To access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram, and download torrents, a VPN is the most straightforward way of doing so and bypassing China’s Great Firewall.

There are a lot of other VPN services than those we’ve listed above; however, there are a plethora of considerations when selecting the right one. It’s not only about bypassing the censorship test. When compiling our list, we took onboard various other benefits for each of our picks to ensure they deliver on customer support, that they have a decent variety of servers, a good speed rating, and of course, a reliable connection that doesn’t break down every couple of minutes. 

Video on Demand (VOD) services are constantly improving their content blocking techniques, so we ensured our list of providers can access Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+ with no issues.  

Which VPN Works Best in China?

Unlike many other countries around the world, the censorship in China is a tough one to crack, hence why there are not a huge number of VPN services that function well when they come up against the Great Firewall. Fortunately, our top pick, ExpressVPN, came out on top because it can unblock almost any site you try with it, and it continues to protect your privacy every step of the way.

Although the ExpressVPN website is inaccessible with a direct connection in China, those who install the app outside of the jurisdiction will be able to take full advantage of its reliable high-end encryption technology that opens access to a variety of previously locked content.

What to Consider When You’re Choosing a VPN to Use in China

Unsurprisingly, when we choose a best pick VPN service, we never pull a name out of a hat and hope that it lives up to its reputation. Instead, we put each one through its paces with vigorous testing, keeping a number of considerations in mind to help us determine which of these come out on top.

  • Bypassing China’s censorship 

Can the VPN beat the advances of China’s Great Firewall to lift content restrictions?

  • Cross-platform/device capability 

Does the provider offer support on multiple platforms such as desktop, mobile, and smart TVs?

  • Simultaneous connections 

Does the provider allow VPN use on several devices at once, and are there enough available to meet your needs?

  • Customer support

Is there help available when things go wrong, and is it available 24/7?

  • Servers near to China

Are there servers available in close proximity in places like Taiwan and Japan?

  • Performance

Can the VPN offer speeds that avoid annoying buffering when streaming or playing online games?

  • Kill switch

If your internet connection fails, does a kill switch cut the link automatically?

Full Overview of the Top Five VPN Services for China

Written By: Adam Dagan Cyber security & Privacy expert

1. ExpressVPN

Our main pick is a little pricier than our other providers, but it’s worth its weight in gold due to the benefits provided. You’ll get five available connections included with a base subscription, excellent speeds, and a wide range of server locations to choose from. 

The provider boasts 99.9% uptime in China, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that chat support is on hand 24/7. Advanced encryption and an auto kill switch come bundled with the available apps, which are user-friendly and accessible on mobile devices and desktops. 

You can use the app on Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, PC, Fire TV Sticks, and even install it on a compatible router. If you need to use a direct connection for some apps but a VPN for others, the split tunneling feature is useful. Express has a range of servers that work well with streaming platforms, and torrenting is also available.

Works with

Key Features

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, browsers, video game consoles, and Smart TVs
Data logging Independently audited, strict no-logging policy.
Money-back guarantee 30 days
Number of servers Over 3000
Top download speed reached 96Mbps
VPN locations 160 locations in 94 countries
Maximum devices supported Five simultaneous connections
Plans one month, six months, and 12 months
24/7 live chat Yes

Allows access to Netflix and other blocked content region-blocked content in China. 

Speed

Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 8 ms 58.56 Mbps 12.25 Mbps
Quick connect US server 10 ms 54.52 Mbps 11.85 Mbps
Manual connect US server 12 ms 53.22 Mbps 11.12 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 140 ms 42.85 Mbps 6.69 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 133 ms 37.64 Mbps 9.21 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 82 ms 40.41 Mbps 11.09 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 180 ms 38.42 Mbps 6.01 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 291 ms 35.11 Mbps 6.09 Mbps

Not Recommended for... A little pricey in comparison to other providers.

Bottom Line 

Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and more are unblocked thanks to efficiently bypassing the Great Firewall. There’s a massive range of locations to choose from and rapid connections. Plus, you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee with your purchase, which is especially useful if you’re only visiting China for a few weeks.

Read ExpressVPN Full Review

2. NordVPN

Looking for a quick and easy way to encrypt your browser’s web traffic? NordVPN replaces your IP address with one of its 5400+ servers in 80 locations across the world. With so many servers to connect to, you’ll be able to easily unblock any website or streaming app that you throw in front of it, including the most popular ones such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

To get connected, all you’ll need to do is install the Chrome or Firefox extension and use Nord’s Auto Connect feature to match with the fastest servers. You’ll be benefiting from DNS and IPv6 leak protection when you’re connected and NordVPN’s strict no-logging policy ensures that your personal information will never be shared with third parties under any circumstances.

Works with

Key Features

Available on Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Deluge, Vuze, Kindle Fire, Opera, compatible routers and game consoles
Data logging No-logging policy
Money-back guarantee 30 days
Number of servers 5,500+
Top download speed reached 98Mbps
VPN locations Over 80 in 59 countries
Maximum devices supported Six devices
Plans One month, one year, and two-year subscriptions
24/7 live chat Yes

A great-value provider. Has an extensive network of fast servers with some in China, it keeps no logs, and is generally a reliable, private, and secure service.

Speed

Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 11 ms 56.23 Mbps 11.71 Mbps
Quick connect US server 10 ms 49.83 Mbps 10.75 Mbps
Manual connect US server 15 ms 46.73 Mbps 10.64 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 148 ms 45.79 Mbps 11.11 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 241 ms 32.01 Mbps 10.85 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 84 ms 49.99 Mbps 11.28 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 361 ms 23.14 Mbps 1.69 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 434 ms 37.97 Mbps 5.84 Mbps

Not Recommended for... There’s no option to manually connect to servers if you’re using the browser extension.

Bottom Line 

NordVPN is one of the best browser VPNs for unblocking websites and streaming apps thanks to its massive selection of over 5400 servers. It’s fast, lightweight, and super secure, and is an excellent alternative to ExpressVPN if you’re looking for a slightly cheaper provider.

Read NordVPN Full Review

3. Private VPN

One of the great features of Private VPN is its stealth mode setting, which cleverly adds functionality to your connection that makes the appearance of encrypted packets look unencrypted, meaning the Great Firewall has a more challenging job of detecting it. Streaming services are easily accessible and the speeds provided aren’t to be scoffed at either. Metadata and usage logs aren’t stored, and security is of the highest standard. 

Block out suspicious snoopers from your connection when you use the VPN on public WiFi, and if you get stuck, you have live chat support at your disposal. Server switches and bandwidth are unlimited, so that’s one less thing to worry about while you enjoy using your favorite apps and websites.

Works with

Key Features

Available On: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, and Routers
Data logging Zero data logging policy.
Money-back guarantee 30 days
Number of servers Over 100
Top download speed reached 61.36Mbps
VPN locations 60 countries
Maximum devices supported Six simultaneous connections
Plans one month, three months, and 12 months
24/7 live chat Yes

Requires Stealth Mode to be enabled to work. 

Speed

Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US 11 ms 59.25 Mbps 12.13 Mbps
Quick connect US server 13 ms 55.67 Mbps 11.43 Mbps
Manual connect US server 15 ms 52.11 Mbps 9.14 Mbps
Quick connect UK server 116 ms 45.13 Mbps 7.65 Mbps
Manual connect UK server 135 ms 42.23 Mbps 7.05 Mbps
Quick connect FR server 100 ms 44.27 Mbps 8.63 Mbps
Quick connect JP server 242 ms 37.93 Mbps 6.23 Mbps
Quick connect AU server 285 ms 32.41 Mbps 6.01 Mbps

Not Recommended for... 24/7 live chat would’ve been a bonus, and the available server list is pretty small.

Bottom Line 

Private VPN gets the unblocking done for almost anything you could wish for, allowing you to indulge in your favorite shows in China; plus, you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee. Android, Mac, iOS, and PC are among some of the supported apps, and you can use them on six devices simultaneously.

Read PrivateVPN Full Review

4. Surfshark

Surfshark didn’t work in China until 2019. Still, one year on and connections have become incredibly reliable, allowing users to watch their favorite streaming services to access blockbuster movies and TV shows. Surfshark bypasses restrictions effortlessly. Compared to our other providers, Surfshark takes things a step further to allow unlimited simultaneous connections under one subscription, meaning it’s suitable for a night playing games online with others in your household.

This is another zero logs provider with an auto kill switch and an ad-blocker included as standard, in addition to high-end security. You’ll get endless bandwidth, and P2P file sharing is allowed over a generously speedy connection.

Works with

Key Features

Available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation, and more
Data logging No-logging policy
Money-back guarantee 30 days
Number of servers 1,700+
Top download speed reached 95Mbps
VPN locations 63 countries
Maximum devices supported Unlimited
Plans One month, six months, and two-year subscriptions
24/7 live chat Yes

Excellent for enabling US Netflix in China. 

Speed

Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Quick connect UK server 34 ms 78 Mbps 23 Mbps
Quick connect US server 23 ms 56 Mbps 34 Mbps

Not Recommended for... Servers can be slow at times, and there aren’t many server locations to choose from.

Bottom Line 

Surfshark unblocks popular streaming services with minimal effort, you’ll get unlimited simultaneous connections, and you get 30 days to change your mind. You can use Surfshark’s apps on all the major platforms, including but not limited to PC, Mac, and mobile.

Read Surfshark Full Review

5. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield has you covered, boasting lightning speeds and the ability to bypass blocked services like news, apps, videos, and social media. Region-specific streaming services are made available, and if you use public WiFi, just connect to the app to keep unwanted snoopers away.

The company abides by a log-free policy, which was recently updated due to privacy concerns, and its network spans 70 countries with a whopping 3200 servers.

You’ll be greeted with support via LiveChat 24/7, five simultaneous connections are bundled with a subscription, and unlimited server switches are supported.

Works with

Key Features

Available On Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, routers and more.
Data logging Strict no-logging policy.
Money-back guarantee 45 days
Number of servers Over 1800
Top download speed reached 1gbps
VPN locations 160 locations in 80+ countries
Maximum devices supported Five simultaneous connections
Plans one month and 12 months
24/7 live chat Yes

Works well in China and is reasonably priced with rapid speeds

Speed

Connection Ping Download Speed Upload Speed
Starting speed US ms Mbps Mbps
Quick connect US server ms Mbps Mbps
Quick connect FR server ms Mbps Mbps

Not Recommended for... The automatic kill switch only works on Windows, and there have been concerns for privacy in the past. Plus, Linux isn’t supported.

Bottom Line 

Enjoy lightning speeds from servers spanning over 70 countries to leap over the Great Firewall. You’ll get a 45-day money-back guarantee, apps are available for multiple platforms, and it even comes with a Chrome extension, but the automatic kill switch only works on PC.

Read Hotspot Shield Full Review

Additional Insights and FAQs

How to check a VPN connection in China

Many services cannot bypass the Great Firewall due to their server listings being blackholed. In contrast, others cannot provide a secure enough connection to avoid being detected by the Chinese state servers. Many OpenVPN servers are being caught and shut down in addition to L2TP over IPSec configurations. Checking if the connection works is your best bet, and making use of the money-back guarantees all major providers offer.

What is the purpose of the Great Firewall?

So glad you asked. As we’ve mentioned previously, the unofficially named Great Firewall is China’s online censorship program, known by the big wigs as the Golden Shield. ISPs block access to all online content in and out of China to a small number of access points, allowing authorities to monitor and restrict content access outside of China. DNS tampering, IP blocking, URL filtering, in-depth packet inspections, manual enforcement, and keyword filtering are some of the methods used by the Great Firewall.

  • Deep packet inspection checks internet packets for specific keywords to determine whether VPN protocols have been used to encrypt the packet.
  • DNS tampering is the means of editing a DNS cache entry so that a standard URL directs to an incorrect IP address
  • IP blocking blacklists the server IP address of a website
  • Manual enforcement blocks IPs and URLs using China’s vast internet police force
  • Keyword filtering monitors messages, web page requests, and search queries for any sensitive phrases. Any identified sensitive keywords can be interjected by ISPs to alter a DNS response

As you’d expect from a country with the world’s biggest population, China employs intrusion detection methods that ensure uninterrupted traffic flow and create packet copies that undergo complex filtering.

Many of the VPNs on this list take VPN packets and create scrambling methods to make them appear like authentic (average) packets. The Great Wall uses an active probing technique that inspects traffic at the VPN source rather than checking while it’s in transit to a destination.

How does the Great Firewall block VPN connections?

Every internet connection coming in and out of China is tracked in some way or another, with the country utilizing seven backbone connections. All connections are monitored, checked, logged then checked once more by swathes of servers. As the name suggests, the Great Firewall is an extremely advanced tool that tracks every online session created throughout the country.

Blackholing websites and apps via a border gateway protocol is China’s frontline internet defense. The gateway communicates between routers to give the green light for enabled resources and a thumbs down to blocked services.

If a VPN is blackholed, a TLS handshake is impossible, and China doesn’t hesitate to blackhole IP addresses and domains for any server around the world it deems necessary. Due to the BGP, it’s not uncommon for black holes to apply to all servers for some VPN providers. These include CactusVPN, Keenow, VPNArea, and several others, meaning the usability of these are impossible in China.

Will my VPN get past the Great Firewall? If so, how?

We get it; you want to know how these clever tools can get behind the advanced tech of the Great Firewall.

Your connection and the contents of your browsing are hidden. The data being sent, such as private messages, video streams, file downloads, and more, are placed into encrypted packets before they are sent across the web. The VPN jumbles up the data until it arrives at its destination country, and the Great Wall struggles to understand what you’re up to.

The server is the tool between you and the Great Firewall to mask where your traffic is headed. Let’s suppose you attempt to upload a clip to Facebook directly; the Great Firewall would prevent it from happening. Using the VPN encrypts the data, so the GFW knows you’re sending something to the server; it just doesn’t know what.
Your clip heads through the server for a thumbs up from Facebook, Facebook sends a video stream via the same server, and the GFW only sees masked data coming from the server, not Facebook.

Much like China blocks Facebook, it can also block VPNs, so ensure your provider isn’t on the blacklist.

The providers that came out on top in our list go above OpenVPN encryption, and some obfuscate packet headers using an OpenVPN extension to ensure packets remain undetected.
There’s no point opting for VPN server chaining techniques or Double VPNs as they provide no real benefit (unless the second server is blackholed) of beating the Great Firewall.

Which websites and apps does China block?

There are various tools available on the web to check whether an app or website is blocked in China. It’s as simple as entering the URL of the site you wish to access, and after testing access from various cities, you’ll get a result that shows whether your chosen site or app is blocked.

There are permanent blocks in place for most websites behind the Great firewall, whereas some only have temporary blocks. The Great Firewall can throttle global web traffic as required, usually done because of anti-government protests, a newly discovered scandal, and annually during the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary on June 4th. Corporate VPNs and domestic VPNs are often blocked temporarily during these events.

It’s not uncommon to see a site from one region to have a block where a site is available in another area, indicating a lower level of online government censorship and that the ban doesn’t apply nationally. In some cases, where there’s a feud, such as that between Tibet and Xinjiang, there have been blocks known to last for only a matter of hours.

To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the known apps and websites blocked in China that require a VPN. Please note: this list is only a handful of sites that are actually confirmed to be unavailable. There are likely to be many more not included below. Here goes:

  • Instagram
  • Tinder
  • Snapchat
  • Soundcloud
  • Flickr
  • Skype
  • WhatsApp
  • Dropbox
  • Github
  • Vimeo
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • News media
  • Every Google service is also blocked, meaning Search, Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Translate, Play Store, Sheets
What causes a slow VPN connection in China?

As a general rule, VPNs can reduce your connection speed due to their encryption methods, meaning your computer’s hardware is continuously encrypting and decrypting the traffic being produced. You should only experience around a 10 percent drop in download speed as a result. Secondly, data takes longer to pass through when using a VPN as it has further to travel before being re-routed.

If you notice extreme lag, then there could be congestion on the network, your ISP throttling your bandwidth, VPN congestion, or issues with your hardware keeping up with the connection demands.

You might consider server hopping to see if there’s a noticeable speed difference. Geographically, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan are usually the best options.
There’s always the possibility that the Great firewall has blacklisted your connection, meaning it’s blocked altogether.
If you get persistent problems, it’s best to check in with your service provider for support.

Are there any legal implications in China for using a VPN?

Please don’t panic. VPNs in China are entirely legal; even though many providers are blocked, there’s currently no ban on them.
There are plenty of media outlets that suggest content-bypassing tools are illegal, mainly because of a 2017 crackdown on the use of VPNs, but nowhere does it state using a VPN is criminal activity.

Is a VPN necessary to get around the Great Firewall?

In short, yes, a VPN is the ideal method to bypass the GFW, although there are several other methods people try:

  • Users have reported Tor to work using an advanced configuration but don’t expect to get anywhere out of the box. Identification and entry points using Tor are picked up fairly quickly for the Great Firewall, so bridge setups are often required
  • Shadowsocks and related SOCKS proxy apps have been known to work, but privacy and speeds are a concern
  • To dodge China’s control of the free internet, some users turn to ShadowSOCKS, which is similar to a VPN. Many people use this as a VPN alternative as the Chinese government is yet to pile resources into preventing the use of the service. This could, of course, only be a matter of time before there is a clampdown
  • Lastly, Lantern is becoming a popular option as it has exit points outside of China using a volunteer peer-to-peer tunneling technique
Are Chinese VPNs expensive?

No matter whether you subscribe outside of China or while you’re there, VPN fees will usually be the same regardless. You could easily pick up a VPN for anywhere between $5 – $10 per month. If you sign up for an annual subscription, you’ll often get a heavily discounted rate.
Some of the providers we’ve included on our list have some tempting money-back guarantees, meaning a trip to China for a few weeks could cost you nothing if you utilize their offers and cancel before the trial period ends.

Do any free VPNs function in China?

Free VPN services are a little taboo and are worth avoiding if you want to use them in China. A free VPN tackling the GFW is unlikely to be successful. Standard SSL VPN browser extensions are often reported as unusable.

Should you find one that works, there’s less reliability with a free provider, and there are usually limits to bandwidth with a minuscule range of servers versus paid plans. It’s not uncommon for free VPNs to snoop on your activity to make their money to sell on to advertisers and other third parties.

China has some of its own free VPN services, such as Turbo VPN, but if you value your privacy, we’d suggest avoiding these.

What are the winning characteristics of a VPN for China?

You might want to consider the following when choosing a VPN for China:

  • Understand the available server locations. Are Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong available? As you’ll see a better speed as a result
  • Ensure it can get past the Great Firewall!
  • Choose a provider that is fast enough to handle downloads and video streaming.
  • Unlimited bandwidth is often useful
  • As well as the ability to bypass the Great Firewall, you may wish to access popular streaming services that have geographical restrictions, meaning services like VyprVPN, Nord VPN, and Express VPN will tick all of the boxes
  • Using multiple devices simultaneously with a VPN is great, but you might hit a wall if the provider limits the available connections. Some providers offer unlimited connections, while Nord provides up to six
  • Scammers, hackers, and malware are rife in China, so you should look for features such as an automatic kill switch, pristine forward secrecy, 128-bit encryption, a zero logs policy, private DNS servers, and IPv6, DNS, and WebTRC leak prevention techniques
  • You’ll want support when the tool you use fails, so having a range of support options like live chat and phone support there as a lifeline is essential
  • Most VPNs use intuitive apps to deliver their technology, so you should ensure your chosen provider has apps for the devices you’re using
How can I access the PlayStore from China?

As we’ve mentioned before, China blocks access to all of Google’s services; this includes the PlayStore. That means accessing Android might prove difficult. Third-party app stores are the alternative for Android users in China, and although they have a vast library of apps, you’ll probably struggle to find what you’re looking for.

Not so long ago, China ordered the removal of VPNs from their app stores, and even before that happened, you’d be unlikely to find your VPN provider’s app. Before heading to China with an Android device, it’s recommended to get your VPN up and running. If you’re already in China, you could check your provider’s website for a direct APK download that installs the app onto your phone without needing an app store. Ensure your settings allow apps from unknown sources to be installed, and make sure it won’t update automatically. If you’re unsure where an APK file has come from, you should proceed with caution as they may contain malware or unwanted nasties.

If you have a VPN on your PC or laptop, and you’re already in China, you could attempt to sideload the app to your Android device. The easiest way to do this is to download the APK from the VPN provider’s website, drag the file into the download folder of your Android device using a USB cable and then install the file from your phone.
Google services and the PlayStore will never come bundled with a device bought in China.

Is there a way to obtain a Chinese IP address?

If Chinese TV on platforms like Todou, CNTV, or Youku is more your thing than the usual streaming platforms, you can get a Chinese IP address to gain access outside of China. It’s unusual to see VPNs with Chinese servers, so most providers use a virtual IP address that belongs to China, although the server is in another location.

There are plenty of resources online that detail how to obtain a Chinese IP address, and if you’re outside of China looking to enjoy their country-specific content, you don’t have many options to choose from.

  • PureVPN off has Shanghai and Beijing locations, although getting past the Great Firewall has often proved problematic
  • FlyVPN provides a handful of Chinese servers
  • Hotspot Shield can unblock websites and apps only available in China
  • HideMyAss has four Beijing IP addresses
Will all VPNs get blocked in China?

The ban isn’t currently in place, nor has there been any communication from Chinese Telecom companies to say that a ban is in the works. So, it’s improbable to be happening any time soon (if at all). The use of VPNs continues in China, mostly used legally and safely. For the VPN services known to be regarded as unsafe, China has already blackholed any access from associated IP addresses and domains.

Most providers will only ever suffer downtime temporarily whilst they update their server addresses and software.

Each of the recommendations on our list has been around for some time now and has been operating in China successfully without any issues. Through rigorous testing and feedback from their users, these providers understand how to overcome the boundaries that are in place. Best of all, they’ve learned how to do this safely and effectively to provide you with a seamless browsing experience. That’s unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Are there content restrictions in Taiwan and Hong Kong?

China claims jurisdiction in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The good news is the Great Firewall has no impact in these locations. The Internet is completely unrestricted so you don’t need a VPN, although there’s no harm in using it as a privacy shield.

Beijing holds several proposed national security laws that threaten Hong Kong, and as a result, VPN usage has soared. You’ll likely hit censorship issues if you search the web for Taiwan and Hong Kong information, so you’d need a VPN for this purpose.

Does China monitor my social media and messaging traffic?

Unfortunately, that’s a yes too. China is monitoring everything you do online, meaning platforms like Doyin, QQ, Weibo, WeChat, and more are subject to extensive monitoring. Posts, messages, shared files, and more are all captured by local authorities to ensure no compromising information is ever exchanged. Video surveillance footage, biometric data, shopping habits, and more are combined with your social data.

Anonymity is hard to come by online in China thanks to the internet authorities. To use any social media platform in China, real-name registration is required before you can get any further.
Every aspect of a user’s life is available for scrutiny as a result of this intrusive monitoring.
Automated systems and manual intervention are used by authorities to take decisive action for any behaviors identified as straying from the scope of what’s acceptable.

If you’re headed to China, WeChat is the preferred messaging platform, so ensure you’re equipped with a VPN to use services like Telegram, WhatsApp, and Signal to achieve your personal messaging goals.

Summary 

If you’re a resident of China attempting to access blocked content with a VPN, there are some hurdles to jump over, mainly because the websites of most providers are currently locked down within the country. If, however, you’re just soon to pass through, then we’d highly recommend installing a VPN on the devices you’ll take with you in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Once you have a VPN readily equipped, you’ll be able to access blocked websites and region-locked content from the comfort of your device screen without fear of running into the Great Firewall. Additionally, using a VPN in China will protect your privacy, especially on public WiFi hotspots, so you can get peace of mind knowing your connection remains anonymous.