Best VPNs for China
If you are planning to take a trip to China or live there, and you can’t see yourself abandoning the western apps, services, and sites that you used to enjoy, then you need to get yourself a VPN. Not all VPN apps can pass through the strict firewall in China, and if there are, they can be a little frustrating to work with.
China has a state-of-the-art online censorship system which is referred to as the Great Firewall, and it is the dwelling place for most VPN users. Locals and ex-pats make use of VPN services to sidestep banned apps and sites including Google Services, Facebook, Netflix, Tinder, Comparitech, and Western News Media.
Pro tip: Most VPN websites are prohibited in China that’s why it is highly recommended that you sign-up with reputable VPN services before traveling to China if you are not a resident there.
NordVPN (Best VPN for Bypassing China VPN Ban)
NordVPN is an affordable provider that just recently started operations in China. They offer six simultaneous connections wrapped up in a single subscription. They can pass through streaming sites such as Hulu and Netflix US.
Torrenting is acceptable and their servers are located in over 59 countries. NordVPN takes pride in its powerful encryption quality and they don’t keep tabs on their user’s personal data and activity.
On top of that, they have speedy performance and maximum safety optimizations such as double VPN, anti-DDoS, and many more.
NordVPN’s desktop apps work great in China and that includes Mac OSX and Windows. For android users, downloading the beta version of the latest VPN apps is highly recommended. Sadly, their iOS app isn’t strong enough to get around the Great Firewall.
NordVPN is an efficient all-around VPN that operates well in China. It has powerful security features and can accommodate 6 devices in one account. Lastly, it also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Approximately six devices can simultaneously connect using one subscription
- Operates seamlessly in China
- Unblocks many streaming platforms including iPlayer, Amazon Video, Netflix, and more
- Maximum security with heavy-duty encryption and zero logs
- Doesn’t present a specific province or city to connect with
- iOS app cannot bypass the Great Firewall
Owning one of the biggest collections of servers in the field of VPN, evading the Great Firewall is a piece of cake for PureVPN. You can simply select a VPN server that operates in China, click connect, and you can instantly access your chosen websites, content, and apps without any problem.
PureVPN has a worldwide server network with more than 2,000 servers in over 141 countries in different parts of the world.
Out of all those VPN servers, six of those are situated in Shanghai and Guangdong City.
Servers of PureVPN in China are self-operated, giving users the freedom to access it anytime and anywhere with approximately 99.9% of uptime.
Sporting over 2,000 global network servers across more than 141 countries and having access to up to 300,000 IPs, PureVPN helps its users in China bypass the Great Firewall and open any app, sites, and content that they want.
With PureVPN, anyone can use the internet in China without any restrictions, censorship, or limitations.
This Singapore-based company just established itself as one of the VPN providers that can circumvent the Great Firewall in China. Ivacy accepts torrenting, bypass Netflix US, and offers 24-hour live customer support.
It has a competitive speed and works in 100 countries using more than 2000 servers. Ivacy doesn’t keep tabs on its user’s activity and personal details. It secures connections using encryption that is difficult to decode. It comes with built-in leak protection and a kill switch.
In Ivacy, you can create split tunneling and customize the apps that can pass through the VPN and which ones are delivered in an unencrypted passage.
What’s noteworthy about Ivacy is it allows users to connect up to five devices simultaneously. Besides this, all of their VPN apps are workable in Mac OSX, Android, Windows, and iOS.
IvacyVPN is a low-cost VPN service provider that operates in China and can evade the Great Firewall. It can host up to five devices at the same time using one account.
China began blocking VPNs on March 31, 2018. Though the majority of VPN providers are unable to operate in China, some providers say their services are still accessible in the country. TunnelBear is one of those VPNs that claim that they can still operate and view content in China.
TunnelBear operates in 23 different countries and HongKong is one of them. If you are planning to head over to China for a visit, you can tap their server in HongKong to go around the Great Firewall.
TunnelBear has a unique feature known as GhostBear – it hides your VPN traffic and makes it look like normal internet traffic. The Great Firewall in China utilizes DPI or Deep Packet Inspection to determine internet traffic and impedes specific types of traffic.
GhostBear employs a technology that’s known as Obfsproxy – it alters your traffic fingerprint in various ways to make it seem like typical traffic and not a VPN traffic. One thing that users like about TunnelBear is the fact that it is a free app and GhostBear is already part of that package.
With this, you don’t have to pay a certain amount to access apps, services, content, and sites in China.
However, even if TunnelBear is an amazing aid when you are visiting China, it can be a bit slow when it comes to connection. For people who are looking for VPNs with ultra-high speed, this is not recommended.
Aside from this, you should also keep in mind that GhostBear is not available among iOS users, but it does operate on Mac OS X, Windows, and Android.
How to Know Which VPNs are Working in China?
The Great Firewall is the nonofficial term for the state-of-the-the-art internet censorship mechanism in China. It is officially called the Golden Shield Project and it blocks specific internet traffic that travels to and from China.
This helps government authorities trace and impede access to content from outside the country. The Great Firewall uses different methods to expunge the web and this includes DNS tampering, deep packet inspection, manual enforcement, IP blocking, keyword filtering, and URL filtering.
Here’s how each method works to contribute to the censorship:
- DNS tampering includes remodeling the entry of a DNS cache for the URL to resolve into the wrong IP address.
- Manual enforcement uses 50,000 powerful internet police in China to identify and restrict URLs and IP addresses.
- IP blocking is a straightforward way of blacklisting the IP address of a server that supports a website.
- Keyword filtering works by inspecting web page requests, messages, and search queries for sensitive phrases and words. ISPs can block unwanted communication through confiscating DNS requests that use inappropriate keywords and incorporating modified DNS replies.
- Deep packet inspection, or also known as packet filtering can examine internet traffic for unnecessary keywords and identify once a packet has gone through encryption via VPN protocol.
To manage all of the internet traffic that operates between China – the most populated country in the world – and the outside world, complicated and tight intrusion detection systems or IDS duplicates packets and sends them to filtering platforms so the flow of traffic remains smooth-sailing and uninterrupted.
Once the Great Firewall blocks websites, some remain blocked permanently, but others are only blocked for a certain period. Moreover, when a website is blocked in one city, it might still be accessible in a different city. This only means that internet censorship is not fixed on a nationwide level and it can vary in different areas in China.
For instance, Xinjiang and Tibet are western provinces with the most dissent in China and they have very limited internet access. They can only use it for a few hours each day.
VPNs That Don’t Work In China
Take note that not all paid VPN services can evade the strict mechanism of the Great Fire allW. If you want to use a VPN when you are traveling or staying in China, make sure you stay away from these:
Though PIA has positive feedback among users, the company confesses that they have been facing problems when it comes to their connections inside and outside China.
Many users reported slow and poor-quality connections in China when they use HideMyAss. This service provider is also infamous for having dissatisfactory logging mechanisms that caused users to face troubles with the government in the past.
VPN Gate branched out from an experiment that aimed to evade censorship.
It’s not illegal to use a VPN service in China. For many years, there’s no case reported that involved a person being arrested for utilizing such type of service. The mission of the government is just to block and not to penalize.
China’s Great Firewall utilizes different strategies to examine and successfully censor access to VPN services. One of the most remarkable strategies is known as “deep packet inspection”. It inspects traffic when it goes through one of the local ISP’s servers to check for signs of a footprint that are common among VPN protocols such as OpenVPN.
Reliable VPNs use some kind of obfuscation to alter the data and mimic the form of regular traffic. This way, the authorities won’t be able to determine that it is powered by a VPN.
If your VPN service is not working in China, there are still solutions that you can use to restore their functionality. Here are several steps that you could do:
- Use another VPN protocol
- Change your VPN protocol
- Use a different server
- Port forward to port 433 (SSL)
The OpenVPN protocol is the best option for most VPNs because, with the appropriate configuration, it can potentially pass through the strong system of the Great Firewall. However, there are times when OpenVPN connections are discovered by packet inspection.
The SSTP protocol intended for Windows utilizes port 433 by default, that’s why it is one of the highly-recommended options for VPNs such as StrongVPN and ExpressVPN. Since censoring port 443 simultaneously will blow up the internet, all website that utilizes HTTPS will be unavailable. This means that China would be unable to censor all traffic that goes through port 443.
Another suggestion is to utilize the L2TP/IPSec protocol. L2TP/IPSec has a low chance of being recognized and banned by the Great Firewall compared to OpenVPN. Most devices already have built-in support that is appropriate for L2TP, so check your VPN app because it might have it too.
What’s great about L2TP/IPSec is it provides the same speed and amount of security to those offered at OpenVPN.
Why China Have Banned the VPNs?
Here is the list of apps that you can unblock and access using VPN in China:
- All Google services (Search, Gmail, Play Store, Translate, Drive, and more)
- News media
As of October 2017, WhatsApp – the most popular messaging app in the world – is officially censored in China. Sending text messages, pictures, and videos are now banned in the country. Using a trustworthy and effective VPN service, all of the listed apps above, including WhatsApp can be accessed within the country.
Is There Any Risk to Use a VPN in China if I Get Caught?
The utilization of VPN in China is still legal – even if headlines get too crazy sometimes and suggest the opposite. In January 2017, the government authorities in China sent out a notice saying that a campaign will be undertaken to bust cable and VPN services that operate in the country. The notice didn’t say anything about VPN use is a crime.
The only thing involved in the notice was that VPN providers are illegal to operate in China unless they can secure authorization from the government. VPN users are out of the picture. However, for VPN providers, downtime will be increased because censorship is at its peak.
Few VPN providers operate in China because of the high-risk. Most of them don’t have employees, offices, and servers situated in the country. This means that they work in countries outside China to eliminate the trouble of acquiring approval from the Chinese authorities.
However, even if they operate outside the country, they can still be subjected to censorship by the Great Firewall once the authorities identify them as a threat.
The Great Firewall can prevent VPN servers if they want, however censors usually occur in waves. Censoring one IP address from a server is still useless because users can instantly jump to another server.
To effectively perform a blocking procedure, China collects names of VPN servers first and once they have gathered enough, they block them simultaneously.
This usually takes place during events where China receives the biggest amount of political attention. For instance, during the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, the web was swept to erase the possibility of spreading about it online. If the reputation of the Chinese government looks bad, it gets banned, to protect them.
What to Look for in a VPN for China
When selecting a VPN that you can use in China, here are several factors that you should consider:
- Operates in China – basically, this is the first thing that you should consider. Take note that not all VPN can circumvent the Great Firewall that’s why you should find one that can get past it.
- Fast Connection – you will likely use VPN to download and stream, that’s why fast servers and unlimited bandwidth are essential.
- Location of the Server – servers that are closest to China, such as Hong Kong, and Japan, deliver the fastest speed.
- Unblocking Ability – apart from evading the Great Firewall, you also want to enter streaming platforms such as Spotify or Netflix. Make sure your VPN service provider can unblock these streaming sites.
- Simultaneous connections – you might want to share your account with your friends or family members, so subscribing with a VPN provider that allows simultaneous connections is a must.
- Apps – see to it that the VPN apps are compatible with your devices.
- Customer Support – whenever you face problems with your VPN server, your service provider must be easily accessible through email or chat.
- Security – China is the hotspot for hackers, malware, and scammers. Always ensure that your VPN server is heavily secured. You can look for these to help you:
- 128-bit AES encryption or better
- No-logs policy
- Kill switch
- IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak prevention
- Perfect forward secrecy
- Private DNS servers (not Google DNS)
For some reason, VPNs have slow down your internet connection. The first reason behind this is that the data needs to travel longer since it is re-routed to the server provided by the VPN. The next reason would be because the VPNs are encrypted, taking a long time for the hardware of your device to decrypt and encrypt internet traffic.
However, if you are still facing slowdowns, it could be due to a congested network or bandwidth throttling. To increase the speed and improve bandwidth, you can use another VPN server. Tap from servers that are nearer in China, including those that are located in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.
If your VPN is completely blocked, then the Great Firewall might have put it on their blacklist. You should try reaching out to VPN’s customer support to ask for assistance.
The best China VPN should not be a compromise. People use VPNs to bypass censorship and improve privacy. China’s Great Firewall Policy is aimed at providing the Chinese government the security they need to maintain their regime.
The above list of VPN services is only as good as the internet they are connected to. VPN apps are much needed in China, and users have to check out the service to ensure that they are safe and secure before they actually use it.