China is notorious for its sophisticated instruments of online surveillance, control, and censorship. Most popular websites and streaming services are blocked, and bypassing the Great Firewall of China is not for the faint of heart. That’s why you should use only the best VPN for China against all of that.
Only the top VPNs for China will bypass the censorship and surveillance of the government.
However, buying the first one that Google throws in your direction may result in disappointment. To avoid that, check our list of top China VPNs instead and choose the one that meets your needs the most.
Top 3 best China VPNs shortlist:
Too busy to read the whole article? No problem, just select one of the Top 3 VPNs for China in 2021.
- NordVPN – the best VPN for China
- Surfshark – great price, great performance
- VyprVPN – security-oriented China VPN
Why do you need a VPN for China
China is a country that severely restricts the internet connection of its citizens. Many of the popular websites, such as Google or YouTube, are blocked. The same applies to streaming platforms like Netflix as well.
If that wasn’t enough, China is actively surveilling what everyone is doing online. Their IPs and traffic are logged and can be used against anyone, be it a citizen or a tourist. Therefore even an attempt to access a restricted website ends up on the government’s file on you.
Both of these means of control often get even harder during protests or other political events. It quickly becomes apparent that it’s harder to get something done if you cannot communicate with your fellows freely.
The only way to circumvent censorship and surveillance is to use the best VPN that works in China. It hides your IP address and location, meaning there’s no way to track you down. Furthermore, a China VPN encrypts your traffic, so neither the government nor other third parties can see what you do online.
Best VPN for China overview:
1. NordVPN – the best VPN for China
NordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2
- Unbeatable in terms of privacy and security
- Split tunneling
- SmartPlay feature bypasses the geo-blocks
- No router app
NordVPN is the best VPN for China, with great security and privacy features. Starting with military-grade encryption, we continue with two types of kill switch, Double VPN, Onion over VPN, and more.
Its server list contains 5500+ servers in 59 countries, including quite a few in Asia.
NordVPN unblocks Google, YouTube, Facebook, and other censored sites thanks to its Obfuscated servers. It also helps you bypass the geo-blocking of Netflix and other streaming platforms. NordVPN has specialized servers for torrenting and offers both split tunneling and a SOCKS5 proxy.
There are no real weaknesses to NordVPN, and that’s why it’s the best VPN for China. The only thing we could mention is the missing router app.
NordVPN prices start at $3.30/month. There’s also a 7-day free trial in Google Play Store and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For a deeper investigation of NordVPN, read our NordVPN review.
2. Surfshark – great price, great performance
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
- Powerful security features
- Great for Netflix
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- No-logs policy not audited
Surfshark is a great VPN that works in China. It offers 3200+ servers in 65+ countries and fast speeds.
It also comes with the best tunneling protocols, military-grade encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, and more. Prices start at $2.49/month, and there’s no limit for the simultaneous connections.
This second-best VPN for China is based in the British Virgin Islands. This country has no data retention laws and no ties with Chinese intelligence.
While Surfshark used to lack a stealth protocol or stealth proxy, now it has the capability to disguise VPN traffic by using OpenVPN with the XOR patch. What’s more, Camouflage and NoBorders modes unblock YouTube, Google, and other censored websites.
Surfshark is a good choice for torrenting, Kodi, and gaming. Even when compared to all VPNs on this list, Surfshark is great at unblocking Netflix and other streaming sites in China.
For a deeper investigation of Surfshark VPN, read our Surfshark VPN review.
3. VyprVPN – security-oriented China VPN
OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, Chameleon, WireGuard
- Excellent security
- Independently-audited no-logs policy
- Fast speeds
- No anonymous payments
VyprVPN is built for use in China. With 700+ company-owned servers in 70+ countries, this VPN delivers consistent speeds across a wide geography.
VyprVPN also has solid security features – AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, and leak protection. Additionally, it comes with an independently audited no-logs policy.
Its proprietary Chameleon protocol is great at fighting Deep Packet Inspection. As a result, the downtime of VyprVPN in China is virtually non-existent. What’s more, the premium subscription adds a dedicated secure cloud server, which should be impossible to block.
VyprVPN bypasses the geo-blocking of Netflix and other streaming platforms. It also unblocks Google, Facebook, and other banned sites. However, VyprVPN is serious about copyright violations, meaning torrenters risk losing their subscription.
The prices start from $1.66/month, and while there’s no free version or free trial, you can try VyprVPN risk-free thanks to the 30-day money-back guarantee.
For a deeper investigation of VyprVPN, read our VyprVPN review.
4. PrivateVPN – the cheapest VPN for China
OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP
- Good security
- 7-day free trial
- Good for torrenting
- Support could be more responsive
PrivateVPN is another VPN that works in China. It has a small network of 150+ servers in over 62+ countries, including many locations around Mainland China. Although its competitors have thousands of servers, it’s the quality over the quantity approach that translates into fast speeds.
PrivateVPN has all the necessary security features, including the kill switch, military-grade encryption, and a stealth protocol. Most importantly, this VPN is very cheap, starting at $2.50/month. At the same time, it has a 7-day free trial.
This VPN operates out of Sweden, which is a member of the Fourteen Eyes alliance. Luckily, it remains outside the grasp of China. This service also has a strict no-logs policy, meaning that your activities and connections aren’t collected.
PrivateVPN unblocks Netflix in multiple countries. You’ll also be able to watch Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other popular content platforms. What’s more, PrivateVPN allows torrenting on all servers.
For a deeper investigation of PrivateVPN, read our PrivateVPN review.
5. Astrill VPN – most Asia-oriented VPN
OpenVPN, L2TP, IKEv2, WireGuard
- Solid security features
- Very good for torrenting
- High price
Astrill VPN has many of its 320+ server list in 59+ countries located in Asia. This means you’ll easily find a nearby server with a low latency and solid performance.
This provider has unbreakable encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, lots of protocols, etc. Unfortunately, Astrill is not the best VPN for China because its prices start at $10.00/month. On top of that, there’s no money-back guarantee as well.
Not only this is a high-security VPN that works in China. Astrill also boasts the fastest speeds in Asia. Therefore, it’s a good choice for streaming, torrents, gaming, and anything else that might benefit from a VPN service.
Astrill VPN has a “stealth protocol,” which helps bypass the Great Firewall for users in China. But despite being based in the privacy-friendly Seychelles, Astrill VPN logs quite a bit of user data. And that’s not great if you’re a journalist or a political activist.
For a deeper investigation of Astrill VPN, read our Astrill VPN review.
How to pick a VPN for China
If it’s your first time picking the best VPN for China, we recommend following these criteria to avoid paying for a below-average product with a dubious reputation.
A VPN that works in China will:
- Prevent your ISP and government agencies from snooping your online traffic
- Let you bypass the Great Firewall to access YouTube, Facebook, Google, and other blocked sites
- Help you access geo-blocked marketplaces and streaming services, such as Netflix or Disney+
- Be fast enough for browsing, torrenting, streaming, and gaming
- Have easy-to-use apps for all popular platforms
- Offer 24/7 customer support
- Come at a decent price
While best China VPNs offer most of what’s listed above, sometimes users need only a couple of features from their provider. For example, if you don’t care about streaming and torrenting, you may find a cheaper service listed below the Top 3. Therefore, your personal best VPN for China might not be our #1.
What should you look for in a VPN for China
When choosing the best VPN for China, you should make sure that your chosen provider has the following features:
- Military-grade encryption
- Kill switch
- No-logs policy
- Stealth VPN
- Apps for your devices
- 24/7 customer support
The first four are necessary for users in China. Encryption, kill switch, and a no-logs policy lay a foundation for your security and privacy. And without a Stealth VPN, you won’t be able to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
Moving on to apps for your devices, make sure your China VPN has a client for your desktop and mobile devices. Moreover, you might want to install the service on a smart TV or router, so check if that’s also available.
Last but not least is the 24/7 customer support. It’s crucial because your VPN’s agents might be scattered all around the world, and that country won’t be China by any means. Therefore, if you have an issue, it’s better to solve it right away instead of waiting a few days.
Which VPN servers in China you should choose
Honestly, we think that you shouldn’t choose any server in China unless you need to access something that’s unavailable outside. In this case, make sure your VPN has servers in China.
However, most users want to bypass the Great Firewall of China and access everything that’s unavailable in their country. In this case, your best bet is to pick the closest server in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or South Korea. And if you’re located in Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai province, check out for options in India.
Generally speaking, you should look for the closest and the least crowded VPN server to avoid high latency and slower speeds. Most of the time, choosing the auto-connect option will do the trick.
What is the Golden Shield Project (aka the Great Firewall)
Known mostly by its unofficial name, the Golden Shield project is China’s internet censorship system. All ISPs are state-owned and regulate both incoming and outgoing traffic. This means that the government can monitor what websites are being accessed and effectively block them.
China uses a number of methods to censor online content inside the country. Those include:
- DNS tampering. This means editing the DNS cache so that the website you want to visit is paired with the wrong IP.
- IP blocking. Probably the simplest of all methods, IP blocking blacklists the website’s IP that you wish to visit.
- Manual blocking. China has more than 50,000 full-time censors that manually check and block URLs and IPs.
- Keyword filtering. Contrary to manual blocking, keyword filtering automatically searches for “inappropriate” messages, requests, and queries. If one of those is found, access is usually blocked by DNS tampering.
- Deep Packet Inspection. Also known as DPI, this is the most sophisticated censorship method. It scans all the traffic and detects if someone is using a VPN in China, which encrypts data packets.
However, the most complex part of the Great Firewall is the intrusion detection systems. They copy data packets and send them for filtering without interrupting the traffic. Contrary to a regular firewall, intrusion detection systems concentrate on possible breaches inside the system.
As you can see, the Golden Shield project is a complex system. It works on many levels to censor the internet inside the world’s most populous country. Luckily, the best China VPNs can still give you access to blocked websites, streaming platforms, and torrenting.
VPNs that are blocked in China
If you’re going to China for business or travel, make sure you download the VPN client before your trip. Otherwise, you’ll find most VPN sites blocked, while app marketplaces mostly offer harmful VPN apps and ban good ones.
The government’s decision to ban VPN services has been widely reported and even more widely misreported. The country has cracked down on locally-run VPNs that have declined to follow a set of requirements. It also sent people to prison in some cases, but this doesn’t mean that services have stopped functioning.
Many best VPNs for China still work and can be used to defeat blocks on Western websites. As mentioned before, you should get one before your trip to China. Otherwise, it will be much harder to find a mirror site to download the client. Users should also beware of VPNs operating out of China – they are likely doing so with the government’s consent.
How does China’s VPN block work?
Creating the Great Firewall was hard. But thanks to it, it’s really easy for the government to monitor and log every action of every connected device. That’s why blocking most of the VPNs is a piece of cake as well. How does that happen?
China blocks VPNs by blackholing IP addresses and domains. That means all the traffic directed to a VPN website or server is sent “nowhere.” Blackholing is done using the border gateway protocol, or BGP.
BGP’s role is to look for the best route for your traffic across the internet. It hops through hundreds of thousands of autonomous systems (AS), which together make up the internet network. All AS in China belong to the government, meaning it can easily blackhole new resources as soon as state-run routers are updated.
We’ve mentioned the VPN services that are blocked in China. In the next chapter, let’s see what websites and services are inaccessible.
Blocked apps and websites in China
Chinese ISPs have blocked many websites, apps, and online services that we take for granted in the West. The reasons for these blocks are twofold:
- Limiting the information available to citizens
- Limiting the influence of Western tech companies in the country
The list of blocked apps and websites in China is huge and continually growing. That’s why we’ll mention only the most popular ones that the majority of users would undoubtedly miss.
|Netflix, NBC, HBO||Entertainment|
|Pinterest, Instagram, Imgur||Image sharing|
|WhatsApp, Discord, Viber||Messaging|
|BBC, The Guardian, The Washington Post, HuffPost, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, TIME, and other foreign media||News|
|Pornhub, XNXX.com, Eporner||Pornography|
|Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo||Search|
|Microsoft OneDrive, Vimeo, Flickr||Sharing|
|Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Badoo, Tumblr, TikTok, Disqus||Social|
|YouTube, Twitch||Video and streaming|
As you may suspect, all Google services, including Gmail, Photos, Translate, and others, are blocked in China. We probably missed some website or service that’s important to you. However, you can check its status on this website.
Not all websites are permanently blocked. That’s why it’s a good idea to check that regularly. For example, Wikipedia was blocked only in 2019. So there’s a chance for at least partial unblock in the future.
Besides, these blocks often start at the province level. Therefore, if you can’t access a website in Beijing, it might be available in Yunnan. Of course, you shouldn’t expect anything like that in Tibet or Xingjian. In these provinces, the internet is available only for a few hours a day.
Finally, you may experience heavy international bandwidth throttling. This usually happens during protests or after scandals. Even the government-approved corporate VPNs stop working in such cases.
Is social media monitored in China?
When it comes to online blocking in China, social media is no exception. You won’t be able to use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter without a reliable VPN. If you choose the best VPN for China, you won’t have to worry about the government spying on you because all of your internet traffic will be encrypted using a military-grade cipher.
However, don’t forget that posting anything about Tibet or a similar topic will grant you undivided attention from the authorities. Things will get even worse if you’re a well-known persona.
But what about Chinese social media? Unfortunately, Weibo and WeChat users are monitored even if they use a VPN. Moreover, social media companies will share your data with the government. To conclude, with or without a VPN for China, you’re screwed.
Bottom line: what’s more to know about using a VPN in China?
It’s possible to use a safe and reliable VPN in China, even if it’s a free one. However, we feel obliged to remind you once again to download it before traveling. That’s because most foreign VPN services are blocked, making it difficult to register and get the client.
From a legal standpoint, using a VPN in China is OK if that service is government-approved. However, since 2018, there haven’t been any cases of VPN users severely punished for using “illegal services.” Therefore, you shouldn’t worry too much about running NordVPN or other best VPNs for China, especially if you’re a foreigner.
It’s doubtful that the Chinese government will stop mass surveillance. Most likely, it will only become more sophisticated. That’s why we strongly recommend using the VPN when in China in 2021 and the years to come.
If you’re in China, which VPNs have you used before? Did we miss any great VPN for China? Let us know in the comments below.
China VPN FAQ
Is free VPN good for China?
China is one of those countries where you really shouldn’t use a free VPN. Most of such services log user data and even sell it to third parties. Moreover, they might contain malware, even something that’s been created by the Chinese government. Finally, one would be hard-pressed to find a free VPN that bypasses the Great Firewall of China.
That being said, if you still want to try something, go with Windscribe, the best free VPN for China in 2021.
It comes with a generous 10 GB/month bandwidth limit and usually offers good speeds that are not throttled. The free version gives you 10+ countries to choose from and torrenting support.
Are VPNs legal in China?
The short answer is that VPNs are legal but heavily regulated. The government bans all “not approved” VPNs, which are precisely the best ones. Approved VPNs are meant for businesses that need to access outside resources to operate. However, during protests, even those might stop working.
So, is it legal to use a VPN in China? If you’re a foreigner who works in an international company, you can probably use NordVPN and others without fear. But we must warn the locals about the risks of using a banned VPN.
Despite that, the overall situation shows that China has stopped persecuting VPN users. Of course, this doesn’t apply to Tibet and Xinjiang – the two most troublesome provinces.
Should I get a VPN in China?
If you’ve read the article up to this point, you probably know that you should get a VPN. Without one, you won’t be able to access the majority of websites and servers outside the country. What’s more, not using a VPN in China means that the government can see your every action. This can result in a fine or even prosecution.
In a best-case scenario, you should get a VPN before you go to China. That’s because most VPN sites are blocked, not to mention Google Play Store and Apple App Store. You will need to find a working mirror to download the app, and that’s not always possible.
Is it safe to use a VPN in China?
The answer is ambiguous and depends on the context. The Chinese government does not appreciate citizens using VPNs to hide political activities, but everyday use is generally ignored.
Whether using a VPN in China will get you in trouble or not also depends on who you are. The rules are not the same for Uighur Muslims as they are for Western businessmen.
Furthermore, the level of surveillance in the country means that the authorities know a great deal about citizens. This information can be used at any time, so it’s smart to circumvent the Great Firewall with care.
What is the best VPN for streaming in China?
NordVPN is the best VPN for streaming in China. This service has the best speeds, giving you a chance to watch your favorite shows and movies in high quality and without buffering. There are plenty of servers around China and worldwide that will give you Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and other streaming platforms.
What is the best Android VPN for China?
NordVPN is the best VPN for China and also Android. That’s why we recommend it for smartphone users. Besides, it’s one of the few providers that’s accessible in China and has a growing local userbase.
It’s hard to expect good connection speeds in China. That’s why using the fastest VPN is a good idea. Furthermore, NordVPN for Android offers virtually the same security and privacy features as the desktop version.
Finally, this service is great for streaming and torrenting – something that most VPN users are concerned about.
What is the best iPhone VPN for China?
The best iPhone VPN is NordVPN, which also happens to be the best VPN for China. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also the fastest service. This is important in China, where internet speed for most users is average at best.
NordVPN for iPhone offers an easy-to-use interface and robust security. It can be considered as safe as the desktop version. The iPhone app comes with the next-gen WireGuard protocol, leak protection, and a kill switch.