China is notorious for its sophisticated instruments of online surveillance, control, and censorship. VPN is a great tool against all of that. However, buying the first one that Google throws in your direction may result in disappointment.
A good VPN for China will:
- Prevent your ISP and government agencies from knowing what you’re doing online
- 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+
The criteria we looked at:
Above all, the VPN must be secure, have good performance (especially in the face of firewalls and other censorship measures), offer entertainment capabilities (effective against geo-blocking, good for torrenting), be easy to use, and have great customer support – all at a decent price.
And now, here are the Top 5 VPN choices for China.
No time to read? Here are our best VPNs:
1. NordVPN ‣
The most secure VPN on the market
- Price: starts at $3.49
- VPNpro rating: 9.6
NordVPN has great security and privacy features, starting with military-grade encryption, two types of kill switch, Double VPN, Onion over VPN, and more. Its VPN network contains 5400+ servers in 59 countries, including quite a few in Asia. NordVPN is pretty cheap, starting at $3.49 a month and coming with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
This VPN unblocks Google, YouTube, Facebook, and other censored sites, as well as helps you bypass the geo-blocking of Netflix and other streaming platforms. NordVPN has specialized servers for torrenting and offers a free SOCKS5 proxy.
There are no real weaknesses to NordVPN. The only thing we could possibly mention is the missing router app.
- Obfuscated servers
- Pretty cheap VPN
- No router app
Surfshark is both great and cheap
- Price: starts at $1.99
- VPNpro rating: 9.4
Surfshark offers 1000+ servers in 60+ countries and fast speeds. It comes with a the best protocols, military-grade encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, and more. Prices start at $1.99/month, and there’s no limit for the number of simultaneous connections.
This VPN service is based in the British Virgin Islands that have no data retention laws and no ties with Chinese intelligence.
While Surfshark used to lack for 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 allow unblocking 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.
- Very cheap
- Weak-self help section
3. ExpressVPN ‣
The best VPN overall is good for China
- Price: starts at $8.32
- VPNpro rating: 9.3
ExpressVPN has a huge network of 3000+ servers in over 90+ countries, including many locations around Mainland China. Although it doesn’t have the flashy security features of NordVPN, the kill switch, the encryption, and the leak protection are practically bullet-proof. Subscriptions are expensive, though, starting at $8.32/month.
ExpressVPN operates out of the British Virgin Islands – privacy-friendly location outside the grasp of China and other world powers. This VPN also gained a lot of credibility in 2017 when Turkish authorities seized their server and unintentionally proved the service doesn’t log user data.
ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix and other popular content platforms. Also, it allows torrenting on all servers and provides fast speeds.
- Always has working servers in China
- No stealth protocol
4. VyprVPN ‣
Deadly weapon against censorship
- Price: starts at $5.00/month but users in China want the Premium version for $6.67/month)
- VPNpro rating: 8.3
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, leak protection – and 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 cloud server, which should be impossible to block.
VyprVPN bypasses 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.
- Owns all of its servers
The fastest VPN in Asia
- Price: starts at $10.00
- VPNpro rating: 8.9
Astrill VPN has many of its 320+ server list (60+ countries) located in Asia. It has unbreakable encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, lots of protocols, etc. Unfortunately, Astrill prices start at $10.00/month.
This is a high-security VPN solution that boasts the fastest speeds in Asia. Therefore it’s a good choice for streaming Netflix, downloading torrents, gaming, and anything else that might benefit from a VPN service.
For users in China, Astrill VPN has a selection of “stealth protocols,” which help bypass the Great Firewall. But despite being based in the privacy-friendly Seychelles, Astrill VPN chooses to log quite a bit of user data, which is not great if you’re a journalist or a political activist.
- Protocol variety
- Solid security features
Is it safe to use a VPN in China?
The answer is ambiguous and depends on 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 standard is not the same for Uighur Muslims as it is 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.
VPNs 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. While the country has cracked down on locally-run VPNs that have declined to follow a set of requirements (even sending people to prison in some cases), this does not mean services have stopped functioning. Many top-rated VPNs still work and can be used to defeat blocks on Western websites. However, users should beware of services operating out of China because they are likely doing so with the consent of the government.
Blocked apps, websites in China
Chinese ISPs have blocked many websites, apps, and online services that we take for granted in the West. The basic reasons for these blocks are twofold:
- China wants to limit the information available to citizens
- China wants to limit the influence of Western tech companies in the country
Among the blocked sites and apps are search engines like Google and Bing, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch, app marketplaces like Google Play, mail services like Gmail, messaging apps like Whatsapp, and various other services, like Dropbox.
Free VPN for China
Many of the free apps users will find in Chinese app stores shouldn’t be trusted – they are allowed to function for a reason. The risk of using a free VPN client is significant even outside of China. These services are usually funded by selling user data, displaying targeted ads, mining crypto, and other shady means.
With that said, it is not impossible to find a good free VPN for China. Several such services are ProtonVPN, Windscribe, and TunnelBear, albeit the latter two have limits on how much data users can transfer per month. Practically all VPN services that have free plans next to paid plans will also limit the availability of firewall-beating features (such as the stealth protocols).
It is also very unlikely that you will find a VPN that’s both safe and fast.