China is notorious for its sophisticated instruments of online surveillance, control, and censorship. That’s why you should use only the best VPN for China against all of that. However, buying the first one that Google throws in your direction may result in disappointment.
A VPN that works in 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:
The best China VPN must be secure, fast (especially in the face of the Great Firewall), and easy-to-use. It also should be effective against geo-blocking, good for torrenting, and have great customer support. Finally, all that should come at a decent price.
And now, here are the 5 Best VPNs for China.
No time to read? Here are our best China VPNs:
- Unbeatable in terms of privacy and security
- Free SOCKS5 proxy
- SmartPlay feature to bypass 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 VPN network contains 5400+ servers in 59 countries, including quite a few in Asia. NordVPN is pretty cheap. It starts at $3.49 /month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
This VPN unblocks Google, YouTube, Facebook, and other censored sites. It also 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 and that’s why it’s the best VPN for China. The only thing we could possibly mention is the missing router app.
For a deeper investigation of NordVPN, read our NordVPN review.
2. Surfshark VPN
- Powerful security features
- Smart DNS for the foolproof streaming
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Weak self-help support section
Surfshark is a great VPN that works in China. It offers 1700+ servers in 60+ countries and fast speeds. It also comes with the best 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 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.
For a deeper investigation of Surfshark VPN, read our Surfshark VPN review.
- 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. It also 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 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.
For a deeper investigation of VyprVPN, read our VyprVPN review.
- 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 60+ 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 $1.89/month.
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 and provides fast speeds.
For a deeper investigation of PrivateVPN, read our PrivateVPN review.
5. Astrill VPN
- Solid security features
- Very good for torrenting
- No money-back guarantee
Astrill VPN has many of its 320+ server list (59+ countries) located in Asia. It 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.
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.
For users in China, Astrill VPN has a “stealth protocol,” which helps bypass the Great Firewall. 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.
What is the Golden Shield project (aka the Great Firewall)
Known mostly by its unofficial name, 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 DNS cache so that the website you want to visit is paired with a wrong IP.
- IP blocking. Probably the simplest of all methods, IP blocking blacklists the IP of the website 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 that will let you 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 not easy. 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:
- China wants to limit the information available to citizens
- China wants to limit 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 it’s 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 has been 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.
China VPN FAQ
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.
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 that works in an international company, you can probably use NordVPN and other ones 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.
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 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.
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.
What is the best free VPN for China?
Windscribe is the best free VPN for China in 2020. 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.
But most importantly, Windscribe VPN is safe to use in China. It has a strict no-logs policy and has responded to none of the 30+ data requests by law enforcement. You’ll also find a kill switch, ad blocker, multi-hop, Stealth mode, and leak protection.
Windscribe app is easy-to-use and available on major platforms plus Amazon Fire TV and Nvidia Shield. It also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. While it won’t unblock Netflix and other platforms, it’s great for P2P and also has SOCKS5 proxy.
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 one of the best VPNs for China, especially if you’re a foreigner.
It’s highly unlikely 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 2020 and the years to come.