Last update: 08.23.2019

China leads the world in a number of areas, online censorship being high up on that list. Fortunately, the people in China can rely on VPN services to bypass that censorship. There’s just one problem: the Chinese government knows this very well and most good VPNs are blocked in the country.

NordVPN is one of a select few VPNs that still work in China. Despite vigorous government efforts to block NordVPN, the service has remained resilient. Currently, it is one of the most consistent solutions for climbing over the Great Firewall of China.

VPNpro rating: 9.6 / 10

Why has NordVPN succeeded where others failed? Let’s take a closer look to find out.

How NordVPN bypasses Chinese censorship

On a basic level, all VPN services, including NordVPN, let you beat censorship in China the same way. Websites and other online resources are censored by blocking their IP address or blocking certain keywords at the DNS level. NordVPN has an answer to both issues:

  • When you’re connected to a VPN server, it forwards all your requests and data. This means that instead of contacting the blocked IP address directly, you are contacting the VPN IP address instead.
  • Virtual Private Networks have their own infrastructure, including DNS servers. This means you can completely bypass blocks at the DNS level.

Of course, China is no slouch when it comes to blocking VPN servers either. They do it the same way they block websites – through the IP address or via DNS queries. Hence, a good VPN for China must have a dynamic server list that the Chinese government can’t keep up with. NordVPN is a perfect example of this.

NordVPN servers in Asia

One of the things that sets NordVPN apart from the rest when it comes to China is the server list. This service has 5,700+ VPN servers in total – more than any competitor. Most importantly, 600+ of these servers are located across 11 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This is an impressive armada that dwarfs entire server fleets of some less established VPN providers.

NordVPN servers in Asia

Although you won’t find any NordVPN servers in China itself, this is a deliberate tactic employed by Nord to stay out of sight of the ever-vigilant Chinese authorities. And so far, it seems to be working.

Blocking isn’t the only reason why the server list is important for users in China. All VPNs reduce your connection speed, but your distance from the VPN server is one of the most important factors in deciding by how much it is reduced. NordVPN’s solid Asian presence means your speeds won’t suffer much, regardless of whether you’re in China or elsewhere in the region.

Security features

The importance of good security as you’re defying the will of the Chinese government should be self-evident. No one beats NordVPN in this area, which safeguards your identity using a long list of great security features:

  • Unbreakable AES-256 encryption
  • Top tunneling protocols: OpenVPN and IKEv2/L2TP
  • Great bonus features: Double VPN, Onion over VPN, Obfuscated Servers (more on that latter), kill switch, free SOCKS5 proxy

Rigorous testing has earned NordVPN the reputation of a service with no IP leaks, which is particularly important in China and other repressive countries. This means the security features are working the right way and you have no reason to worry about being found out.

Obfuscated servers to bypass the Great Firewall of China

Great Firewall of China

There’s one more thing a VPN should have to perform well in China – a way to beat Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). DPI is one of the tools Beijing uses to block VPNs not sanctioned by the authorities. This method is highly effective against OpenVPN, which is the default protocol used by most VPN tools, including NordVPN.

With NordVPN, users in China who can’t connect to their chosen VPN server regularly can enable an alternative list of Obfuscated Servers. These servers are based on a modified OpenVPN protocol and are exclusively dedicated to connecting from extremely restrictive online environments. NordVPN’s Obfuscated Servers disguise your VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic, which tricks the Firewall into treating you as a regular, VPN-less user.

The Obfuscated Servers feature will not only let you bypass China’s blocking measures – it will also reduce the risk of the authorities finding out that you’re using a VPN in the first place.

How do I activate Obfuscated Servers?

Activating Obfuscated Servers is easy. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. On the home screen, click Settings (at the top)
  2. Click Advanced to find the option
  3. Toggle Obfuscated Servers On

That’s all there is to it – the app will now automatically use the modified tunneling protocol and connect to the right servers. Note that having Obfuscated Servers on will decrease your connection speed.

Already in China? Here’s how you get NordVPN

If you’re going to travel to China, save yourself the hassle and get NordVPN beforehand. The websites of most formidable VPN services are blocked in the country, so signing up and downloading the app may be problematic. Yet there is a way out:

  • Try this NordVPN mirror site
  • There are a lot more NordVPN mirror sites available if this one doesn’t work – ask their customer support via email ([email protected]). You may have to use a foreign webmail service to contact this email address due to DNS blocking in China

If you already have an account, but don’t have the app, you could also set NordVPN to work via your OS or the freeware OpenVPN app.

VPNpro rating: 9.6 / 10

NordVPN alternatives for China

Not all VPN services are good for use in China. Many suffer from one of several issues:

  • Their security features are not good enough
  • They have small server lists or don’t have a good selection of servers near China
  • They don’t have any version of the Obfuscated Servers feature (some call it “Stealth Mode” or “Stealth Protocol”)
  • The VPN service is operated out of China (this is only possible if they agree to share user data with the government)

With that said, NordVPN is not the only VPN that will serve you well in China. Astrill, VyprVPN, and ExpressVPN are all reasonable alternatives, depending on what you’re looking for in a VPN.

We would advise against choosing a free VPN service – these are often unreliable for security purposes and not privacy-friendly. Sure, some of them may let you view sites that are blocked in China, but this comes at a cost. Many of the most popular VPN services (particularly mobile apps) are Chinese, which can seriously compromise your security.

Do we recommend using NordVPN in China?

NordVPN is a reliable tool for those who are tired of online censorship in China. Through its large server fleet, users will be able to unblock any website or online service, while at the same time enjoying the anonymity given by strong security features. NordVPN’s strong presence in Asia means that you won’t suffer from a huge decrease in connection speed, while its multiplatform support will keep you safe on all your devices.

So, do we recommend using NordVPN in China? Absolutely.

Recommended read:

NordVPN review