The Great Firewall of China is a concept that describes the policies and practices that the government of China puts in place to limit free speech and information-sharing on the internet.
Security experts consider the Great Firewall of China to be the broadest and most intricate online censorship system in the world to date. But despite this, the Great Firewall is anything but perfect. Evading it is impossible, but it requires you to play a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse in the process.
Now, there are many ways in which you can get past the Great Firewall of China, but the most effective option is to use a VPN (or Virtual Private Network). VPN services help users bypass online censorship and geo-restrictions around the world.
While some VPNs do work in China, the Great Firewall is regularly devising new ways to block VPN services. At the same time, many VPN service providers are updating their own systems in order to work in China.
Read on to learn about the best VPNs that work in China today.
Best China VPN [2021 Edition]
Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days
One of NordVPN’s biggest selling points is the fact that the company operates out of Panama. This puts NordVPN outside the jurisdiction and direct influence of third parties such as copyright holders and the National Security Agency.
NordVPN further backs up its claims about offering unmatched privacy by not storing any logs on its users. The company makes use of a great encryption setup as well.
It also accepts anonymous cryptocurrency payment methods such as Bitcoin. Some still have not found enough confidence in many of NordVPN’s extra features such as double-hop VPN chaining. But most of the people who have used NordVPN do appreciate the company’s support for such features.
So: How is NordVPN the best VPN for China?
The best VPN in China isn’t just about a VPN’s speed or technology. NordVPN offers a very particular feature for censorship-heavy countries like China. The company calls this feature obfsproxy VPN.
It is basically an obfuscation method similar to Tor that allows users to evade all types of censorship blocks. Hence, the obfsproxy VPN feature is a very robust piece of obfuscation technology.
NordVPN does suffer from some speed issues. But you should expect that from any VPN service provider that employs so many encryption measures to protect user privacy.
The NordVPN app does have fast VPN servers. But you just have to spend a bit of time finding them through trial and error.
NordVPN offers some additional bonus features such as:
- OpenVPN encryption
- Perfect forward secrecy
- P2P support
From an overall perspective, NordVPN is the best VPN for China.
- Zero logs
- Six simultaneous connections allowed per account
- VPN servers located in more than 50 countries
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Offers features such as obfsproxy
- Some servers are slower than others
Our Score: 9.8/10
Read the full NordVPN review here.
Simultaneous Connections: Five
Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days
ExpressVPN is our second-favorite China VPN on this list. The key to ExpressVPN’s excellence is a great customer relations department. ExpressVPN offers a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee for all its subscription packages.
It also has a live chat support feature that works 24/7. Anyone who has followed the VPN industry for the past couple of years would know that the live chat feature is rare.
ExpressVPN focuses mainly on user-friendliness, and the design of the company’s apps shows that. ExpressVPN has dedicated apps for all major platforms such as Android, routers, iOS, macOS and Windows. All of the apps are simple to use.
Simplicity, in ExpressVPN’s case, doesn’t mean a lack of power. ExpressVPN apps have powerful VPN features such as OpenVPN encryption, DNS leak protection and an exclusive firewall-based kill switch.
The company also operates a couple of stealth servers in Hong Kong. These are special servers that are designed to defeat the Great Firewall of China.
Additionally, ExpressVPN offers VPN servers in more than 94 countries around the world. Servers are offered in nearby locations for users in China, including Taiwan, Japan and the west coast of the U.S. These servers will come in handy for any users who want to bypass restrictions in China.
Of course, with all these features, comes the price. ExpressVPN is far from the cheapest VPN service on the market. But arguably, ExpressVPN has the most polish. All ExpressVPN packages come with a Smart DNS service without any extra charge.
There are other additional features as well such as:
- Perfect forward secrecy
- Fantastic OpenVPN encryption
- WebRTC leak protection
- DNS leak protection
- Three simultaneous connections per account
- Has an onion web address
- VPN servers located in over 94 countries
- Stealth servers
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Zero usage logs
- Slightly expensive
Our Score: 8.9/10
Read the full ExpressVPN review here.
Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days
If you want speed as well as security at a reasonable price, then SurfShark is the VPN for you. Being among the few VPNs that work in China consistently, SurfShark offers users over 1,700 servers in over 60 locations.
With a single SurfShark subscription, you can connect an unlimited number of devices. And if you ever get in trouble, SurfShark has live chat support for you to get help from.
Apart from being very affordable (when you consider the whole package), Surfshark also has a very friendly user interface. And just like the best VPNs in the world, SurfShark offers advanced security features such as the double-hop VPN and private DNS feature. All of this comes at a relatively low price and for all your devices. Again, if you want value for money, SurfShark is the one you should go with.
SurfShark is also based in the British Virgin Islands, and that is always a good sign that a given VPN service cares about the privacy of its users. These are just some of the reasons why SurfShark has risen so quickly in every VPN ranking and not just among the best VPNs for China.
In terms of fighting the Great Firewall of China, SurfShark has added much to its credentials. It has improved so much that it has now joined the ranks of the select few VPN services that consistently works in China.
You know you are going to get good performance from a VPN service that offers over 1,700 servers. If you’re in China or want to use a VPN in China, then the fact that a service is offering this many servers is only going to improve your experience.
With Surfshark, it’s easy to connect to different servers, change your location and gain some much-needed protection for your privacy and security. All of Surfshark’s apps have prominent buttons you can use to get things done quickly.
There is also a “Quick Connect” option which makes connecting to the best server even easier.
The majority of VPN users who want to use a service in China want to make sure that it doesn’t skimp on security and privacy features. Surfshark fulfills all requirements in this area.
Currently, the service offers IKEv2, OpenVPN over TCP and UDP and other protocols for you to switch on/off as the situation demands it. Surfshark also makes use of AES 256-bit encryption, which is considered the most secure of all encryption methods. There’s also a kill switch feature for people who want their VPN clients to disconnect from the internet if their connection drops.
- The user interface is simple and clean
- Works for most sites in China
- Doesn’t have the greatest Android app in the world
- Can be a bit basic for experienced VPN users
Our Score: 8.5/10
Click here to read our full SurfShark VPN review here.
Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days
Hide.me is the best choice for people who are extra cautious about their privacy and online security. This VPN provides users with a free service with options for achieving complete anonymity and high security.
The registration process is easy, but you’ll have to deal with a couple of restrictions with the free version. There will be a restriction on the amount of data you’re allowed to consume on a monthly basis and you will also have to deal with a smaller server network.
Looking at the servers that Hide.me offers, we can see that it has a decent number in places that are near to China. That’s quite an achievement given that it’s not asking you for any money. On the free version, users also have the option of connecting to servers located in countries such as the Netherlands, the U.S., Canada and Singapore.
And while that may sound like a great line up, these four locations are the only ones you can use if you’re on the free tier. However, the good thing about the Hide.me free tier is that even though the service is free, it is reliable and fairly steady. You won’t have to worry about dropped connections with Hide.me.
However, the free version is not the fastest VPN in the world. So be prepared for some lagging if you happen to do something data-intensive such as gaming or streaming. If you just want to use the free version of Hide.me to browse the internet on Google or DuckDuckGo, then you should be fine.
The bottom line: Hide.me is perfectly suited to work in China if you just want to use it for basic internet browsing, not more data-intensive activities like streaming and gaming.
If you’re reading this guide, you may already know that Skype is also blocked in China. If you want to access that, Hide.me can come in handy. Don’t expect crystal sharp video though.
Another restriction that users will have to deal with is the 2GB per month data cap. While that may sound reasonable, consider the fact that 2GB of data typically equates to around two hours of streaming on Netflix.
Once you’ve used up your 2GB of data, the service will stop working until the next month comes around. If you do not have a backup VPN service, then that would mean a month without a VPN in China.
In any case, even the free version provides you with high-end security features, including strong encryption, IP leak protection and a kill switch to cut your internet if your server connection drops.
Note:The IP leak protection feature is particularly important because it essentially blocks anyone from seeing your real IP address—and by extension, your location—if you drop your VPN connection.
No government or internet service provider can know your true address with leak protection.
Hide.me also claims to have a strict zero-logs policy. Additionally, the service does not require the user to submit an email address during the registration process. That way, if you want to use Hide.me anonymously, you can do so.
The official Hide.me app is pretty easy to set up and use. Connecting to the four available servers should also not be difficult. Of course, you can sign up for one of the other Hide.me packages at any time to fully unlock the service’s 1,800 servers.
The paid version doesn’t come with any data restrictions and it allows users to connect up to 10 devices per account. Paid subscribers can also unlock advanced VPN features such as Dynamic Port Forwarding, fixed IP addresses and streaming compatibility.
- Servers located in important countries surrounding China, such as Singapore and others
- Free version available
- Strong encryption
- IP leak protection
- Live chat support available
- Kill switch feature
- No logs
- Unlocks Netflix and Amazon Prime Video along with HBO Go
- Works on all major platforms such as iOS, Android, macOS and Windows
- The free version comes with lots of restrictions
- No special servers for streaming or torrenting
Our Score: 7.9
Click here to read our full Hide.me VPN review here.
Money-Back Guarantee: 3 days
Windscribe offers users both a free version and a paid version. We’ll talk mostly about the paid version here. You can refer to the “free VPN for China” section of this guide to get more information on the free version of Windscribe.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy VPN service, then Windscribe is your answer. It’s right up there with the best of them.
The service mainly focuses on user privacy, offering advanced security features along with reasonably high data caps in its free version.
Most of all, it forms connections that you can rely on. When in China, you don’t want to use a VPN service that drops randomly. You need to stay undetected and get around the Great Firewall at all times, not just some of the time.
This is where Windscribe VPN’s massive server network can come in handy. The free version only enables 10 locations, while the paid version allows access to everything.
But even the free version comes with in-demand locations such as Hong Kong, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. You will have plenty of choices when it comes to connecting to servers that are near China. That will not only give you anonymity but also decent connection speeds.
The free version has some data limitations (refer to the “free VPN for China” section of this guide for more information). Generally speaking though, you should have no problems scrolling through social media posts or streaming content from Netflix or YouTube in China.
Note:Users who don’t want to provide Windscribe with their contact information can register without an email address. But in that case, the service will only offer them 2GB of data per month.
Windscribe does have steady connections but you should not expect them to blow you away with their speed like some of the other providers on our list. Still, the servers are fast enough for most users who want to watch or play something online in China.
In terms of security, Windscribe is an accomplished provider. It offers users AES 256-bit encryption and supports all major security protocols such as SOCKS, WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. All of the service’s apps have the split tunneling feature which allows you to encrypt traffic from certain apps and leave the rest alone.
It also comes with extra security features such as a tracker blocker and an ad-blocker built into its apps. The company calls these features R.O.B.E.R.T.
With these features giving you protection, no one can track your online activities or inject malware in your device. They also improve the speed of your internet connection because you no longer have to wait for ads to load before getting a fully-functional webpage.
Windscribe makes sure that anyone who is using its VPN service is reliably anonymous while in China, and it does that by not keeping any identifying logs. Windscribe also offers users 24/7 live chat support for both paid and free users.
If we move to the desktop app, then you get additional features such as a firewall. The Windscribe firewall feature is great for blocking any connectivity that happens outside of its encrypted tunnels. This ensures you’re protected against any type of leaks.
There’s also a Secure Hotspot feature, which allows you to temporarily morph your machine into a Wi-Fi router with extra security. The Windscribe desktop application can also provide proxy gateway services to allow users to create proxy servers on their own network so that other devices can use them as well.
- Free version
- Apps are fairly easy to use
- Subscription plans are flexible
- Non-U.S. servers can be slow at times
Our Score: 7.5/10
Click here to read our full Windscribe VPN review here.
How Did Security Gladiators Pick the Best China VPN?
Here at Security Gladiators, we make sure that readers have the opportunity to read what some of the best VPN industry experts have to say. Security Gladiators has reviewed all of the top VPN service providers in the world. In the process, we’ve gathered a ton of data regarding which VPN service is good and which isn’t.
In researching and compiling this list of the 5 best VPN services in China, we considered a wide array of factors. Gaining the title of a great China VPN service isn’t a one-dimensional process. It takes a lot of versatility to offer a good service in China. We’ve only included VPNs that offer a well-rounded and reliable VPN service in China.
Some of the factors we’ve taken into consideration while coming up with our list of the five best VPN services in China are:
- Encryption strength
- Money-back guarantee
- Free trial
- Legal jurisdiction
Note:The most important factor of them all is whether the Virtual Private Networks service actually manages to work effectively in China.
This list of the best VPN services for China consists of picks that Security Gladiators staff found after a careful process of reviewing each option. In the end, only those VPN services made it to the list which could form a consensus among our staff members.
With that said, readers should understand that we don’t have staff members located in China. So, we had to go with testing the servers available in countries near/around China. We also checked the VPN service providers’ websites for information on the subject.
And finally, we incorporate our own extensive research which we regularly perform whenever we have to review a VPN service or update an existing guide.
FAQs: Things to Consider When Choosing the Best VPN for China
To help you find the most relevant information in searching for the best VPN for China, we’ve created Q&A-style section of this guide to cover the basics of VPNs, how to choose a good one, what types of services are blocked under the Great Firewall of China, and more useful information. Read on.
What Is a VPN Service?VPNstands for Virtual Private Network. VPN service providers help you hide your IP address and location from any third party, whether it be your internet service provider, a hacker who’s monitoring your network, or a government surveillance agency.
To them, you’ll appear on the network as if you’re located in the country of the server your VPN is connected to. So, if you’re in the U.S. and you connect to a server in Germany, you’ll appear to the outside world as if you are, in fact, located in Germany.
VPN apps are the best way for a user to connect their computer security to a Virtual Private Network server.
Modern VPN service providers also support mobile platforms like Android and iOS, but we’ll talk about that later. For now, you need to know that this Virtual Private Network server is always run by a given commercial VPN service provider. The user’s device has to connect to the world of the internet through the VPN service’s VPN server.
What Are the Benefits of Using a VPN?
There are several benefits of using a VPN for everyday activities:
- If you want to improve your online security and privacy, then the single and perhaps the most effective measure to take is to use a VPN service.
- A VPN service doesn’t just protect your privacy. It also encrypts all of the data that passes between the company’s VPN server and your computer. This is called a secure encrypted tunnel.
- With a VPN service, you can easily hide your data from even the likes of your own internet service provider.
- The other benefit of connecting to the internet via your VPN service’s VPN server is that no one can see your real IP address. All websites, services and other users will only see your VPN server’s IP address, not your own.
- The best VPN service providers offer servers that are located in countries and regions all over the globe. So, for a user who wants to avoid censorship, VPNs can come in handy. All you really have to do is simply connect to any VPN server that is located in a country that has no censorship.
Why Use a VPN in China?
The Chinese government has become infamous for using the Great Firewall of China to limit free speech and prevent certain types of news and information from being distributed among the citizens of the country. The Great Firewall of China allows the Chinese government to censor online content which they deem as a threat to their national security.
How Do I Choose a VPN for China?
The strict government of mainland China has shown its concern about the world of the internet since the late 1990s. Interestingly, the Chinese government has managed to realize the potential that the internet has for facilitating great financial growth. Some would argue that the Chinese government is right to worry about the real or perceived political and social threats that the internet may cause to the country’s cultural ideology and values.
That is the main argument that the Chinese government makes. As a response to combat the problem of an open and free internet, the Chinese government decided to build an increasingly sophisticated and far-ranging online system that would help it censor the internet.
This is what we now call the Great Firewall of China.
But, doesn’t the Chinese government know that people can use VPN services to circumvent the Great Firewall of China? Well, yes: They know. And that’s why they have spent a vast amount of resources to actively block individual users from making use of any VPN services. This is why many VPN service providers have developed technologies to help those individuals evade the Chinese government and their tactics.
There is a ton of information that you can read online about how to use a VPN service to bypass certain blocks. This guide will go into a bit more depth though.
Note:Using a VPN service in China isn’t as simple as going online and signing up for the best-rated VPN service. You must have the required knowledge to pick the VPN service that actually works in China.
For that to happen, a VPN service must offer one or even more VPN technologies that they have designed to help users bypass internet censorship. This includes the kind of technology that the Chinese government makes use of regularly. The VPN services we’ve listed above all work in China because they have made use of such technologies.
What Are Some VPN Services to Avoid in China?
You have to sign up for a VPN service that offers some kind of stealth technology that can help against the Great Firewall of China. Otherwise, there is no point in signing up for a VPN service. There are a ton of Virtual Private Network services out there. Many of them are based in Europe.
There are very few VPN services that are based in Asia; and no mainstream VPN that we know of is based in China. You need to avoid these China VPN services because they cause your internet connection to lose a lot of speed.
Security Gladiators doesn’t rank VPN services such as Hide My Ass as highly as IPVanish and/or NordVPN. This is because Hide My Ass is based in the U.K., meaning it has to follow British security laws. It keeps a good amount of logs on its users. If the authorities come calling, then Hide My Ass will probably hand them their requested data.
Then there’s PureVPN. While it is a good service, many people have complained about the quality and reliability.
As far as users in China go, Astrill VPN has managed to become the most controversial choice for them. Readers on Security Gladiators who have contributed to our discussion about Astrill appear to have mixed opinions about the software.
Some say it’s great if you want to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. Others regard Astrill as a terrible VPN service. We think Astrill is an average VPN service provider, but it’s not the best.
What Is the Great Firewall of China and How Does It Work?The Great Firewall of China is an important part of another project called the Golden Shield Project. Developers working to finish the Great Firewall of China completed the first phase of the project back in 2006. Since then, the Great Firewall of China has grown in its scope and complexity.
Now, the Great Firewall of China can restrict internet access to the Chinese people to just three access points. That means no one can transfer data out of or into mainland China apart from these three access points. The Chinese government has employed more than 50,000 specialists in the field of cyber-intelligence to guard and police the internet.
So how does the Great Firewall of China work? It makes use of several technologies to protect the country’s citizens from controversial content which the governing party deems as dangerous and/or inappropriate for anyone to see.
The Great Firewall of China censors the internet and blocks individuals from consuming and accessing content from the open and free internet through tools such as:
- Packet filtering
- URL filtering
- DNS or Domain Name System filtering
- IP blocks imposed on certain website addresses
- Deep packet inspection.
The specialists involved with the Great Firewall of China use these techniques to foil any attempt that users make to bypass their online blocks.
One interesting quirk of the Great Firewall model is that it uses censors that primarily block access to international websites, but it doesn’t generally use any mechanisms to block local Chinese websites.
With that said, the Chinese government does heavily monitor all local Chinese websites for any signs of malicious and/or political dissent. As mentioned before, the government has the power of a full cyber-army at its disposal.
This army works actively to combat problems such as:
- Discrediting opponents on various domestic platforms
- Individuals who spread disinformation
- Entities that want to sow propaganda
If you use the best VPN for China, you can use the free and open internet the way it was meant to be. All of this may sound very impressive to a lot of our readers. But you have to consider the fact that China has a population that is fast approaching 1.5 billion. The country represents around 20% of the world’s official population.
Back in 2016, over 720 million people living in China used the internet. That’s around 50% of the total population in China.
In other words, China is a huge market. But what does that mean in practice? It means that no matter how much money the Chinese government invests in the Great Firewall of China, it still can’t stop every determined online user who wants to circumvent the government-implemented censorship blocks.
Consequently, the websites that the Great Firewall of China blocks in one province often aren’t blocked in another province/jurisdiction on the other side of the country.
Additionally, the Great Firewall of China also blocks sites that are seemingly devoid of any objectionable political content, leading some to believe that the system might be arbitrary in how it filters content. For example, China blocked the popular American sitcom The Big Bang Theory in 2014.
It has also blocked other seemingly generic online services such as Google +. But at the same time, other Google-owned services such as Gmail manage to generate quite a bit of online traffic from China.
The Chinese government has banned a truckload of other popular sites such as:
- Many Google services
- The Tor Project
- The Wall Street Journal
- The Independent
- Chinese Wikipedia
Best VPN For China: Expectations & How to Manage ThemThe thing you need to understand about the Great Firewall of China is that it is the most far-reaching and sophisticated national world wide web censorship system that has ever come into existence. Accordingly, you need to manage your expectations of what a VPN service can and can’t do.
Realistically speaking, constant or frequent unrestricted access to the free and open internet isn’t really possible in China. However, modern VPN apps have the technology to effectively bypass the Chinese censorship program. That said, though, sometimes even the greatest VPN services in the world will fail at unblocking sites in China.
This is the exact nature of the internet (and its access) in China. But with patience, you can ride out the time it takes for your VPN service to come up with newer ways of accessing the internet in China.
Is It Legal to Use a VPN Service Inside China?
Is using VPN in China safe? Our research shows that there aren’t a whole lot of cases where the Chinese government has gone after individuals for using a VPN in China. Although, the Chongqing Municipality—the largest city of its kind in China—announced fines for users who make use of VPN services in 2017.
Generally speaking though, the Chinese government has given no indications that it would start criminalizing activities where users make use of VPN services in order to bypass the Great Firewall of China. However, this could change at any time.
A few years ago, media reports revealed that the Chinese government had started to ban VPN services available in China. But those reports only showed that the Chinese government had started to take action against foreign as well as domestic VPN services that allowed users to have access to a VPN service in China.
That crackdown will not have much effect on overseas VPN services that allow users to unblock internet services within China. When all is said and done, the Chinese government really has no jurisdiction over foreign VPN services.
Chinese users should not shy away from using VPNs and other privacy tools that allow them to overcome the Great Firewall of China. Just keep trying until you find the one that works best for your situation. And, as mentioned earlier, we recommend VPN services that come with stealth features.
Travel Tip: Get a VPN App Before Arriving in China
We want to particularly stress on the point that even though the Great Firewall of China may have managed to block a certain VPN service’s official website, there’s a great chance that the VPN service itself may not have suffered the same fate. This is especially true for VPN service providers that furnish users with various obfuscation tools or other evasion technologies.
Travelers visiting China would do well to remember to subscribe to a decent VPN service (like one of the best China VPN services listed in this guide) and then download the company’s app before stepping foot in China. Do it before you even leave your house to go to the airport. You have to do this to make sure your internet life doesn’t become a prison cell while in China.
Users who find their VPN service isn’t working in China upon arrival should make use of other services such as Tor and/or Shadowsocks. Shadowsocks is a site that allows you to experience the freedom of the internet without any problem. Over 77% of the people that come to this website are from China.
Use Tor or Shadowsocks along with some obfsproxy pluggable transport to sign up for a reasonable VPN service provider while you’re inside the bounds of the Great Firewall of China. We’ll cover this more further along in this guide.
Best Free VPN for China
You will find it very hard to find a free VPN that works more than a day in China. Why would anyone want to pay for a VPN service when there are free VPN services available?
Well, free VPN services often rely on advertising revenue to sustain their business. They often sell users’ data to third parties to stay afloat in a competitive market without revenue from paid subscribers. Even when they are performing at their best, free VPNs can’t match paid VPN services on their worst day.
Warning:Aside from that, some free VPN services are outright dangerous to use. The one you need to stay away from at the moment is Hola VPN. It is not a VPN service—it’s a botnet.
And when we’re talking about using a VPN in China, then even the free VPNs that perform okay outside of the country are unbearable to use inside the borders of the Great Firewall. They are, for all practical situations, useless.
VPN companies that operate in China have to spend even more money to make sure that their services can defeat complex censorship measures such as the Great Firewall of China. We know of very few free VPN services that work flawlessly in the country, but there are some. These services are free on the surface, but to pay for advanced features, you’ll have to subscribe to a subscription package. No-cost services are just in the free tier of options available on a given VPN service.
In this section, we will talk about the best free VPN to use in China.
Which Free VPN Is Best for China?
As mentioned before, it is perfectly fine if you do not feel like paying for a VPN in China. Maybe you’re just traveling there and want to make sure that you don’t miss out on any news in your home country or maybe you’re a Chinese resident looking for a solution that doesn’t eat up your wallet.
Free VPNs have their drawbacks but there are some legitimate options in China. The only problem with these free services is that you never know when they will stop working for you.
You have to keep in mind that no matter how highly rated a given VPN service is, it still has its limitations. And free VPNs have lots of them. You might have to compromise on advanced security, use a smaller list of servers, manage your data usage or work with limited bandwidth.
Also, some free VPNs come with additional privacy problems that are not always immediately apparent. And if you are in China, the last thing you need is a malfunctioning VPN service. This is the reason why you should go with a premium VPN service that does not cost a lot of money.
One such option is NordVPN. If you sign up for the right package, NordVPN can be cheap. It’s considered the best China VPN when it comes to privacy and security.
No one can deny that free VPNs have their place. If you have a specific task that you want to do on the internet that doesn’t require you to have the absolute maximum security, here are the best free VPNs that we recommend.
With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can use the premium NordVPN service for about a month and then ask for your money back. In terms of security, privacy and reliability, NordVPN is the best VPN for China. Also, NordVPN doesn’t come with any data caps, and that is a nice bonus feature to have while you’re in China.
With top-of-the-line security options and unlimited data, there’s not a lot you should be asking of a free VPN service. The only problem with using ProtonVPN as your free China VPN is that it only allows you to use three servers. You may also experience a throttled connection for obvious reasons. In our experience, ProtonVPN may also disconnect you from the network at any given time without any warning if there are overloading issues.
If you can deal with these problems, ProtonVPN is a very safe, reputable and reliable service you can use in China.
This VPN service has decent servers but does not block websites like Netflix and other streaming services. It’s great for accessing other websites though. You will only have 10GB of data per month, so don’t expect to stream through the whole month on Windscribe’s free tier.
Hide.me works with Canadian Netflix and offers fast connections along with advanced encryption technologies. The only problem with this free alternative is that it only allows 2GB of data per 30 days. That isn’t enough if you want to stream videos in China.
Some users may find this data cap insufficient even for a single day. Most of the time, this 2GB data limit will mean that you can only stream up to two hours of content on sites like Netflix before Hide.me stops working.
Hotspot Shield’s free plan is secure and fast if nothing else. Again, as we have mentioned before, free VPNs come with restrictions that you may find hard to live with if you’re serious about getting work done online.
In Hotspot Shield’s case, you have a data restriction of 500 MB per day. In our experience, 500 MB isn’t even enough for daily browsing if you work on your computer regularly. So forget about streaming anything with the free edition of Hotspot Shield.
How to Bypass the Great Firewall of China Without a VPN: Best Alternative Options
Even though we feel that the easiest, safest and most convenient way to bypass the Great Firewall China is to use a VPN, there are some other methods that you can use.
Note:Be warned though that none of the methods we will describe below will guarantee that you have complete anonymity or will actually be able to access websites blocked in China.
Lantern is a P2P (peer to peer) software program that’s used to circumvent internet restrictions. It is free and works pretty well, which is the reason why it has become reasonably popular among online users wishing to go to countries like China. Lantern utilizes a tunneling network consisting of peer-to-peer connections between volunteers, along with exit points that are located outside of China.
If you know some of the advanced configuration options and how to set them up, you can use Tor to unblock sites in China. However, Tor will not circumvent restrictions in China by default.
You’ll have to tinker with it a bit to get the results you want. The Great Firewall of China is very good at identifying and blocking the exit points that the Tor network uses to actually work. If you want to take advantage of what Tor has to offer, then you will have to learn how to set up bridges.
You may be able to find proxy applications like Shadowsocks to provide you with the security and anonymity that you need in China. It might not be as fast as a VPN though.
Of, if you are on the iOS platform, then you can also try out Surge. With that said, Surge isn’t really a consumer-focused app; it’s built for developers. Because of that, the user interface is not the cleanest you will ever see.
Should You Leave Your VPN ‘ON’ All the Time?
If you’re in China, then yes. Otherwise, it is okay to restrict your VPN usage to more sensitive tasks such as banking or checking your emails. And reverse that policy whenever you are in China.
This is important:Keep the VPN on for all activities as it would ensure you have privacy and security at all times.
Besides, you’ll have to turn on your VPN service for the vast majority of your time in China in any case because so many sites are blocked that it’s just inconvenient to turn your VPN on and off multiple times a day to access different sites. Remember, the vast majority of the services that you use every day are not available in China without a proper VPN service.
If you get into the habit of keeping your VPN on at all times, it drastically reduces the chances of you using your internet without a VPN, just because you forgot to turn it on. That could be especially dangerous if you are using a public Wi-Fi connection.
Does the Chinese Government Monitor Social Media Usage?
If the Chinese government does not have a problem with monitoring your internet usage, you can safely assume that it would have no qualms about taking a look at your social media accounts as well. It’s a well-documented fact that the government reviews posts on WeChat and Weibo and removes content that covers (or exposes) sensitive topics, including news about protests.
It regularly censors posts and other types of content on social media websites so that all discussions are to conform to the culture and ethics of the country.
The government puts in a good amount of resources to monitor social media websites such as Douyin, QQ, Weibo and WeChat. And we’re not just talking about public posts here. The government in China can (and does) review the social media profiles of a person, the person’s posts, messages and other files.
Nothing is stopping the government or the social media platform itself from combining all that data with footage from video surveillance programs along with biometric data and the user’s browser history. By some estimates, the government in China is able to record almost all data that a given citizen generates as they go through their daily routine.
In addition to automated systems, the government also takes help from manual enforcement. That is one reason why any person of law enforcement authority can judge an action to be unacceptable if the action does not conform to the beliefs of the official Communist Party of China.
In terms of messaging applications, WeChat is the most popular app in the country. Even when expats come to China, they have to use it to perform some of their daily tasks. Now, for those who want their messages to stay private, they should first turn on a VPN and then open up the app of their messaging platform.
Pro Tip:If you don’t feel safe while using WeChat for messaging, you should consider alternative encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp.
All three of these are fairly private and secure. The only problem is that the government in China has blocked them. So use a VPN to sign up for these apps. Make sure you’re connected to a server outside of China before you download and use the app.
Best Mobile VPN Apps for China
Using a VPN in China With Android Apps
Chinese censorship tools have banned Google services, so you can’t use the Google Play Store to install a VPN app on Android in China. So, to have a China VPN on your Android phone, download your desired VPN app when you are outside China.
If that’s not possible, you can always download VPN apps in their .apk formats from the VPN service provider’s website. Many companies offer this option, including some in our list of the best VPNs for China above.
There are also several unofficial Chinese app stores where you can purchase VPN apps. Read more about them here.
Note:We suggest that you be wary of downloading apps through these channels, though. You should always go through companies’ official websites or the Google Play Store if you can access it.
How to Use VPN in China With iOS Apps
In 2017, the Chinese authorities pressured Apple into removing most of the major VPN apps that users could download from the Chinese version of the Apple App Store. If you find any VPN app on the Chinese App Store, then those are the ones that the Chinese government has allowed to remain on the App Store. As such, you shouldn’t trust these China VPN service providers to protect your online security and privacy.
Pro TipAgain, it’s very important for you to download your VPN service’s app(s) before you come to China. Review our list of the best VPN service providers above to pick the right option for you.
Best VPN in China: Conclusion
The bottom line: China is a difficult place when it comes to freedom of speech on the open internet. If you want to use a VPN service to have unrestricted access to the internet inside of China, then know you will face some hurdles. We have listed some of the best VPN service providers that work in China, and we hope you can find one that fits your needs.