Internet Access and VPN's in China

From ChinaExpat.Wiki


Using the internet in China is probably one of the greatest frustrations an expat faces on a day-to-day basis. The simple acts of trying to open an email, google something, watch a YouTube video, check your social media, or read the news all become points of annoyance. In order to control what Chinese people can see, the Chinese government blocks an enormous section of the internet. You won't see any warnings or information about why something has been blocked, only that the site won't load. Some of the biggest names to be blocked are Google (including Gmail), Facebook (including Messenger), Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and The New York Times. Because so much of the internet links back to these services, you will also find that many sites using Google, Facebook, and Twitter's login are rendered useless as you won't be able to progress past the login screen.

In order to use the internet in a semi-reasonable way, you will need a VPN or a direct Hong Kong line. A VPN is generally a cheaper and more versatile option, but the direct line has the benefit of being properly approved by the government which adds to the reliability of the service.

VPN's in China[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of VPNs that have some recognition as service providers by industry guides. You won't be able to download VPN software in China without a VPN, so you will either need to arrange a VPN before you enter China or borrow one in order to sign up. Check out the various reviews available online and read the comments. Most VPNs have decent affiliate programs and the scores that they receive are often a bit dubious-looking.

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Free VPNs for China[edit | edit source]

  • Ariva Phantom - 500Mb per month
  • Hide.Me - 2Gb per month
  • Hotspot Shield - 500Mb per month
  • ProtonVPN - Unlimited downloads
  • TunnelBear - 500Mb per month
  • Windscribe - Free plan allows 10Gb per month using 10 of their 110 locations. Windscibe offers a DNS level blocking of malware, ads, trackers, social networks, porn, gambing, fake news, click-bait, other VPNs and crytominers. Their browser extension also offers automatic deletion of cookies, timezone spoofing, random user agent rotation and double hopping to better protect your privacy.

Dedicated Unblocked International Line in China[edit | edit source]

VPNs need to be officially licensed to operate in China and the above companies are probably not. Zhang Feng, chief engineer from the Ministry of Industry said in 2018 that "Any foreign companies that want to set up a cross-border operation for private use will need to set up a dedicated line for that purpose. They will be able to lease such a line or network legally from the telecommunications import and export bureau.”[1]

China Telecom is normally the company to contact if you want to set up a dedicated unblocked line. While this is a very convenient service, it has data throughput restrictions and is fixed to a particular location. Businesses wanting to secure their mobile communications via this method will also need to establish private VPN connections back to the dedicated line in order to function. The services are also extremely expensive customer solutions at present and probably well out of the price range of most individuals and small businesses.

References[edit | edit source]