Updated test results valid for April 2020.
With growing restrictions and the inability to reach common websites, many people are looking for the best VPN for China to restore online freedom and privacy. Whether you are in Shanghai or Beijing, we’ll give you everything you need to know for using a VPN in China, without getting blocked.
WARNING: Most VPNs in China are blocked due to advanced blocking efforts that utilize deep packet inspection (DPI). Thankfully, there are four VPNs that still work to defeat these VPN blocks and easily get around the Great Firewall in China and allow you to access your favorite websites. Even with the latest round of VPN blocks, the China VPNs in this guide are still working right now.
So what can you do with a VPN for China?
- Easily break through the Great Firewall and access any online content you want.
- Get around China’s VPN restrictions by using obfuscation measures. (Even though China restricts most VPNs, it is generally legal to utilize a VPN for personal use.)
- Keep your data and browsing activities secure, safe, and private from third parties. (China monitors all online activity, but a VPN will encrypt your traffic and conceal your online activities from snooping eyes.)
Not another useless “VPN for China” guide – Having lived and worked in Shanghai, I personally know how frustrating the Great Firewall can be. I have researched and tested all of the most popular VPNs over the past 5+ years, and I know the best ways to use a VPN in China. This guide will give you everything you need to know, with step-by-step instructions for each of the recommended China VPN services.
Which VPN is best for China?
The best VPN for China that consistently works and gets through the Great Firewall is ExpressVPN.
While it’s not the cheapest option, ExpressVPN offers the best speeds, security, and up-time (in China) of all the VPN providers I’ve tested. ExpressVPN also has a coupon for 49% off and three months free.
A very close second for the best VPN in China is NordVPN. It offers some of the best speeds and uptime in China, as well as an advanced obfuscation feature built into the VPN apps. This includes a lineup of Obfuscated servers that work great in China.
IMPORTANT: Before you get to China, be sure to download and install your VPN service on all the devices you want to use. This is because VPN websites will be completely blocked in China, therefore limiting your access and ability to purchase any VPN subscription.
Here are the best VPNs for China that are working right now:
1. ExpressVPN – Best all-around VPN for China
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
ExpressVPN is the go-to choice for people in China if you want to easily unblock websites and also achieve great speeds. While it is slightly more expensive than some other VPNs, it remains the best solution for those in China looking for fast and reliable connections.
If you want to stream your favorite media, ExpressVPN is easily the top choice. It is also currently the best VPN for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services. This allows you to watch all your favorite shows from China, without any blocks.
Another advantage with ExpressVPN is that you can use their VPN on all types of devices – from computers and phones to tablets, routers, and TV boxes. Their customer service is also top notch with 24/7 live chat support and numerous information guides on their website. In China, you may be somewhat limited to desktop devices that can utilize the unblocking features (mobile devices may not work) – but this is common with all VPNs in China.
ExpressVPN allows torrenting on all their servers and is one of the few no logs VPN services that have been verified and audited. Their applications utilize advanced leak protection settings to secure your IP address and DNS requests and stay private. The ExpressVPN apps have a “Network Lock” feature to ensure all traffic is encrypted through the VPN, even if your internet connection drops.
Refund: All ExpressVPN subscription plans come with a 30 day, no-hassle money-back guarantee.
How to use ExpressVPN in China
To use ExpressVPN in China, just follow these steps:
- Go to the ExpressVPN website and sign up for a subscription.
- Log in to your account and download the software for the devices you want to use with the VPN.
- Open the ExpressVPN app, then enter the activation code (from your account page).
- Now connect to one of the servers designated for China users (ask support which servers to use – not all servers will work from China) and then use the internet as normal.
- Enjoy using ExpressVPN in China and unblocking all online content.
- User-friendly and very secure apps
- Excellent speeds throughout the server network
- Strong encryption, great security features, and no leaks
- Split tunneling feature (for Mac OS, Windows, and routers)
- No logs policy (audited); based in the BVI (great for privacy)
- Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon and other streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Slightly more expensive (but currently offering a 49% discount)
(More details about ExpressVPN can be found in the ExpressVPN review.)
2. NordVPN – Best value VPN for China
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
If you want a VPN that consistently works in China, but is not too expensive, NordVPN would be a good choice. It’s probably the best cheap VPN on the market that still works well in China. NordVPN offers a large selection of apps for different devices and also allows up to six simultaneous connections. It works great for streaming Netflix and allows torrenting on all of its servers (no restrictions).
NordVPN also offers some great privacy features, such as Tor-over-VPN servers, double-hop VPN servers, and full leak protection. It also rolled out an ad-blocking feature called CyberSec. NordVPN has a strict no logs policy and is based in Panama, which is an excellent jurisdiction for privacy.
NordVPN’s obfuscation features (Stealth VPN) allow you to easily get through the Great Firewall and Chinese internet restrictions. They also have a huge selection of Obfuscated servers in their network, giving you lots of choices in Asia or abroad. They also offer lots of P2P servers, making it one of the best VPNs for torrenting.
How to use NordVPN in China
To use NordVPN in China, follow these simple steps:
- Go to the NordVPN website and sign up for a subscription.
- Download the NordVPN apps for the devices you want to use in China.
- Enter your login credentials in the app.
- Enable the obfuscated servers by going to: Settings > Show advanced settings > “I know what I am doing” > Obfuscated Servers (toggle to On).
- Now connect to one of the Obfuscated Servers by clicking on the Servers tab, then connecting automatically to the fastest server with one click, or manually select a server location.
- Enjoy using NordVPN in China.
- User-friendly apps
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Double-hop VPN servers and Tor-over-VPN servers
- 24/7 live chat support
- No logs; excellent privacy jurisdiction in Panama
- Works with Netflix and other streaming sites
- Competitive price
- CyberSec Ad blocking feature
- Big discounts only available with three-year plans.
(See the NordVPN review for more info and test results.)
3. VyprVPN – Fast and secure VPN to get through the Great Firewall
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||Chat and email|
Another great option is VyprVPN, a safe, secure, and reliable VPN for China. VyprVPN utilizes an advanced obfuscation method that they call the Chameleon protocol. This is a self-developed OpenVPN protocol that obfuscates all VPN traffic to look like regular HTTPS encryption. When you use the Chameleon protocol with the VyprVPN apps, you’ll be able to easily get through the Great Firewall.
VyprVPN is also unique in that they physically own all servers in their network (no rental servers from third parties). This provides VyprVPN users with excellent security and fast speeds. VyprVPN recently updated their network infrastructure and I’ve found speeds and reliability to be good – see the VyprVPN review for test results.
VyprVPN offers custom apps for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and routers. All VyprVPN subscription plans come with a 30 day money-back guarantee.
How to use VyprVPN in China
Here are step-by-step instructions for how to use VyprVPN in China:
- Go to the VyprVPN website and sign up for a subscription. (If you are in China and the main website is blocked, go to the VyprVPN mirror site here.)
- Download the VyprVPN apps for the devices you want to use.
- After you download the apps and log in with your account credentials, go to Options/Preferences > Protocol > then select Chameleon for the VPN protocol. (This is the obfuscation/stealth VPN feature.)
- Then connect to the fastest server, or pick a server location from the map.
- Enjoy using VyprVPN in China and getting through the Great Firewall.
- Good speeds and reliability throughout the server network
- Secure and stable applications
- Obfuscation features to defeat VPN blocking (Chameleon protocol)
- Entirely self-owned and operated server network, including secure DNS (no third parties)
- User-friendly applications for many devices/platforms
- No cryptocurrency payment options
(See the VyprVPN review for more details and test results.)
4. VPN.ac – Fast and secure VPN for China
Last up on our China VPN list is VPN.ac, a security-focused VPN based in Romania. It offers excellent performance and works very well in China, even when other VPNs are getting blocked. While VPN.ac does not have huge server network like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, their servers do offer great speeds and reliability.
For a smaller VPN provider, VPN.ac does well in many different areas, as explained in the VPN.ac review. The speeds are excellent and the apps have some great features. These features include double-hop VPN servers (22 to choose from), built-in leak protection settings, and numerous encryption options.
One minor drawback is that VPN.ac does keep basic connection logs for network security. But, as explained on their website, this does not include any activity/usage data and everything is automatically erased daily. Overall, VPN.ac is one of the best VPNs for China you will find, at a reasonable price.
How to use VPN.ac in China
To use VPN.ac in China, just follow these steps:
- Go to the VPN.ac website and select a subscription plan.
- Download the apps for the devices you want to use in China, then log in through the app with your account credentials.
- Within the application, go to ADVANCED > and then select “I am in China or other censored country” (toggle on).
- Then click CONNECT and select one of the servers from the list called CHINA OPTIMIZED. After selecting one of the “China Optimized” server location, toggle the VPN connection to ON.
- Enjoy using VPN.ac in China and having unrestricted internet.
- Dedicated bare-metal servers with self-hosted encrypted DNS
- Excellent speeds with plenty of available bandwidth
- Multi-hop (double VPN) server configurations (22)
- Great obfuscation features with many different encryption options
- Secure proxy browser extensions
- Minimal connection logs (no activity, erased daily)
(See the VPN.ac review for more info and test results.)
Alright, now that we’ve covered the best VPN services for China above, let’s examine some common issues and frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Will VPNs always get around the Great Firewall?
VPN restrictions in China are generally a cat-and-mouse game. While most VPNs are blocked and will simply not work in China, the ones on this page consistently defeat these blocks to get around the GFW without troubles.
Occasionally, the Chinese government will roll out a new round of restrictions, which may temporarily block some providers. Fortunately, with the China VPNs recommended on this page, a server network update will usually fix that problem in a few hours. On a positive note, these temporary blocks are usually rare and not permanent.
So while there are no guarantees, the China VPNs in this guide should continue to work without problems.
Why are VPNs slow in China?
There are two main reasons that VPNs are slow in China.
First and foremost, internet in China is slow, and VPNs cannot speed up your internet connection. China has some of the slowest internet speeds in the world, with an average download speed of only 2.4 Mbps. A VPN cannot help with this. This puts China in 141st place for global internet speeds.
Second, to use VPNs in China you will need to (probably) wrap your VPN traffic in HTTPS encryption. As discussed above, this is called obfuscation and it allows your VPN to go through the Great Firewall. Unfortunately, obfuscation will further slow things down, on top of already slow internet speeds.
Do VPNs work on mobile devices in China?
Generally speaking, VPNs do not work well on mobile devices in China. The reason for this is because most mobile devices utilize IPSec encryption with VPNs, which can be detected and blocked by the Great Firewall.
The trick to obfuscate traffic with an extra layer of HTTPS encryption is difficult to do with mobile devices, but some VPN services may offer this.
Therefore when you go to China and expect to use a VPN, it will most likely only work on your desktop computer. However, if you connect your phone to a hotspot from your computer, which is connected to a VPN, you can get the benefits of the VPN on your phone.
What about a free VPN for China?
Not only will free VPNs likely not work in China, they are also notorious for being malicious, dangerous, data collection tools. As explained in my discussion of free VPNs services, these are often used to collect data, which is then sold to third parties in order to monetize the “free” service.
But even if you tried to use a free VPN in China, it most likely would not even work. The VPNs recommended here in this guide have devoted tremendous resources to their network and software to consistently work in China. An out-of-the-box free VPN would surely fail, simply because these free VPNs do not offer obfuscation features. The OpenVPN traffic would be blocked thanks to deep packet inspection (DPI).
Bottom line with free VPNs: If something is free, then you are the product. (As an alternative to a free VPN in China, you can check out free trial VPN providers.)
VPN not working in China? Then do this…
Occasionally Chinese authorities will roll out a new method for blocking VPN traffic, which may temporarily block services in China.
Here are a few steps you can take if your VPN is not working in China:
- Try a different VPN server
- Try a different obfuscation method or VPN protocol (if your VPN supports it)
- Try using a different port, such as port 443 (for HTTPS traffic)
If none of these tips are working and you still can’t connect to your VPN in China, then simply reach out to your VPN provider for help. You can do this either through a direct email or via their website (if you can access it).
If you are completely stuck and locked out of everything, and you need a fast solution, check out VyprVPN’s alternative page here to see if they are working and possibly use their services.
Can a VPN unblock websites in China?
Yes, a VPN is the best way to unblock websites in China and access the content you want.
When you connect to a VPN that uses a good obfuscation method, you can easily get around any blocks or restrictions. Here is how that works, with a diagram from VyprVPN:
Here are some of the sites in China that are currently blocked, but will be accessible with a VPN:
- All Google websites (Google search, Gmail, Google maps, etc.)
- Yahoo! Taiwan and Hong Kong
- Mobile Wikipedia
For more, see Wikipedia’s article on websites blocked in mainland China.
Are VPNs legal in China?
Generally speaking, VPNs are legal to use in China, so long as you aren’t using the VPN to do something illegal. Nonetheless, the Chinese government is still working to prevent people from getting access to tools (VPNs) that can get around online restrictions.
In March 2018 Chinese authorities issued an ambiguous statement about the use of VPNs. Actions and policies of the Chinese government suggest that it is illegal for Chinese residents to create VPN services/companies inside China, which would be made available to others in China, but personal use of a VPN appears to be completely legal. We do not recommend using any Chinese-based VPN services.
In a move that angered many, both Apple and Google caved in to Chinese pressure and removed VPN applications from their app stores. This is also a major trend happening around the world, and not just in China.
I have also not seen anything to suggest that it is illegal for people to bring VPN software with them into the country. Additionally, there are thousands of Chinese businesses that use VPNs for secure networking solutions, and this is also perfectly legal. But if you wanted to create your own VPN company based in Beijing that would help other Chinese residents evade restrictions, that would probably be a bad idea.
Bottom line: Using a VPN in China for personal use is legal and very common, provided you aren’t using the VPN to do illegal stuff. Using an offshore (non-Chinese) VPN with a good track record (all of the VPNs in this guide) will further protect you from any issues. That being said, I’m not a lawyer, so do your own research.
VPN for China conclusion
Despite extensive and rigorous efforts to block websites in China, a VPN is a simple and easy solution that will consistently get through the Great Firewall and unblock content.
While a good VPN will cost a few dollars per month, it is a small price to pay for getting completely unrestricted access to all your favorite websites, while also restoring privacy.
Whenever you are using a VPN in China, be sure to only go with a safe, trusted, and reputable provider. As we pointed out above, most of the VPNs on the market are not suitable to use because:
- they are blocked in China
- they may leak your data and expose your activities/identity to third parties
- they may collect your data (browsing history) and sell this to third parties (the main problem with free VPN services)
Nonetheless, a good VPN is your key to an unrestricted, free, and private internet connection wherever you are located. Below is a recap of the best VPNs for China based on my own testing and research.
And if you are torn between ExpressVPN and NordVPN, which are both popular in China, see our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
Enjoy a private, unrestricted, and secure internet when you are in China with a good VPN. Stay safe!
(30 day refund)
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Last updated and revised on April 3, 2020.