When traveling to China, we must be aware that the Internet is functioning quite differently than in your country and other western countries. We will not be able to use services such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, which are blocked. Without going around the Great Chinese Firewall we will not be able to access the Internet we commonly know. In this article we will present one of the best (yet) ways to circumvent Chinese censorship, which is VPN .
WARNING! In China, all information about VPNs and circumvention is blocked. We advise you to read this guide and prepare your equipment accordingly before leaving for China. We may have trouble getting a service, downloading the right software, or accessing configuration information. Whether or not the site is blocked in China can be found earlier on GreatFire.org .
- What is and how does the Great Chinese Firewall work?
- What VPN to China to choose?
- Best VPN to China
The advice provided here will also work for other countries where free access to the Internet may be limited, such as Iran, Turkey, Bahrain, Myanmar.
The tips outlined in this text are addressed to all Internet users. You do not need technical knowledge about the network and the Internet to use them and circumvent Chinese censorship.
What is and how does the Great Chinese Firewall work?
The Internet Control System, commonly known as the Great Chinese Firewalls, is part of a Chinese project known as the Golden Shield. It is used to control and block content accessed via the Internet in the Middle States. As the Chinese authorities explain, it is intended to protect citizens from inappropriate materials, but in practice it is used to block access to:
- News and political and historical content that are inconvenient for the Communist Party of China
- blogs and social networks where free exchange of ideas and freedom of speech are possible
- Western information services
- religious content
- All other information that censors consider inappropriate
This is because we can forget about access to such services as:
- Google and its services (YouTube, Gmail, Blogspot)
If we use them on a daily basis to stay in touch with loved ones or do business, lack of access to them abroad can cause us big problems. The Internet in China is unfriendly to foreigners who want to have unlimited access to the network resources they use every day in their own country. It does not matter if you want to use the internet on your phone in China or with a laptop in a cafe. Both mobile and fixed Internet are subject to the same censorship rules.
The most effective way to circumvent a Chinese firewall is to use a VPN . Unfortunately, the case does not look so easy to launch any VPN and we immediately get access to content blocked by the Chinese authorities. Bypassing censorship in the PRC is increasingly difficult. While few years ago the proxy gateway and the simplest VPN protocol were enough, now censors are effectively fighting the various ways to circumvent blocking. Proxy gateways are practically unworkable, and some VPNs also have problems passing through the firewall. The situation now resembles, in a sense, the play of the cat and the mouse on both sides.
Without going into technical details, Internet censorship in China is based on about:
- DNS Blocking and Filtering - "bad" domains are blocked at the DNS level
- IP Address Blockers - Servers with specific addresses are simply blocked
- Analysis of content viewed for inappropriate content - After detecting prohibited keywords, the Internet slows down or disconnects (as is apparent from the reports provided by Internet users in China)
- Deep Packet Inspection - An analysis of the content of packets sent over a network - after some characteristic features, it can be identified that someone is using a VPN. The identified package may then be blocked. Therefore, in China, you need to use VPN masking .
What VPN to China to choose?
As we mentioned earlier, VPNs are currently the best-performing and most effective way to gain normal network access while in China. And it does not require the user "hacking skills". We need to be aware that using VPN can be a lot slower than normal (this is due to encryption and the need to connect to an additional server before accessing the content we are interested in).
Let's try to use servers located geographically close to China - such as in Japan, Australia or Hong Kong - so we will not feel the quality of the connection as far as the distance of the VPN server from us.
To unlock the Internet in China using VPN we need:
- Create an account and subscribe to your chosen VPN provider (forget about free VPNs - in this case they will not work).
- From the vendor's page, download and install a program that allows you to connect to a VPN.
- Start the program, log in, select the server and connect to it.
- At this point we should access the uncensored internet in China.
If your Internet connection is down or very slow, try connecting to another server located in another country.
Best VPN to China
Below is a list of the best VPNs that are currently available to effectively circumvent censorship in China :
ExpressVPN is very popular among people traveling and living in China. On the Internet, you can find a lot of information that ExpressVPN is still working and that it can effectively circumvent the Internet blockade.
To bypass Chinese censorship, ExpressVPN has optimized servers in Hong Kong. Apart from them, we can also use many other servers located in Asia (eg Singapore, Japan, Taiwan).
Against the background it is unfortunately a pretty expensive service, but the quality and cost effectiveness. For ExpressVPN we will pay:
- $ 12.95 with monthly payments
- $ 9.99 per month for a half year payment in advance ($ 59.95 total)
- $ 8.32 per month for full year pre-payment ($ 99.95 total)
We also receive a 30 day money back guarantee - if we are not satisfied with the service, we can apply for a refund within 30 days.
We can buy the service on the ExpressVPN website .
The biggest advantage of VyprVPN is the company's Chameleon protocol, which aims to mask and hide VPN connections. It is based on OpenVPN, the most secure VPN protocol currently available. Successfully hides the fact of connecting to the VPN, and thus break through the Chinese firewall.
We will pay $ 12.95 per month for monthly service or $ 5 per month if we pay a full year ($ 60 per year). You also have the option of a free 3-day trial period - it requires payment data, but if you cancel your service within 3 days, the fee will not be charged.
The Chameleon protocol is only available in the premium plan (let's keep that in mind when buying) and works on Windows, MacOS, Android and routers. Unfortunately, it is not supported by iOS devices (Apple does not allow VyprVPN to create applications with Chameleon in the AppStore).
You will buy the service on the VyprVPN website .
NordVPN is at the time of writing this article the best rated service and our VPN ranking. It also handles the unlocking of the Internet in China. Intuitive Windows or OSX desktop applications and Android and iOS applications let you connect with any device.
In addition, NordVPN provides an obscure service for masking an Internet connection via VPN. This may be useful in China if it turns out that our VPN connection is blocked. Unfortunately, this solution only works on computers. We will not launch it on mobile devices.
The undisputed advantage of NordVPN is the possibility of using a 30 day refund period if we are not happy with the service.
- $ 11.95 with monthly payments
- $ 7 a month with a half year payment in advance ($ 42 total)
- $ 5.75 per month for prepayment ($ 69 total)
- $ 3.29 per month when buying a plan for 2 years ($ 78.96 total)
Geographically closest servers are found in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
We can buy the service on the NordVPN website .
AirVPN is a service offered by a group of activists focused on fighting censorship and promoting free internet. Configuration may require a bit more technical knowledge than the rest of the service.
AirVPN has the following price list:
- 3 days for 1 €
- 1 month for 7 €
- 3 months for 15 € (5 € per month)
- 6 months for 30 € (5 € per month)
- 12 months for 54 € (4,5 € per month)
AirVPN servers in Hong Kong and Singapore are closest to China.
We will buy the service on AirVPN website .
Have you had the opportunity to test one of the listed services in China? Do you know another VPN, with which you managed to bypass censorship in China? Share the information in a comment to this article.