5 Best VPN for China That Still Work in 2020

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Undeniably China is a place full of fantastic things, attracting tourists on many levels. But its government’s approach to internet censorship isn’t praiseworthy. An oligarchic elite that looks more cumbersome posing ever under the title of “Communist Party;” the Chinese authority does its level best to censor content it considers politically, culturally, or morally undesirable. 

In pursuit of this, China has created the most extensive and sophisticated internet censorship system. This is formally named the “Golden Shield” project; but it is better known to almost everyone as the Great Firewall of China (GFW).

The good news for anybody living in or visiting Mainland China, however, is that although arduous; the GFW is a long way from classic and can usually be circumvented by the simple measure of using a VPN.

Read more: 5 Best VPN for Crunchyroll – Get Full Anime Access Anywhere

How do VPNs Work?

While Internet censorship might seem like a nightmare; the best VPN services for China are explicitly designed to provide a get-around to blocked websites. VPN services work by building an encrypted connection between your computer; one located in another geographic location – in another country to use one while located in China. The encryption factor is what separates a VPN tool from a typical proxy.

Nobody, including governments or ISPs, can read the data you’re sending to or receiving from a VPN connection; all they can see is connected to the Internet. Once the internet connection is secure; all requests that you transmit to the Internet are first passed to a remote server based outside of China, say in Japan. The server there decrypts your requests and allows them a Japan-based IP before sending them along to the Internet. Since the requests are being made from Japan, not China, they are not hindered by the Chinese censorship protocol. When you download web pages, images, or files; they go back to the Japanese server where they are encrypted and transfer to your computer; which decrypts them via the VPN protocol installed on your device.

Is VPN Illegal In China?

This is one of the most common questions about using a VPN in China. The answer really depends on what you are using a VPN for and who you talk to. Luckily for you, using a VPN as a foreigner to connect to social media, read Gmail; watch Youtube is 100% safe to get around the great firewall of China. It is a safe way to connect to Instagram, Gmail, YouTube, etc., in China.

Selling VPN services in China is illegal, and promoting VPN services in China is also bound to cause trouble. That’s why I recommend whenever you travel to China, or any country in the world; to enjoy the beautiful parts and keep positive without getting into any politics or debates. This outlook has served me well for ten years of traveling around the world. Keeping an open mind and a positive outlook has helped me make friends and not offend anyone. If you follow this outlook in China, you will not have any issue using a VPN. 

That being said, since 2012, China has deployed software to seek out and block VPN usage inside its borders. However, most of these are domestic VPNs or low-budget imports that don’t have the funds to install proper security protocols to avoid detection. Higher quality VPNs have more robust defensive mechanisms to work around censorship in countries like Russia and China. However, a huge thing to remember is that most of the VPN websites are blocked within Chinese borders. That means if you want to use one of them during your travels to China; you must download the VPN before you enter the country.

Do any free VPNs work in China?

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to avoid so-called free VPNs in China. The likelihood of a free VPN being able to circumvent the Great Firewall of China is acute. Basic SSL VPN browser extensions get blocked regularly.

Even if they do work, free VPN services tend to be less reliable; impose data and bandwidth limits, and have a much smaller range of servers than paid ones. Moreover, free VPN services often make money by descrying on your online activities and marketing the collected data to third-parties, including advertisers.

Some free VPN services are actually made by Chinese companies, including Qihoo 360’s Turbo VPN. These are best shunned at all costs.

Why is my VPN slow in China?

VPNs will slow down your internet connection for a couple of reasons. The first is that your data must travel further to get to its destination. It’s because it’s re-routed via the VPN server, scoring an extra hop. The second reason is that VPNs are encrypted; so it takes time for your device’s hardware to encrypt and decrypt internet traffic on the fly.

Typically this should only reduce your download speeds by roughly 10 percent or so.

If you are experiencing more severe slowdowns, it could be due to network congestion, VPN server congestion, bandwidth throttling by your ISP, or your device hardware is struggling to keep up with the encryption demands.

You can try switching VPN servers to improve speed and increase bandwidth. Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are standard options that are geographically near China.

If your VPN is blocked entirely, it might have been blacklisted by the Great Firewall.

We recommend contacting your VPN’s customer support for help with persistent issues.

What is the Great Firewall?

The Great Firewall is the unofficial nickname for China’s advanced internet censorship system. Officially called the Golden Shield project, state-owned internet service providers restrict all internet traffic to and from China to just a handful of access points.

This gives authorities the means to monitor and restrict access to content outside the country. The Great Firewall utilizes a combination of methods to censor the web, including IP blocking, DNS tampering, keyword filtering, deep packet inspection, URL filtering, and manual enforcement.

  • IP blocking is a simple matter of blacklisting the IP address of a server hosting a website.
  • DNS tampering involves modifying the entry of a DNS cache so that a URL–such as www.comparitech.com–is resolved into the wrong IP address.
  • Keyword filtering mechanisms scan search queries, messages, and web page requests for sensitive words and phrases. ISPs can prevent unwanted communication by hijacking DNS requests containing sensitive keywords and injecting altered DNS replies.
  • Deep packet inspection, or packet filtering, can scan internet traffic for sensitive keywords or determine if a packet has been encrypted using a VPN protocol.
  • Manual enforcement involves using China’s 50,000-strong internet police force to find and block IP addresses and URLs.

To handle all of the internet traffic between the world’s most populous country to the outside world, complex intrusion detection systems (IDS) create copies of packets and pass them to filtering devices so that traffic flow isn’t interrupted.

Most of the VPNs we recommend above now use some obfuscation to “scramble” the data and make it look like non-VPN traffic.

What should you look for in a VPN for China?

Here are a few top considerations when choosing a useful China VPN:

  • Works in China – obvious enough, but not all VPNs can bypass the Great Firewall.
  • Speed – you’ll probably want to use your VPN to stream and download, so unlimited bandwidth and fast servers are a must.
  • Server locations – servers geographically nearest to China, such as those in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, will offer better speeds.
  • Unblocking – In addition to bypassing the Great Firewall, you may want to access streaming services like that of Netflix and Spotify while you’re away. They have their own geographic restrictions and will require compatible VPNs. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VyprVPN all excel at unblocking streaming sites.
  • Simultaneous connections – If you have several devices or want to share your subscription with family or friends, you may want a subscription with more simultaneous devices. NordVPN offers the most on our list: six simultaneous connections.
  • Customer support – Sometimes, VPN websites get blocked, so it’s useful to have multiple channels to contact customer support, including email and live chat.
  • Apps – Make sure compatible China VPN apps are available for all your devices, as a manual configuration may not work in China.
  • Security – China is a hotbed for malware, hackers, and scammers, so make sure your connection to the VPN server is secure. Look for the following:
    • A no-logs policy
    • 128-bit AES encryption or better
    • Perfect forward secrecy
    • DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak prevention
    • Private DNS servers (not Google DNS)
    • An automatic kill switch

What are the best VPNs that work in China?

If you want a quick look at the best VPNs to use in China, we give you a sneak-peek below.

1. NordVPN

VPN
NordVPN
Location
Panama
Servers
5,800+ in 59 Countries
Price
3.71$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Double encryption for added security
  • Automatic kill switch
  • A variety of platform support
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3-Day free trial
Get 68% off NordVPN (drops the price down to $3.71 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

2. ExpressVPN

VPN
ExpressVPN
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
3,000+ in 94 Countries
Price
8.32$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Unlimited Bandwidth with Ultra Speed
  • Provides all VPN protocols OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP
  • Dedicated VPN Apps for Android & iOS
  • High-End Security with OpenVPN 256-bits
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3 simultaneous connections
Get 35% off ExpressVPN (drops the price down to $8.32 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the ExpressVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

3. Surfshark

VPN
Surfshark
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
1,700+ in 63+ Countries
Price
2.49$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • AES 256-Bit Network Encryption
  • Chrome Extension Available
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • A variety of platform support
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
Get 81% off Surfshark (drops the price down to $2.49 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.)

4. CyberGhost

VPN
CybberGhostVPN
Location
Bucharest, Romania
Servers
6,200+ in 87+ Countries
Price
2.75$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
45 days
  • Uses AES 256 Encryption
  • Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP
  • DNS & IP Leak Protection
  • Uses 2048 Key & MD5 Authentication
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Up to 7 Simultaneous Connections
Get 79% off CybberGhostVPN (drops the price down to $2.75 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the CybberGhostVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

5. Private Internet Access

VPN
Private Internet Access
Location
United States
Servers
3,320+ in 30+ Countries
Price
2.85$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
7 days
  • Offers all Protocols PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec including SOCKS5 Proxy
  • IPv6 Leak Protection & DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • Encrypted Wi-Fi Protection
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 10 simultaneous connections
Get 71% off PIA (drops the price down to $2.85 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the PIA review for more test results and analysis.)

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my comprehensive VPN review for the best VPN’s in China. If you find one of these not working, please leave a comment down below, and I will update the reviews. I hope this guide is useful for you as you travel around China!

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