China has tight control of Internet access inside the country. Most western websites are blocked behind the Great Firewall, preventing user’s access to them.
As a solution, most people turn to Virtual Private Networks (or VPNs) to circumvent the restriction by encrypting their connection and routing it through a foreign server. It hides your online activity and allows you to access content that wouldn’t be available otherwise.
However, not all VPNs work in China. That’s why we’ve tested dozens of different providers and came up with this Top 5 list. Below you will find the best VPNs for China that work in 2021.
Top 5 best VPNs for China
- NordVPN – the best VPN for China in 2021
- Surfshark – the cheapest great China VPN
- VyprVPN – exceptional security without sacrificing performance
- Windscribe – unlimited simultaneous connections
- Hide.me VPN – a unique set of tunneling protocols
What to know before using a VPN for China
Aside from choosing a reliable China VPN that will give you uninterrupted access to resources behind the Great Firewall, consider the following things:
- Get a VPN for China while you’re still outside. That’s because the government blocks the providers’ websites, and you might need to use a proxy or another VPN to access the mirror, potentially compromising your privacy. Luckily, most premium services have separate links for downloading the app from China, but you want to avoid all this additional trouble.
- Know where you’ll be staying. The country is divided into multiple provinces, and some web resources may be available in one and blocked in another. Of course, provinces like Tibet offer fewer options and even limit your online presence to a few hours a day.
- Get a Chinese SIM card – otherwise, you’ll be paying for roaming. Moreover, the chances are that your smartphone might not work in China. Make sure that your model will work to avoid buying some local brand.
- Don’t forget that most sites and services will be unavailable without the VPN. That includes search engines (Google), social media and messaging (Facebook, WhatsApp), news sites (The New York Times), streaming platforms (Netflix), pornography, and Wikipedia.
Best VPNs for China – our detailed list
Not many VPNs work in China, but that didn’t make creating this list any easier. The top players are excellent and the difference between first and second place is almost a photo-finish. Let’s look at each VPN service in more detail to learn about the features, pros, and cons.
1. NordVPN – the best VPN for China
|Logging:||Independently-audited no-logs policy|
|Servers/countries:||5500+ servers in 59 countries|
|Unblocks:||Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, Youtube|
If you haven’t used a VPN in China before, we strongly recommend NordVPN. This service provides excellent security and privacy plus the best speeds. NordVPN uses military-grade encryption, the fast and secure NordLynx protocol (an in-house version of WireGuard), has zero leaks, and allows anonymous payments with multiple cryptocurrencies. In fact, it’s our best VPN overall in 2021.
Users in China will benefit from extra protection thanks to multi-hop (Double VPN), Tor over VPN (Onion over VPN), Stealth protocol (Obfuscated servers), and two types of kill switch. These will shut down your internet connection in case of VPN failure to avoid leaking your personal information.
The internet speed in China is far from the best. Moreover, Chinese ISPs tend to throttle your bandwidth. Yet with NordVPN, you’ll be able to achieve great performance. Its NordLynx tunneling protocol seemingly works faster than WireGuard. They have also updated their OpenVPN to version 2.4.10. which is relevant if you will be using their stealth servers.
This provider supports all popular devices, including Android TV and Amazon Fire Stick & TV. You can also manually configure it on different routers or NAS. And since it unblocks multiple streaming platforms, Netflix included, you’ll be able to continue watching your favorite shows and avoid spoilers back home. There’s also a SOCKS5 proxy for your torrenting efforts.
NordVPN comes with six slots for simultaneous connections, which should be more than enough for one person. And if you still want more, configure it on your router. In case you have trouble with that, you can always get quality support by contacting the 24/7 live chat.
- Excellent security and privacy
- Top speeds
- Command autocomplete in the Linux app
- Anonymous payments
- Netflix and other streaming sites
- Torrenting allowed (SOCKS5 proxy)
- 24/7 live chat
- No serious flaws
2. Surfshark – the cheapest great China VPN
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Servers/countries:||3200+ servers in 65 countries|
|Unblocks:||Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Youtube|
What separates Surfshark from the rest of our VPNs for China are unlimited simultaneous VPN connections and big discounts. This means that you can easily share one account with your family and friends while paying only a fraction of the already low prices. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you find this service unsuitable.
Surfshark has great security and privacy. You can tell that by looking at the following features: WireGuard, a kill switch, no-logs, and zero leaks. Additionally, you can turn on the malware blocker (CleanWeb), stealth VPN (Camouflage Mode), multi-hop, and split tunneling (Whitelister).
This VPN for China also offers great performance that’s only limited by your internet connection and hardware. To get the best results, use the WireGuard tunneling protocol and connect to a location that’s close to China. Surfshark has 3,200+ servers in 65+ countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Surfshark supports major platforms plus Amazon Fire devices, Android TV, routers, and NAS. This means you’ll be able to unblock Netflix and watch all the content on your big screen. P2P is also available, and you can choose to protect only this traffic with the split tunneling feature.
This service has no serious flaws and is a great alternative for NordVPN. If all that wasn’t enough, expect fast and polite customer support via their 24/7 live chat.
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Low prices
- Great performance
- Unblocks streaming sites
- Allows P2P and has split tunneling
- 24/7 live chat
- No serious flaws
3. VyprVPN – exceptional security without sacrificing speed
|Logging:||Independently-audited no-logs policy|
|Servers/countries:||700+ servers in 70 countries|
|Unblocks:||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, Youtube|
VyprVPN is a great choice for China, especially if you need support for less popular platforms, such as Apple TV, QNAP, or OpenELEC/Kodi. You’ll get 5 simultaneous connections, which you can increase by installing the router app. Unfortunately, there are no VyprVPN browser extensions at the moment.
The security and privacy of this provider are almost unparalleled. It has an independently-audited no-logs policy, the proprietary Chameleon protocol for avoiding Deep Packet Inspection, and solid leak protection. It now uses Smart IP technology that rotates your IP address without dropping the connection. Moreover, you can benefit from malware blocking and split tunneling if you’re using Mac or Android. Sadly, VyprVPN doesn’t have multi-hop, Tor over VPN, or SOCKS5 proxy.
VyprVPN is a fast service, thanks to the next-gen WireGuard protocol. While it doesn’t have thousands of servers, all of them belong to the company, which adds to the quality and performance. Besides, there are servers in plenty of locations around China to choose from. That includes Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, and Taiwan, among others.
When it comes to content platforms, VyprVPN unblocks multiple Netflix libraries and other streaming services. The quality of your video stream will depend on the internet connection and the distance to the server, but watching in UHD is something we could do quite easily with VyprVPN. Torrenting is available, although some users will miss a SOCKS5 proxy or split tunneling.
VyprVPN prices are good, especially if you take the two-year plan. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee that allows you to test the service risk-free. Unfortunately, anonymous payments are unavailable.
- Supports many platforms
- Independently-audited no-logs policy
- Very fast
- Natively supports new Apple M1 chips
- Unblocks multiple streaming services
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No anonymous payments
- No browser extensions
4. Windscribe – unlimited simultaneous connections
|Servers/countries:||480+ servers in 60 countries|
|Unblocks:||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, Youtube|
Windscribe is one of the two VPNs for China to offer unlimited devices per account. What’s more, it has apps for Nvidia Shield and Kodi – something that’s often unsupported or needs to be configured manually. So if these are important for you, we can recommend Windscribe for these and other benefits.
Starting from security and privacy, you get military-grade encryption, leak protection, and a malware blocker. Even though Windscribe is registered in Canada, a Five Eyes country, this shouldn’t concern you too much because of the no-logs policy. Additional features include multi-hop (Double VPN), SOCKS5 proxy, and Stealth VPN.
Thanks to the WireGuard tunneling protocol, this provider gives you great speeds. Windscribe has servers in 60+ countries. You’ll able to select from more than a few around China for even better performance. We’re talking about Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Windscribe unblocks Netflix in multiple locations. However, the same cannot be said about other streaming platforms. At least you’ll be able to torrent to your heart’s content and optionally use the SOCKS5 proxy for that.
The main reason why Windscribe is not higher on this list is the lack of a 24/7 live chat. Getting support fast is crucial in China, where you may encounter more issues than almost anywhere else. Additionally, the money-back guarantee is for 3 days only, so make sure you test this VPN thoroughly before getting to the other side of the Great Firewall.
- Unlimited devices
- No-logs policy
- Servers in 60+ countries
- Supports P2P and streaming
- Fast speeds
- Live chat is not 24/7
- Short money-back period
5. Hide.me VPN – a unique set of protocols
|Logging:||Zero activity logs|
|Servers/countries:||1900 servers in 47 countries|
|Unblocks:||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, Youtube|
Hide.me VPN is well prepared for usage in China. It has zero activity logs, a unique set of tunneling protocols, and great customer support. Besides, Hide.me VPN unblocks multiple streaming platforms.
While this provider is rarely found in various “best of” lists, that’s not the case when we start talking about bypassing the Great Firewall of China. Hide.me VPN software offers security and privacy that will let you feel comfortable in countries where the internet is highly censored.
To start with, this service is registered in Malaysia, a privacy-friendly country. You can also pay anonymously with Bitcoin, further reducing the chance of linking your bandwidth with you. What’s more, Hide.me VPN has strong leak protection, keeping your personal data safe.
When it comes to tunneling protocols, you can choose WireGuard for best speeds or SoftEther (SSL over HTTPS) for avoiding Deep Packet Inspection (often used to block VPN traffic). Windows users can also try SSTP, which is great against firewalls too. Recently they have also added VPN Bolt protocol, which is based on TCP and should provide better speeds for users in restricted regions. There are lots of other useful features like multi-hop, split tunneling, and a SOCKS5 proxy.
Hide.me VPN is one of the few providers that offer an app for Chromebook. It also works with all major operating systems, Amazon Fire devices, and routers. One account gives you ten (!) simultaneous connections – enough for your whole family.
You wouldn’t find this service on the list if it couldn’t unblock Netflix. As a matter of fact, Hide.me VPN gives you YouTube, BBC iPlayer, and even DAZN, among others. P2P is also allowed, and your traffic won’t be throttled.
Last but not last, Hide.me VPN comes with a 24/7 live chat. It’s only weaknesses are some issues with the kill switch and pretty steep prices.
- Zero activity logs
- Anonymous payments
- Supports torrenting
- Unblocks multiple streaming platforms
- 24/7 live chat support
- Issues with kill switch
- Quite expensive
How we tested and selected these VPNs
We want to take some time to explain how we’ve chosen the best VPNs to use in China. At first, we crossed out all providers that don’t work in China or cannot provide a stable service. Then we evaluated each VPN using the following criteria:
- Security. Using an unreliable VPN in China can cause you lots of trouble, especially because you may think you’re protected when, in fact, you’re not. Features such as secure tunneling protocols, a strong kill switch, and leak protection are a must.
- Privacy. Use only a true no-logs VPN. What’s more, those with anonymous payment options or even anonymous registration have a huge advantage over the rest. Finally, avoid any VPNs that are operated out of China itself.
- Speed. All VPN services will slow down your connection to some degree. That’s why picking from the fastest VPNs is advised to make sure that you still have some juice left for streaming or torrenting after beating the Great Firewall.
- Streaming. Plenty of people in China simply want to watch Netflix US. So if a VPN is unable to help with geo-blocking, check out the competitors that can. Also, consider that some providers unblock even more Netflix libraries across the world, meaning there’s a greater chance to find your desired movie or TV show.
- Torrenting. P2P blocking is a nuisance worldwide, and China is one of the worst places for torrenting. Luckily, with a reliable VPN, you’ll be able to download speedy, freely, and securely.
- Customer support. China is hard on VPNs, so you might expect some issues you’ve never had before. Therefore, 24/7 customer support becomes indispensable. Don’t settle for anything less than a live chat option to avoid waiting days before your issue is solved.
- Price. When choosing a VPN for China, saving money shouldn’t lead to a less secure or private option. That being said, some top-notch providers are quite reasonably priced.
How to choose the best VPN for China?
Choosing the best VPN app for China is not an easy thing, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. That’s why we came up with the list of most important features that your VPN should have to make the choosing easier.
- Stability. Quite a few providers claim to work in China, but how many do most of the time? Having a sporadic connection that’s already slow can make the experience unbearable.
- Reputation. Most VPNs advertise their excellent security and privacy, but do they have anything to back that up? Looking at past scandals might give you an idea of whether it’s worth bringing this service to China.
- Security and privacy. A VPN with an audited or court-proven no-logs policy is preferred. Secondly, a kill switch and no leaks are a must. Finally, look for some extra features, such as anonymous payments, Tor over VPN, or multi-hop to further enhance your protection. Most importantly, look for a “stealth protocol,” “stealth mode,” or “obfuscated servers” – this is crucial for a VPN in China.
- Speed. A fast tunneling protocol like WireGuard is highly recommended to maximize speed. Additionally, look for more servers and locations covered.
- Streaming and torrenting. These are probably the most popular reason why people get a VPN. It’s not different in China as there’s no local Netflix or YouTube at all. Make sure that your VPN covers your desired streaming platforms and has enough juice for downloading at the required rate.
- Customer support. You should find at least a few VPNs that have a 24/7 live chat.
- Price. This one is tricky. Are you getting a VPN just for a few months? Or are you planning to stay in China for more than a year? In the latter case, prices are pretty similar, but long-term plans offer a wide discount range.
How to use a VPN in China?
The best advice you’re ever going to get regarding VPN usage in China is to plan in advance. If you’re not already in China, it’s best to download and set up VPN software before landing in the country. That way, you’ll already have tools to bypass the restrictions.
- You’ll need a reliable VPN provider. We recommend NordVPN as it has a great track record for bypassing the Great Firewall
- Sign up for the service and pay for your subscription. Make sure that its duration isn’t shorter than your stay.
- Log in to your account and download the software (it makes sense to install it on all of your used devices)
- Each OS has different setup instructions, so consult your provider for details
- Once the setup is complete, you’ll only need to open the app, log in and connect
- For a VPN to work, you’ll likely need to connect using obfuscated servers
Don’t forget that tunneling protocols like OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP are blocked in China. So, your best bet is to use other methods to unblock restricted websites.
Is using a VPN illegal in China?
VPN’s in China are legal but severely restricted. Back in 2018, the Chinese government decided to ban all VPNs that aren’t approved by the government. Soon the VPNs disappeared from the local App Stores, and the ISPs started controlling them more tightly.
However, these measures are targeted mostly at locals, so travelers can still download and use some VPN apps. Interestingly, those VPNs that have been working in China continued doing so even after 2018. In a way, this would mean that the Chinese government has given some extra space for those providers to operate inside the country. On the other hand, you still have to find the right tool and downloading the app is not so simple.
If you’re a local, using a VPN will be much riskier, especially if you reside in provinces like Xinjiang, where the population is more strictly controlled by China’s regime. If caught, citizens can face serious consequences.
What is the Great Firewall of China?
Officially known as the Golden Shield project, the Great Firewall of China censors internet access inside the country. Since all internet service providers (ISPs) belong to the government, it can monitor all your traffic and block certain websites that are deemed dangerous or inappropriate. Sadly, the block list is quite long, including Facebook, Twitter, most search engines, and messaging services, not to mention Netflix and YouTube.
China started seriously censoring the internet in 1997, only three years after going online. In 2003, the Golden Shield project was started to not only censor but also promote Communist Party ideology. For example, you’ll learn that Hong Kong and Taiwan are part of China, and you won’t learn anything about the Tiananmen Square massacre.
How does China censor the internet? Well, it uses a number of sophisticated methods, such as IP blocking, DNS tampering, keyword filtering via Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), and manual blocking. DPI is also used to detect and block VPN traffic. That’s why the best VPNs must be able to avoid DPI to work in China.
Without a VPN, you’ll be forced to use local apps and websites for communication, online shopping, and anything else. Your search keywords will be modified and you’ll see government-approved businesses at the top of the results page. Most importantly, your online privacy will be non-existent due to the online surveillance apparatus of China.
How VPNs bypass the Great Firewall
Bypassing the Great Firewall is possible by using an encrypted connection with the outside servers. Although there are many methods to go about it, VPNs are the most popular and simplest way for most users.
A VPN encrypts your connection, making it impossible to detect and thus filter out the pages you’re trying to access. Moreover, your connection is passed through the outside server network that has unrestricted access to the Internet. That way, you’re experiencing the Internet as if you were located somewhere else, but physically you’re still located in China.
It’s worth mentioning that China has cracked down on most free VPN services and proxies. The Great Firewall detects some free VPN’s IP ranges and blocks them in their tracks, making them useless. So, if you want any guarantee that a VPN will work for you, it’s not a bad idea to think about the paid VPN service provider.
How to bypass the Great Firewall of China without a VPN?
While VPNs are the best method for bypassing the Great Firewall of China, it also can be done with proxies. Any service you use should run from outside the country and preferably support an HTTPS encrypted tunnel.
There are many paid proxies to choose from, but their reputation is usually not enough to know that your private information is safe. Also, a VPN will usually be faster and provide a more stable connection. Proxies will often have more issues with streaming and torrenting as well.
Another method for bypassing the Great Firewall of China is Tor. It uses a network of thousands of relays worldwide, effectively hiding your IP address and your traffic. Unfortunately, it has its own vulnerabilities and should ideally be used with a VPN when possible. Finally, Tor won’t help you with streaming, torrenting, or gaming because, essentially, it’s made for browsing.
Proxies and Tor are not the only alternatives to VPN. However, other options, such as I2P or encrypted DNS, are either highly technical or too limited to be included in this article.
Why does China block most VPNs?
China is an authoritarian regime that likes to spy on its citizens and visitors alike. Limiting the available online content helps to spread government propaganda and keep foreign sources unavailable. Since VPNs help unblock websites and services by bypassing the Great Firewall, China sees them as dangerous and detrimental to its policy.
As a matter of fact, a VPN is a powerful tool that gives you access to a number of blocked services. We’re talking about social media and messaging, search engines, news sites, streaming, torrenting, and more. Without one, citizens are made to use local online services while also giving away their IP addresses and online activity logs to ISPs, which, by the way, are state-controlled.
Strangely enough, those VPNs that have worked before tightening things up in 2018 continue to work today. That’s probably because without any VPNs, China would hurt itself economically. After all, there are foreign businesses that need access to various online resources to function. So in a sense, China is leaving those few VPNs in relative peace for its own good.
Which free VPN works in China?
The question in the heading above is intentionally singular. There aren’t many great premium VPNs that work in China, so the number of free options is even more limited. At the moment, your best bet is Windscribe.
Windscribe is the best free VPN in China as of 2021. It’s a reputable provider without any scandals or data leaks. That’s why we also have it on our best free VPNs list.
This service gives you 10 GB/month to browse, stream, and torrent. While this limit may seem strict, consider that most free VPNs have a bandwidth limit, and those that don’t won’t work with Netflix, P2P, or both. With Windscribe, you’ll be able to watch a three-hour-long movie or browse for more than five hours each day.
Unlike the other free VPNs that give you just a few locations, Windscribe offers 10 countries. That includes Hong Kong, so the speeds will be better than when connecting somewhere on the other side of the globe. Of course, for streaming, you will still probably choose the US, the UK, or the Netherlands.
When it comes to security and privacy, Windscribe has strong encryption, a kill switch, and malware protection. It’s also a no-logs provider with a tracking blocker and anonymous payments if you decide to go premium. Lastly, Windscribe has not one but two “stealth protocols” in STunnel and Wstunnel.
Unfortunately, like most free providers, Windscribe doesn’t have a live chat. Your only options are submitting a ticket, talking to a chatbot, or browsing the knowledge base. Despite that, there’s no better free VPN that works in China.
VPNs that don’t work in China
There are plenty of VPNs that don’t work in China. In fact, it would be easier to list the ones that do work. Nevertheless, below you’ll find services that cannot bypass the Great Firewall of China at the moment of writing, though this may change.
- Avast Secureline VPN
- Perfect Privacy
- VPN Unlimited
As you can see, even some reputable VPNs ended up on this list. This by no way means that they are bad outside of China. In fact, some of them are among the best VPNs overall.
Popular websites that are blocked in China
If a website is worth a damn, chances are high it will be blocked in China. This includes:
- Social networks. It comes without saying that such social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Tinder, and Snapchat are completely banned.
- Streaming sites. China also bans most popular streaming sites and services like Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo, Twitch, Dailymotion, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, and Vevo.
- News and informational pages. As China’s levels of internet censorship are sky-high, you won’t be able to access any Western news pages or informational sites. This includes BBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Guardian, and Wikipedia.
- Search engines. Even search engines aren’t immune to China’s blocks. Without a VPN, you won’t access Google, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo.
- Internet censorship circumvention websites. It goes without saying that websites like NordVPN, Surfshark, or ExpressVPN are on the block list as they would allow you to bypass the blocks.
- File-sharing websites. From Imgur to Dailymotion to torrent websites all of them are blocked to make it more difficult to exchange files, all of those websites are blocked.
China also blocks various messaging apps like Telegram, Messenger, Slack, or WhatsApp, as well as cloud storage and sharing websites like Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.
More VPN guides from CyberNews:
Best Roobet VPNs: Play Roobet from anywhere with a VPN
Surfshark review: is it safe & secure to use?
Best VPNs for Kodi: excellent speeds for streaming
Which VPN works in China now?
Every VPN listed above works in China as of now. Even though there are some others as well, we recommend choosing from this Top 5 to have a stable connection.
Generally speaking, you should choose the closest server location for a lower ping and faster connection. Most of our best VPNs for China offer at least some of the following locations: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, or Singapore. Of course, if you want to unblock Netflix US or watch the UK version of YouTube, you’ll have to connect to those countries.
Why are VPNs in China slow?
All VPNs reduce speed due to encryption and other security features, plus, the quality of internet performance in China can be inconsistent. Also, to increase speed you may want to turn off multi-hop, Tor over VPN, and other hardcore security features.
Does Great Firewall work in other countries?
No, it works in mainland China only. That means you should be able to access the internet freely in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau.
If you’re a foreigner, you shouldn’t worry too much. As of now, no visitor was sentenced for using a VPN in China. However, the situation is completely different for citizens. The punishment can range from a fine to prison time.