Best VPN for China in February 2024

Best VPN for China

Navigating the Digital Landscape in China: Finding the Best VPN

In today’s digital age, the internet is a global village. However, in China, this village has its own unique set of rules. The Great Firewall of China, as it is commonly known, imposes strict internet censorship, limiting access to numerous websites and services that are easily available elsewhere in the world. This is where Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) come into play, serving as critical tools for both locals and travelers in China to access the unrestricted internet.

Understanding the Need for a VPN in China

For expatriates, travelers, and even local residents, the restrictions can be more than just an inconvenience. Access to essential services like Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp, which are staples in most parts of the world, is restricted in China. This digital divide not only impacts social connectivity but also hinders access to vital information and services. The use of a VPN in China isn’t just about accessing entertainment; it’s about ensuring a free flow of information and maintaining essential communication channels.

Choosing the Right VPN for China

However, not all VPNs are created equal, especially when it comes to circumventing the sophisticated censorship technology of the Great Firewall. The ideal VPN for China should offer a combination of robust security features, reliable connectivity, fast speeds, and, importantly, an ability to consistently overcome China’s internet restrictions. In this article, we will delve into the top VPNs that meet these criteria, helping you stay connected and secure in the digital realm of China.

This introduction sets the stage for discussing specific VPN options, emphasizing the unique challenges posed by China’s internet censorship.

1. Best VPN for China in February 2024

1.1 NordVPN – Best Overall China VPN

nordvpn china vpn

NordVPN offers several features that make it a viable VPN choice for users in China, despite some limitations:

Pros

  1. Large Server Network: With over 5,000 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN provides ample options for connecting to a server outside of China, which is crucial for bypassing local internet restrictions.

  2. Double VPN and Split Tunneling: These features enhance security. Double VPN routes your traffic through two VPN servers, while split tunneling allows you to choose which apps use the VPN and which don’t.

  3. Anonymity with The Onion Router: Integration with The Onion Router (TOR) offers an additional layer of anonymity, useful in a country with strict internet surveillance.

  4. Private Static IP Address: This can be beneficial for consistently bypassing internet censorship and reducing the likelihood of being blocked.

  5. Streaming Capability: The ability to unblock major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer is a significant advantage, especially in a region where many of these services are typically inaccessible.

  6. Industry-Grade Encryption: NordVPN uses 256-AES encryption, providing robust security to protect your data and online activities.

Cons

  1. Limited Torrent Support: Only a select number of servers support torrenting, which may be a drawback for users interested in this feature.

  2. Inconsistent Speeds: Varying server speeds can be a concern, particularly in a country where VPN usage is necessary and might already impact internet speed.

  3. Manual iOS App Setup: This requirement might be inconvenient for users who prefer straightforward, quick installations.

Additional Considerations

  • User Experience: The PC and mobile apps are generally user-friendly and equipped with several useful features.

  • Torrenting and Streaming: While torrenting is limited, streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ work well with NordVPN.

  • Access in China: NordVPN offers an alternative domain for downloading its apps, as the main site may be blocked in China.

  • Additional Features: Features like split tunneling and a kill switch are available, though some, like the adblocker, may not be fully reliable yet.

  • Privacy and Security: The no-logs policy ensures user activity isn’t recorded, and communication with customer support is securely encrypted.

Conclusion

NordVPN’s robust server network, strong privacy and security features, and ability to unblock streaming services make it a good option for users in China. However, potential users should be aware of the limitations regarding torrent support, variable server speeds, and the need for manual setup on iOS devices. The provision of detailed tutorials and alternative access methods also demonstrates NordVPN’s commitment to supporting users in restrictive regions like China.

NordVPN review

NordVPN

1.2 Surfshark VPN – Best Budget VPN for China

Surfshark china vpn

Surfshark presents several advantages as a VPN for users in China, making it a viable choice for overcoming the country’s stringent internet censorship:

  1. Unlimited Devices and Simultaneous Connections: One of the biggest draws of Surfshark is the ability to connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously. This feature is particularly useful in China, where multiple devices may require VPN protection due to strict internet restrictions.

  2. Shadowsocks Support: Surfshark supports Shadowsocks, a proxy designed to bypass internet censorship. It’s particularly effective in China, enabling users to circumvent the Great Firewall and access blocked content.

  3. NoBorder Mode: Specifically designed for regions with heavy internet censorship, the NoBorder mode automatically activates when it detects regional restrictions. It provides access to specially optimized servers to ensure reliable connectivity in China.

  4. MultiHop Connection: This feature routes your internet connection through two VPN servers instead of one, offering an additional layer of security. While particularly useful for users in China concerned about privacy, it’s worth noting that this feature is not available on mobile devices.

  5. Advanced Security Features: Surfshark uses AES-256-GCM encryption, ensuring a high level of security for your online activities. The no-logs policy and RAM-only servers enhance privacy, as data is not stored permanently and is wiped clean when servers reboot.

  6. Access to Global Content: With Surfshark, users in China can access a wide range of international content, including the massive Netflix library, which might be restricted in the region due to geo-blocking.

However, there are a few limitations to consider:

  • Unreliable P2P Servers: Users might experience inconsistencies with peer-to-peer connections, which could be a drawback for those relying on this feature.
  • Lack of Private IP Addresses: Surfshark does not offer dedicated IP addresses, which some users might prefer for certain online activities.
  • No Split-Tunneling on iOS: The iOS app lacks split-tunneling, a feature that allows specific apps to bypass the VPN.
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Overall, Surfshark’s combination of unlimited connections, censorship-bypassing capabilities, robust security measures, and access to international content make it a strong VPN choice for users in China, despite some limitations.

Surfshark

1.3 Windscribe

Windscribe Free VPN

Windscribe stands out as a viable VPN option for users in China for several reasons:

Pros

  1. Optimized for P2P Connections: Windscribe’s optimization for peer-to-peer connections, such as torrents, makes it a strong choice for users engaged in file sharing.

  2. Free Tier Plan: The availability of a free tier plan allows users to access many premium features without cost, making it accessible for trial users or those on a tight budget.

  3. Dedicated VPN Locator: This feature is particularly useful for streaming, as it optimizes connections for services like Netflix and Hulu, enhancing the user’s ability to bypass geographical restrictions.

  4. Versatile Applications: Windscribe offers user-friendly and versatile browser extensions and mobile apps, providing a consistent and streamlined experience across different devices.

  5. Advanced Encryption: The use of AES-256 cipher with SHA512 authentication and TLS 1.2 encryption ensures a high level of security across all applications.

Cons

  1. Lack of Periodic Security Audits: The absence of regular external security audits might be a concern for users who prioritize transparent and verified security credentials.

  2. No Dedicated IPs: Without dedicated IP options, users may lack consistent IP addresses, which can be necessary for certain online activities.

  3. Limited Server Network: With a lower number of servers compared to some competitors, there might be concerns about server load and connection speed, especially in high-demand areas.

Special Features Beneficial for China

  • Special VPN Protocols: Protocols like Stealth and Websocket Stealth are crucial in China for circumventing stringent censorship measures. These protocols use obfuscation servers to mask VPN traffic, making it easier to bypass the Great Firewall.

  • Data Cap on Free Plan: The free plan has a data cap of 1 or 2 GB, depending on the sign-up platform, which is suitable for casual or trial use.

  • Privacy-Friendly Sign-Up: The option to sign up with just a username and password, with email being optional, enhances user privacy.

  • Unified User Interface: The mobile and desktop apps share a similar UI, streamlining the user experience and making it easier to navigate the VPN’s features.

  • Additional Features in Browser Extension: The browser extension includes an ad blocker and tracker blocker, adding an extra layer of privacy and security to the browsing experience.

Conclusion

Windscribe’s combination of P2P optimization, a free tier with extensive features, specialized protocols for circumventing censorship in China, and strong security measures make it a solid VPN choice for users in China. However, the limitations regarding the absence of dedicated IPs and a smaller server network should be considered based on individual needs and usage patterns.

Windscribe

1.4 ExpressVPN – Fastest China VPN

expressvpn china vpn

ExpressVPN is a good VPN choice for users in China for several reasons:

  1. Extensive Server Network: With over 3000 servers in 95 countries, ExpressVPN offers a wide range of options for bypassing internet censorship, which is particularly useful in a country like China where internet restrictions are stringent.

  2. Effective in Bypassing Censorship: ExpressVPN has a strong track record of overcoming censorship in countries like China, enabling users to access restricted content and maintain internet freedom.

  3. User-Friendly Configuration: The VPN offers user-friendly configurations, including router-level setup. This feature is beneficial for users who wish to secure all devices connected to their home network.

  4. Advanced Split-Tunneling: This feature allows users to choose which part of their traffic goes through the VPN and which accesses the internet directly. It’s particularly useful for maintaining access to local services while browsing international content.

  5. Independent Audits of Servers: The fact that ExpressVPN’s servers are independently audited adds an extra layer of trust regarding their security and privacy measures.

  6. High Speeds: ExpressVPN offers impressive speeds, particularly in countries like China and the UAE, where internet restrictions can often slow down VPN connections.

  7. Broad Platform Support: The VPN supports a wide variety of platforms, including video game consoles and older routers, ensuring that virtually any device can be protected.

  8. Robust Security: With AES-256-GCM encryption and HMAC authentication, ExpressVPN provides strong security, protecting users’ data from interception or hacking.

  9. Innovative Login Options: The option to use a secret code-based login or a 20-digit alphanumeric code offers an additional security layer and may appeal to users who prioritize anonymity.

  10. Versatile Applications: ExpressVPN’s desktop and mobile apps, along with its browser extension, offer a range of features like a customizable dashboard, favorite server tagging, and even tunneling a computer’s entire network through the VPN without needing a desktop client.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Cost: ExpressVPN is more expensive compared to many competitors, which might be a factor for budget-conscious users.
  • Limited Split-Tunneling on macOS: As of now, there’s no split-tunneling feature available on the macOS app.
  • Mobile App Availability: The mobile app is not available in many regions, which could be a limitation for some users.

Overall, for users in China, ExpressVPN’s strengths in bypassing censorship, robust security features, and wide platform support make it a strong candidate, despite its higher cost and some platform-specific limitations.

ExpressVPN review

ExpressVPN

1.5 PureVPN – China VPN With Many Locations

PureVPN china vpn

PureVPN is a strong VPN choice for users in China for several reasons:

  1. Extensive Server Network: With over 6,500 servers in 140 countries, PureVPN offers one of the largest server networks in the VPN industry. This extensive global coverage is beneficial for users in China, providing numerous options to bypass local restrictions and access global content.

  2. Effective in China: PureVPN’s servers are known to work well in mainland China, a critical factor given the country’s strict internet censorship. This makes it a reliable option for users in China who need to access blocked websites and services.

  3. Strong Security Features: PureVPN employs AES-256 encryption, which is the gold standard in VPN security. It also supports multiple VPN protocols, including L2TP, IPsec, IKEv2, OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), and SoftEther, offering users flexibility and robust security.

  4. KPMG Audited: The fact that PureVPN’s servers are regularly audited by KPMG enhances its credibility and trustworthiness, especially in terms of privacy and security practices.

  5. User-Friendly Desktop App: The desktop application is loaded with utilities, allowing users to manage their VPN experience without needing to visit the official website. Features like support ticketing from the app add to the convenience.

  6. Different Modes for Various Needs: PureVPN offers different modes for different uses, such as a streaming mode for faster speeds with lower security, and an “Internet Freedom” mode ideal for circumventing strict censorship laws like those in China.

  7. Supports 10 Devices: With support for up to 10 devices, PureVPN is suitable for individuals or families who want to protect multiple devices simultaneously.

  8. Trial Option: Users can try PureVPN’s service for a week at a minimal cost of $0.99, which is a low-risk way for new users in China to evaluate its effectiveness.

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However, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Additional Fees for Some Features: Certain features come with an extra cost, which might not be ideal for all users.
  • Variable Speeds: Speeds can be slower in locations with fewer servers, which might affect the performance in some regions.
  • Past Privacy Issues: PureVPN has had historical issues concerning privacy, which might concern some users despite improvements.

In summary, PureVPN’s vast server network, effectiveness in China, strong security features, and user-friendly desktop app make it a good VPN option for users in China, especially for those looking to navigate strict internet censorship and maintain online privacy and security.

PureVPN Review

PureVPN

2. What to do if a VPN Doesn’t Work in China?

If you’re experiencing issues with your VPN not working in China, here are some steps you can take to try and resolve the problem:

  1. Switch Servers: Often, simply changing to a different server in your VPN app can solve connectivity issues. Look for servers that are optimized for use in China or in nearby regions.

  2. Update Your VPN App: Ensure that your VPN app is up to date. VPN providers frequently update their software to address connectivity issues, especially in countries with strict internet regulations like China.

  3. Try a Different VPN Protocol: Most VPNs offer multiple protocols (like OpenVPN, L2TP, IKEv2, etc.). Some protocols may work better than others in China due to the way they encrypt data and manage connections.

  4. Use a Stealth or Obfuscated Server: Some VPN providers offer “stealth” or “obfuscated” servers, which are designed to bypass deep packet inspection (DPI) used by Chinese firewalls to block VPN traffic.

  5. Contact Customer Support: Reach out to your VPN’s customer support for advice. They might have specific recommendations for users in China.

  6. Check for Government Blocks: The Chinese government frequently updates its firewall to block VPN services. It’s possible that the VPN you are using has been recently blocked.

  7. Look for a VPN Specialized for China: Some VPN providers specialize in providing services that work in China. These VPNs often have additional features to overcome China’s internet restrictions.

  8. Avoid Peak Times: Sometimes, VPN issues in China are due to network congestion. Trying to connect during off-peak hours might yield better results.

  9. Check Local Internet Restrictions: In some areas or on certain networks (like company networks or hotels), additional restrictions might be in place.

  10. Use Alternative Methods: If VPNs are not working, consider other methods like Shadowsocks or using a Tor browser, though these have their own complexities and risks.

Remember, while using a VPN in China to access blocked content is common, it is important to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding internet use. Always use VPNs responsibly and ethically.

3. China VPN FAQ

3.1 Are VPNs legal in China?

This is the most common question we get. The legal status of VPNs in China has an ambiguous definition. There has been a crackdown on VPNs in the past, but no official remark on the usage has been shared yet.

In early 2019, China started issuing fines for using VPN, which comes as a surprise for a country with over 30% of the Internet users relying on VPN. A slew of mixed signals has been going around with no lucid instructions on its usage as of yet.

3.2 What is the Great Firewall?

The Chinese government regulates the Internet domestically through a combination of legislation and technologies operated by CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China). They block foreign information sources, mainly news media, journals, and online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Wikipedia. Apart from using technology, there are dedicated Internet police, consisting of over 50,000 personnel tasked with enforcing and enforcing the laws.

The Great Firewall relies on various networking measures and tactics such as IP range ban, DNS spoofing, URL filtering, packet forging, and man-in-the-middle-attacks.

3.3 How do VPNs bypass the Great Firewall?

VPN essentially hides your data and the location. They are encrypted by the VPN application while leaving your device, and the Firewall fails to find anything meaningful in the deciphered data during the transmission.

All your messages, chats, emails, and other stuff are encrypted before leaving your device. As they are random bits of data in transmission, the Great Firewall has no idea what is being sent from your end. The data, in turn, goes to a VPN server located in a third country, acting as a middleman, which appears as the destination to the Firewall. After that, the data is sent to the original destination where it is supposed to be. Then the receiver sends back the data back and forth as required. This way, when are trying to stream a video from YouTube, which ordinarily would be blocked by the Firewall. Using a VPN wouldn’t happen as the censorship mechanism will not read the data as it will appear like regular Internet traffic.

3.4 What sites are blocked in China?

In total, over 8,000 websites are blocked in China by the Great Firewall. The list is non-exhaustive and increasing at a pace with the inclusion of hundreds of mobile applications. A few of the popular ones are:

Websites Category
Wikipedia Encyclopedia
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Social Media
Pinterest, Imgur, Flickr Image Sharing
Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video OTT Content
WhatsApp, Discord, Viber, Telegram Messaging
Vimeo, YouTube, Twitch Video sharing and Streaming
Dropbox, OneDrive File Sharing
The Guardian, BBC, Hong Kong Free Press, WION, Medium News Media
Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo Search engines

One thing to note here is that few sites are blocked in some regions while accessible in others. Censorship is in full swing during festivals and events of national significance, often leading to a blanket ban on previously allowed applications and websites.

3.5 Should I leave my VPN on all the time?

That is YOUR call. A VPN gives you a mask identity online, along with providing access to the censored part of the web. In a country such as China, where Internet restrictions are rampant, it is not a bad idea to leave your VPN on all the time.

However, there might be cases when it becomes more of a hindrance than convenience; that’s where you draw the line. A VPN server slows down or does not work correctly with particular apps, sites. It is better to switch it off during those times.

3.6 Which are the best VPN protocols?

The best available VPN protocol is configured by default. You can head to the settings for manually changing them.

  • OpenVPN
  • IPsec
  • IKEv2
  • WireGuard
  • SSTP

Some of the protocols often get banned temporarily or permanently in different provinces. You can check it by connecting to a different server before heading to the settings for changing the protocol.

3.7 How to use a VPN in China?

Using a VPN in China is easy as modern apps configure everything for you. Just flick a switch on the VPN app to enable/disable a connection using their secure servers. Here is how you set up a VPN.

  • Sign up for any of the VPNs we mentioned above. You can always use the trial with a money-back guarantee.
  • Install the VPN service’s app on your device and put in your login credentials.
  • Select a server, which is outside China but located in a nearby country. We would recommend a server in Asia, which would help minimize lag in the connection, preferably helping in streaming Netflix and others.
  • Tap or Click on the connect button for switching on the VPN connection. Now all your Internet traffic will be routed through a secure encrypted connection.
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3.8 Can I access Google Play Store in China?

Play Store, along with other Google services, are banned in China. No app can be downloaded from the Play store, even your VPN app. So, if you are visiting China, it is best to download all your apps before landing in an East Asian country. If not anything else, make sure to load up your VPN app for accessing the play store.

In other cases, when you are already in the country, the other way is to get the APKs through third-party websites. There is an added risk of viruses and malware involved. That is a risk you should be prepared to take.

3.9 How can I access the iOS app store in China?

The good news here, Apple’s iOS app store is allowed in China under strict abidance with the censorship laws. Don’t expect VPN apps to be present there as China is cracking down on anti-censorship applications. Recently Apple removed over 30,000 apps in compliance with China’s new regulation.

The way to access banned apps on iOS is by changing the Apple account’s region to another country. But for that to work, you will need to make a payment using a method native to that country. You can dodge that by purchasing a gift card from the respective country and using it as payment for shopping on the app store.

3.10 How to Bypass the Great Firewall without a VPN?

VPNs are ideal for all your Internet usage needs, but sometimes that’s not needed. In general, surfing and checking emails does not warrant turning on the VPN app at all. You can use these for sporadic web usage without worrying about privacy.

  • Tor
    The Onion Router, abbreviated as Tor, is an encrypted network relay that anonymizes your Internet activities to circumvent strict censorship laws and blockades. They offer a free Tor browser which is available for all major platforms.
  • Lantern
    Another anti-censorship proxy tool relies on a peer-to-peer network to bypass local restrictions. You can download the app for both mobile and desktop.

3.11 Can I use a free VPN in China?

Using a completely free VPN has its share of risks involved. Few VPNs made in China, such as TurboVPN, may come with monitoring by the authorities. Along with that, you hit the features ceiling pretty fast.

You can use Windscribe and Hotspot shield, which offer premium features with a data cap, beyond which subscription plans are available.

3.12 Can I access social media via VPN without being monitored?

What goes through a VPN will be anonymous and undetectable, meaning the Firewall will not be able to stop you from accessing banned social media sites. This, however, doesn’t ensure the extensive monitoring put in place for all social media websites by the authorities. Posting any kind of content against China’s laws may land you in trouble with the authorities. Make sure to keep all your personal communication inside the secure VPN tunnel.

3.13 Does the VPN server need to be in China?

Housing a server in China means adhering to the laws of the land. With the intrusive regulations requiring access to all the records, this will defeat the prime purpose of a VPN. All the leading VPN services do not have a server in China and are smartly stationed in nearby Hong Kong, the Philippines, where the Great Firewall is not in effect. Connect to any of the nearby servers for ensuring maximum speed and minimal lag.

3.14 Will China block all the VPNs?

On paper, China has rubbished all rumors of a blanket ban on VPNs despite various reports by media outlets. There are constant measures by the authorities blacklisting IP ranges, DNS servers, and proxy servers of different VPN servers, which have said otherwise. Their removal of anti-censoring tools doesn’t propel confidence in the official statement. VPN servers are banned from time to time, so it is crucial to have a backup server in your favorites for impromptu needs.

3.15 Which are the best VPN server countries to use in China?

As a general rule of thumb, all the countries surrounding China with geographical proximity would provide the best VPN connection with minimal delays or lags. By connecting to a respective country, you will also gain access to the Netflix, Hulu, and other OTT libraries available in the region. You can look for servers in these countries:

  • Honk Kong
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Philippines
  • Malaysia

3.16 Can I watch Netflix through VPN?

Streaming Netflix and other OTTs are easier than you would expect. VPN services offer as high as 30 Netflix libraries without charging anything extra. You will need to check with your VPN service before subscribing to see how many libraries they have to offer. Currently, Ireland has the greatest number of titles available on Netflix, followed closely by Malaysia.

VPN Service
NordVPN
www.nordvpn.com



NordVPN
Review
Price: $11.95 $3.71/month
Servers: 5500+ in 59 countries
Simultaneous connections: 6
Jurisdiction: Panama
Payment: PayPal, AmazonPay, Crypto, Google Pay, Klarna
Torrenting: OK
Unblocks US Netflix: Yes
Dedicated IP: $70/yr
TrustPilot Score: 4,7/5
Money-back: 30 days
Extra: Double VPN, Obfuscated servers
Visit NordVPN »
ExpressVPN
www.expressvpn.com



ExpressVPN
Review
Price: $12.95 $8.32/month
Servers: 3300+ in 94 countries
Simultaneous connections: 5
Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
Payment: PayPal, Crypto, AliPay, Klarna,
Torrenting: OK
Unblocks US Netflix: Yes
Dedicated IP: Not provided
TrustPilot Score: 4,7/5
Money-back: 30 days
Visit ExpressVPN »
CyberGhost
www.cyberghostvpn.com



CyberGhost
Review
Price: $11.99 $2.25/month
Servers: 6600+ in 89 coutrines
Simultaneous connections: 7
Jurisdiction: Romania
Payment: PayPal, Crypto
Torrenting: OK
Unblocks US Netflix: Yes
Dedicated IP: $51/yr
TrustPilot Score: 4,8/5
Money-back: 45 days
Visit CyberGhost »
Surfshark
www.surfshark.com



Surfshark
Price: $11.95 $2.49/month
Servers: 3200+ in 65 coutrines
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
Payment: PayPal, Crypto, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
Torrenting: OK
Unblocks US Netflix: Yes
Dedicated IP: Not provided
TrustPilot Score: 4,3/5
Money-back: 30 days
Visit Surfshark »
PureVPN
www.purevpn.com



PureVPN
Review
Price: $9.60 $3.33/month
Servers: 6500+ in 140 coutrines
Simultaneous connections: 10
Jurisdiction: Hong Kong
Payment: PayPal, Credit Cards
Torrenting: OK
Unblocks US Netflix: Yes
Dedicated IP: $35.88/yr
TrustPilot Score: 4,7/5
Money-back: 31 days
Visit PureVPN »


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