Best VPN Services for China in 2021 (China VPN Guide)

Making use of the internet in China is one of the most tasking and annoying challenges that people living in China as well as visiting foreigners face. These challenges are because of the restrictions China has put in place to discontinue access to some websites in China. This restriction is called “The Great Firewall.” Nevertheless, people have managed to bypass these restrictions using one of the surest ways, Virtual Private Networks.

However, the problem remains that China’s government has also blocked many of these VPNs, which attempt to evade its restrictions. This means that not just any type of VPN will be useful in bypassing The Great Firewall. You would need the best and most effective VPNs that work in China, to successfully scale through. Many of the VPN websites are also blocked in China, so it is wise to sign in to your VPN before visiting China.

7 Best VPN services for use in China

The following VPNs have been put to the test and emerged successful as some of the very best VPNs that are effective in China:

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN devices

Features

  • Number of servers: More than 3,000
  • Speeds: Unlimited
  • Server locations: 160 in 94 countries
  • Maximum devices supported: 5
  • 24 live chat: Yes
  • 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Pros/Cons

  • Fastest VPN out there
  • Strict no logs policy
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Few discounts
Visit ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the biggest, most popular, and most impressive VPNs all around the globe. It is no wonder then that it also deploys all its powerful unblocking services in China. ExpressVPN has a wide range of servers all around the globe. With over 3,000 servers in 160 great locations, in 94+ countries, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, the network provider gives top-quality geo-unblocking services that evade even the strongest geo-blocks. It consistently works in China and grants users access to those essential websites that the government has blocked them out of.

ExpressVPN has effective encryption and security protocols. The highest form of encryption, which is the 256-bit AES encryption, is active on the network, keeping your data secure. In terms of security protocols, ExpressVPN makes use of some of the most hi-tech protocols, such as OpenVPN. What’s more, the provider also has its own custom protocol known as Lightway!

Still, on security, the provider makes use of a kill switch called the Network Lock. As soon as there is a drop in your network connection, or if your data is compromised, it gets automatically turned on, keeping all your necessary information hidden.

To access all the restricted websites, browse, download, and stream your favourite music and shows, ExpressVPN has got your back. This VPN is super-fast. Its lightning speed makes it simply perfect for all your internet activities. Not only does the VPN break through and unblock the most stringent website restrictions in China, but you can also stream and download from them too. 

Sites such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, Hulu, YouTube, Google, Facebook, and many others can be easily accessed on the platform. ExpressVPN doesn’t just stop there; it also supports torrenting and P2P file sharing on any of its servers. 

It keeps a strict no-logs policy and has DNS protection. Not just that, it allows for five simultaneous connections, which allows for most of your devices to stay protected always. It is straightforward to set up and is compatible with many platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, and most of your routers.

To further sweeten the deal, it comes with high-end customer support services and a 30-day money-back guarantee just in case you are unsatisfied with all its features after purchase.

  • Pros: Fastest VPN out there; Strict no logs policy; 256-bit AES encryption;
  • Lowest price: $6.67

NordVPN

NordVPN devices

Features

  • Cryptocurrency accepted? Yes
  • Simultaneous connections: 6
  • Dedicated IP-addresses? Yes
  • Servers: 5342 in 58 countries

Pros/Cons

  • Lots of pricing options
  • Netflix support kept up to date
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Slow app
Visit NordVPN

Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN is a big name on the VPN market. It is so good that it continually remains in the top 3 on the overall best VPN charts. NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN that offers almost as many quality services as ExpressVPN does. 

NordVPN boasts of great network coverage of 5,100+ servers located in 61 countries. That is almost more than enough to cover all your needs. With all its top-quality features and services, and its consistent accessibility in China, it is an excellent bet if you would like to sign-up for a VPN in the country.

If you are a heavy streamer, NordVPN would be perfect for your use. Apart from the numerous restricted websites in China, Netflix is one of the toughest to evade. NordVPN has successfully and unfailingly bypassed Netflix’s new (and stricter) detection measures. It not only works for Netflix but other streaming sites like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC, Telemundo, Vevo, and tons of other websites. When we talk about streaming, your next worry might be speed. NordVPN covers that also. Despite being in China with the famous Great Firewall, NordVPN’s speed power is shockingly fast. 

With all these great features, it’s pertinent to ask how safe NordVPN is for browsing in China. Very safe is the short answer. NordVPN comes complete with the strictest encryption features and secure VPN protocols. Its 256-bit encryption makes it one of the most challenging VPN services to break into. It also has the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols that keep your data safe and secure. The provider is also sincere when it claims to keep no logs. Its succinctly defined no-logs policy gives credence to this fact.

NordVPN comes with other security features, including DNS leak protection, Auto-connect function, Onion Over VPN, reliable IP servers. It makes use of obfuscated servers that prove reliable in bypassing China’s Great Firewall. Although it is not as expensive as ExpressVPN, the network still gives great features for its pricing. It has no free version or free trial period. Instead, users can take advantage of its 30-day money-back guarantee, where you get a full refund within 30 days if you’re not pleased with the service.

  • Pros: Lots of pricing options; Netflix support kept up to date; 256-bit AES encryption;
  • Lowest price: $3.71

Surfshark

Surfshark devices

Features

  • Free trial? Yes
  • Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
  • Ad blocking? Yes
  • Servers: 1000+ in 61 countries

Pros/Cons

  • No footprints
  • Allows torrenting
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Not the fastest
Try Surfshark

On the VPN market, if you’re looking for a quality VPN service that wouldn’t break the bank, then Surfshark is your best bet. Although not as big a name as the two VPNs above, it is consistently and surely making a name for itself as the years go by. Currently, it has over 3200 servers in about 61 countries, and that is quite a good coverage. Surfshark is an all-purpose VPN that would be a good fit for solving your Great Firewall troubles.

Surfshark boasts of fast, dependable, and consistent connections that allow you to browse, torrent and stream as fast as you wish on the internet. It comes with a quick-connect feature that automatically detects and connects to the fastest server. The network is quite reliable.

Your next worry might be how good Surfshark is against China’s excessive restrictions. The VPN scaled all its restriction tests and has many user reviews to attest to that. It is great for getting access to those geo-blocked sites like Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, among others. Its servers also evaded many of the Firewall restrictions so that users can easily access their favorite sites and content. As mentioned above, Surfshark is excellent for torrenting, is compatible with BitTorrent and uTorrent, and also works with streaming players like Popcorn Time.

Looking at Surfshark’s security, the VPN proudly states that it has no DNS leaks.. Along with its highly secure encryption feature, it also has a MultiHop feature, which offers an extra level of protection. It further provides security with its no-logs policy that restricts it from keeping any user logs. Apart from important user information like your encrypted password, necessary billing information, and email address, you remain anon on this service.

For use in China, Surfshark’s NoBorders feature is highly essential for eluding China’s censorship. It automatically reroutes your data to access blocked content. The VPN is compatible with popular devices such as Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and others. You can also manually set it up for other platforms like smart TVs and routers. Its pricing is affordable and comes with a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. Surfshark offers a 7-day free trial once you download the app via the Play Store or Apple store.

  • Pros: No footprints; Allows torrenting; 256-bit AES encryption;
  • Lowest Price: €2.09

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN devices

Features

  • P2P support? Yes
  • 30-day money-back guarantee? Yes
  • Country of origin? Switzerland
  • Servers: 600+ in over 40 countries
  • Simultaneous devices: 5

Pros/Cons

  • Professional support
  • Modern interface and apps
  • AES-256 encryption
  • Lesser known provider
Try ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is another right provider to use in China. It prides itself as the VPN solution for torrent fans. Not only does it break through China’s restriction laws and geo-blocked sites, but it also supports torrenting too! With 1000+ servers in 50+ countries, ProtonVPN has an average-sized server coverage that is doing a great job at unblocking the essential sites and streaming services you need.

This VPN does not slack when it comes to streaming. It unblocks sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. It also dutifully unblocks many of those sites that have been censored by China’s Great Firewall. 

When it comes to security, ProtonVPN is clean and transparent. Being a Swiss-based VPN, the provider does not keep any logs. It has tons of security features that assure you that your data is highly secure. With the DNS leak protection, the IP address is hidden. AES-256 encryption plus 4096-bit RSA key exchange also makes sure that your data can never be accessed even though the government and other malware sites try. Alongside the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols, it has other security features like Secure Core. This Secure Core feature helps to instantly pass your data through different servers in secure and privacy-conscious countries. 

ProtonVPN has a good number of servers close to China. To use ProtonVPN in China, seeing as some of the server locations may be restricted, you may need to contact customer care support via email so that they can give you a recommended list of servers that are functional in China. 

Great news, ProtonVPN has a free plan! Although it has premium services at paid rates, you can use the VPN free of charge, but with lesser features. The paid plans don’t have an open trial plan, but they offer more security and anonymity features. They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee for users who wish to get a refund after they have subscribed to any of its plans.

This VPN also offers excellent compatibility for different apps such as iOS, Windows, Mac, and Android. It also has manual installation for the Linux operating system. The number of devices you can connect to at the same time on the VPN depends on the pricing plan you are subscribed to. On the free plan, you can only connect one of your devices to the VPN. The most expensive plan, which is the Visionary plan, allows up to ten simultaneous connections all at once.

  • Pros: Professional support; Modern interface and apps; AES-256 encryption;
  • Lowest price: €4

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN devices

Features

  • Killswitch Yes
  • iOS App Yes
  • Data logging No

Pros/Cons

  • Servers in 63 countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 2048-bit Encryption With AES-256
  • App can seem complicated
Visit PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a small provider that gives you value for your money. It has just about 200 servers in 63 countries. However, it ranks well when it comes to reliability. More importantly, it is able to evade the geo-blocks in China. Thus, from the country, you can connect to servers in any location and access restricted content with no hassles at all. Similarly, if you are outside China, you can connect to a Hong Kong or Japanese server to unblock Chinese-specific restrictions.

The Chinese servers are pretty fast and reliable. They are able to deliver content in HD and without buffering. If you are looking to unblock streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and the likes, the VPN is reliable. In fact, you can torrent files with the assurance that your data will not leak or fall into the wrong hands.

Although it is based in Sweden, PrivateVPN maintains a reliable no-logs policy. Thus, it does not retain any aspect of users’ data on its platform. It uses 2048-bit encryption in addition to the AES-256 encryption model to secure its servers. You also get a reliable kill switch, the protection of OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IPSec protocols.

You can connect 6 devices simultaneously to one PrivateVPN account. Furthermore, the provider has a reliable 30-day money-back guarantee window within which you can request and receive a refund of subscription fees if you are unsatisfied at any point.

  • Pros: Servers in 63 countries; 30-day money-back guarantee; 2048-bit Encryption With AES-256;
  • Lowest price: €2.04

HideMyAss

HideMyAss devices

Features

  • Speeds: 20 Gbps
  • Money-back guarantee: Yes
  • Activity logs? No
  • Locations: 190+ countries

Pros/Cons

  • Best server database on the market
  • No-logs and kill switch policy
  • Multiple device protection
  • Expensive short term plan
Visit HideMyAss

HideMyAss (HMA) has just about 1000 servers available. However, its location count is more than impressive. Its servers are spread across 290 locations. Some of these servers are stationed in China. Thus, you can trust that you’ll be able to access and stream Chinese content regardless of where you are located.

You will find the usual security-focused features on the VPN. The provider uses the AES 256-bit encryption model to secure its servers. It has an ever-active kill switch, reliable split tunnelling features and IP leak prevention mechanism. This provider randomizes your IP address, making it a lot more difficult for hackers to keep tabs on your trail.

HMA is excellent for unblocking region-blocked content. It is excellent also for torrenting and P2P file sharing. Even though this is not allowed in China, you can expect to be safe as can be when you use HMA for this purpose in China. It even has a speed test that allows you to check the speed of your connection, informing you when there is a drop in speed.

This provider has apps for most device types. This includes iOS, macOS, Android, Windows and Linux users. Its plans are pretty affordable, with its 36-month plan going for as low as $2.99 per month. You also enjoy the benefit of a 30-day money-back window, and a reliable customer care system to solve whatever problems you may have.

  • Pros: Best server database on the market; No-logs and kill switch policy; Multiple device protection;
  • Lowest price $2.99

Trust.Zone

Trust.Zone devices

Features

  • Complete anonymity? Yes
  • Unblocking of all websites? Yes
  • Pricing options: 4
  • Servers: 164 in 80+ zones
  • Free trial: Yes

Pros/Cons

  • Military grade encryption
  • Bitcoin accepted
  • App for mobile devices
  • Lesser known provider
Try Trust.Zone

Last on our list is Trust.Zone. This provider has almost all the qualities you need in a VPN. Although it has only 128 servers in 31 countries, it offers pretty affordable pricing plans with lots of sweet deals and discounts. When it comes to security, this VPN is laden with great features. It uses 256-bit AES encryption to keep all your data encrypted and safely locked in. It also adds an extra feature with OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec protocols to make sure that you are further protected.

Again, it introduces a cool service called Warrant Canary that attests to the fact that the government has never asked Trust.Zone for user details. This just goes to show that this provider is very transparent and takes the matter of privacy very seriously. Its privacy policy also assures users that they never reveal any of the user’s data nor their real IP addresses. What’s more, a Kill Switch feature is available that makes sure your data stays locked in, in case of any drop in connection.

To protect you while streaming and torrenting your content, Trust.Zone will do an excellent job. It unblocks and grants unrestricted access to sites such as Netflix. The service is straightforward to use, and thankfully, compatible with major platforms, like Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, and others. You can connect 3 of these devices simultaneously. It has a 3-day free trial period where you get 1GB and access to 108 locations. It has three paid packages, which give you access to all the available servers.

User reviews confirm that this VPN is very functional in China and that it does not give any problems to its subscribers. If you’re looking to cancel any of your paid subscriptions, it is essential to note that the service does not offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Instead, it provides a 10-day money-back guarantee where you can get a refund within ten days of purchase.

  • Pros: Military grade encryption; Bitcoin accepted; App for mobile devices;
  • Lowest price: €3

What is the Great Firewall of China?

If you are looking to access the internet in China, then you most certainly would have heard of the Great Firewall of China (aka GFW). The term doesn’t refer to an actual wall, but its effects are the same: i.e. excluding people from certain content. 

The Great Firewall of China refers to both the legislative policies and actual technologies China utilizes to censor the internet. The laws penalize persons who try or actually access unauthorized content. With the Great Firewall in place, it is impossible for citizens to access foreign content that is blocked. In the same vein, this prevents outsiders (including citizens resident outside China) from accessing content meant exclusively for China.

The GFW is a reflection of the hegemonic policies of the Chinese authorities. More importantly, it ties into the philosophy of current Chinese president Xi Jinping who believes that the virtual world is no different from the real world. Thus, the GFW is a means to perpetuate the idea that the Chinese territory should have and reflect a single ideology. Therefore, content that does not promote the accepted ideologies (which generally means almost all foreign media) is blocked. 

The government spends a lot to make sure that its technology is equipped to block unauthorized access, while also detecting defaulters. This is the reason most VPNs are unavailable in the country. Only the best of the best get around the blocks in China to have unrestricted access.

Of course, certain arguments have been made for GFW, especially regarding its effects on China. For instance, the GFW has probably contributed to the rapid internal development experienced in the country. Innovators are incentivized and challenged to provide goods and services to fill the vacuum left by the absence of foreign services and products. However, this comes at the cost of internet freedom.

Are VPNs Legal in China?

There is no straightforward answer regarding whether VPNs are legal in China or not. One answer would be no. Companies, corporations and even sometimes the government rely on VPNs to send secure files and messages. Given the nature of the Chinese internet space, a lot of businesses will be unable to survive except that. Considering the premium China places on businesses and commerce, the authorities may be hesitant to ban VPNs entirely.

Furthermore, there are differences in how the authorities treat citizens who use VPNs and foreigners who do the same. The authorities are more lenient to expats. In fact, even though many VPN providers are blocked in the country, no expat has been arrested or jailed on account of using a VPN. However, there have been some reports that citizens who use VPNs are arrested and detained. Generally, the idea is that China talks a big game when it comes to VPNs.

Can You Get in Trouble for Using a VPN in China?

VPNs being legal in China is one thing, whether you can get into trouble for using a VPN is another thing. You can guess that the Chinese authorities are not big on violations of restrictions using VPNs. As mentioned above, although most VPN providers are blocked from offering services to Chinese residents, the Chinese authorities do very little beyond that. More importantly, they are less antagonistic towards expats who use VPNs while in the country. However, as a general rule, except you are using a VPN to commit a crime, you should be fine.

Sites Blocked in China

The Chinese authorities go to great lengths to impose a comprehensive ban on various sites and platforms. The ban is almost always fully functional. This means that users in China who do not have a VPN are unable to access these spaces. Furthermore, the Great Firewall of China prevents outsiders from accessing content meant exclusively for Chinese residents.

The worst-hit is social media sites. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr are almost totally inaccessible from China. For most of them, you will be unable to download or install them while in the country. For others though, you may be able to download them, but find it difficult running or using the app.

Furthermore, apps like Google Play, Messenger, Telegram, Discord and Clubhouse are also banned in the country. Search engines like Google, Ask.com and Yahoo also do not function while you are in the country. Perhaps, the worst hit are streaming platforms. You will be unable to use Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, Hulu and Pandora Radio while you are in the country.

However, there are still some apps that are popular in the West that haven’t been banned in China. They include Facetime and iMessage, used by iOS device owners. LinkedIn, WeChat, and Vevo are all available in the country.

You have to be aware that the online landscape in China is constantly changing. Hence, a site that was accessible one day could become inaccessible the next. Thus, you need a good VPN to bypass these restrictions and access blocked websites. You can confirm if a website is blocked or not by running the URL through tools like guru99 or GreatFire Analyzer.

Conclusion

With all the challenges internet users in China face when trying to access the internet, it would be even more tasking having to review every VPN on the market trying to get the right fit. This article has helped to ease that burden with the VPN list above. In a nutshell, ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer surplus, trustworthy services, and you get great value for your money. The rest of the VPNs are more affordable with slightly fewer features but also excellent services.

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