Best VPN for China

Best VPN for China

If you are an expat or a native living and/or working in China, you are probably more than familiar with the notorious ‘Great Firewall’ and the significant inconvenience it creates for web users in mainland territories of the country.


Summary

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
VPN.AC VPN.AC Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
BTGuard BTGuard Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$6.67
NordVPN NordVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
SaferVPN VPNArea Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.90

Quick Links


To date, Chinese authorities have imposed strict, widespread access restrictions on some the most popular web destinations in the world including Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, WordPress, xVideos, xHamster, The Pirate Bay, DropBox, Vimeo, SoundCloud, Ustream, Wikileaks, DuckDuckGo, OpenVPN; and the list is simply endless.

What makes the matter even more problematic is that some of the biggest and most recognisable VPN companies have also ended up getting blacklisted (almost as quickly as the porn sites), as the authority behind the regulatory process is very well aware of tactics and loopholes, such as proxies and basic-level VPNs – commonly used to try and beat the firewall.

The reality of today’s situations tells of an ongoing ‘cat and mouse’ chase that has left so many internet users in China assuming that they’re out of options. Luckily, though, constant strengthening of the firewall has only urged VPN providers to become better at what they do; creating and utilising smarter and ever-improving technology, optimised to make the China firewall effect redundant and useless.

The solution lies in finding a VPN service with the best possible encryption and, of course, one that isn’t already blocked in the country. At the end of the article you will find an attentively selected list of the best virtual private network providers to use in China.

Internet Censorship in China

Where do we start? Circulation of information as well as all forms of digital communication in mainland China are systematically monitored and filtered to comply with national laws. Being the world’s most populous and economically powerful country can’t always be easy, and there’s little doubt that online censorship plays an integral role in shaping China’s internet use in order to protect ideological standards as well as domestic economic interests.

The following video helps explain just how large (and impressive) the operation behind the Great Firewall is and how much effort is contributed to ensure that residents like yourself are not able to access websites, such as the ones we listed earlier.

The government agency responsible for filtering and regulating China’s internet is the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). It’s estimated that the MPS currently employs anywhere between 30,000-50,000 people – enough personnel to fill up an entire stadium, and certainly enough brainpower to deploy the largest and most successful firewall around.

What’s even more fascinating, China’s government has managed to turn their internet censorship into an export, allegedly selling their technology to their counterparts in countries like Zimbabwe, Cuba, Iran and Belarus.

What about the content itself; just how much of it is really blocked? According to GreatFire.org – a very useful site that keeps track of stats surrounding internet censorship in China, as of the moment this post was published, the firewall is blocking 144 Alexa Top 1000 domains, 6,000 IP addresses, 4000 domains, 275 Wikipedia pages and 585 Google sites.

The numbers certainly speak for themselves, as they account for a pretty large chunk of the web. Moreover, this is a telltale sign that MPS is extremely determined to develop a giant internet bubble of its own, ensuring that content relating to political dissent, unauthorised news outlets and blogs, religious content and pornography stay well out mainstream view.

How the Great Firewall works

The firewall is driven by four key processes:

  1. DNS blocking – When you enter a URL into the address bar, the domain name system (DNS) looks up and contacts a website’s IP address. The firewall instructs DNS not to return an IP, leaving the user unable to reach the site.
  2. “Connect” phase – This stage pretty much follows up to the first, ‘just to make sure’. A bit like those pesky trap corridor levels in Tomb Raider games. When the DNS does manage to return the correct IP of the destination, surveillance computers receive a mirror of your request, swiftly checking if the IP address is in the blacklist. If it is, the request is interrupted and you cannot reach the website.
  3. URL keyword block – It may be that the IP address of your website has not been blocked just yet, but there exists another extensive list, this time of banned keywords found within URLs. They encompass numerous languages including Mandarin and English, and include keywords such as “Falun Gong”, “Free Tibet”, “Prostitution”, “Porn” among many others. If the website URL includes blacklisted keywords, the connection will ultimately be reset.
  4. Page scanning – If none of the above obstructed you from reaching the website, the fourth and most recently implemented function of the GF kicks in. Surveillance computers are configured to scan the content of your visited page, and if they scan out any forbidden terms, the connection between you and the website will be broken, disallowing you from downloading anything else from it. Normally, the initial time-out is only temporary, however if the user attempts to re-establish a connection with the questionable site, the time-outs will become prolonged and could ultimately lead to harsher penalties.
Blocked website in China
You’re unlikely to get a nice “This website is blocked” page. Instead, this is the screen that’s all too familiar in China

Yet, despite its evident might, even the Great Firewall is prone to fallibility. In January of 2014, the GF temporarily experienced a mysterious outage. Lasting several hours, the malfunction somehow caused millions of Chinese internet users to be redirected to the website of a U.S.-based anti-censorship company – Dynamic Internet Technology.

The cause of the outage remains murky to this day, with the government categorically blaming hackers for the incident, while other fingers have pointed towards the possibility of an internal technical mishap. Be it a human error mistake or an external attack, one thing is for certain – the firewall is not flawless, and the most cutting-edge technology to bypass it is delivered by certain VPN providers.

VPN Blocking

The firewall actively restricts access to many well-known VPN providers’ websites, making it difficult to make the first step in buying a VPN account. These companies’ VPN servers are still available for use, however the signup process becomes quite risky without being able to familiarise yourself with the service prior to purchasing. These are the providers whose websites are inaccessible from China:

  • Hidemyass
  • Private Internet Access
  • StrongVPN
  • Blacklogic
  • Kepard
  • HideIpVPN
  • SunVPN

Protocol and port blocking

Before buying a VPN account, you should know that Chinese ISPs can easily disconnect and block ports used by the PPTP and L2TP protocols. L2TP – the stronger of the two, uses UDP port 1701, while PPTP, the weakest VPN protocol is likewise limited to its TCP 1723. This therefore leaves to key choices – OpenVPN (primary) and SSTP (good to have for a rainy day).

If you are regularly using internet in China, your VPN provider must absolutely offer the OpenVPN TCP and SSTP protocols as part of your account package. These protocols are by far the most reliable and involve the highest grade of data encryption. OpenVPN is the overall better choice for speed and is capable on listening on numerous ports (e.g. TCP port 443).

On the other hand, SSTP is traditionally more stable, but the sacrifice with it speed. In the past, VPN users in China have previously reported sporadic attacks on the OpenVPN protocol, however some of today’s providers have managed to upgrade their OpenVPN servers to the point of full immunity again the firewall, meaning that it is now on par, if not better than the 2048 bit SSTP protocol, while maintaining top speeds.

VPNs that work in China

The issue of VPN use in mainland China is seemingly complex and can even vary by different administrative regions around the country. Nevertheless, don’t let this deter you, as there are still many excellent providers whose services are the answer to overcoming internet censorship.

In our list of the best VPN services for China, we’ve included the fastest, most secure and accessible services that will allow you to instantly enjoy online freedom, including your favourite websites and content. We’ve picked these services due to them currently being accessible in China, but also because of their focus towards enhancing the OpenVPN protocol, giving you plenty of options, such as ports, servers, DNS leak protection and more.

Due to the erratic nature of the firewall, we constantly test and update the list below, but we also encourage our readers in China to update us on accessibility of our recommended VPN providers. This will help us continue to enhance this guide for you and people stuck in a similar situation. Here is our list of the best VPN services to use in China.

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
VPN.AC VPN.AC Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
BTGuard BTGuard Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.95
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$6.67
NordVPN NordVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
SaferVPN VPNArea Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.90

Protip – change your DNS servers!

By default, you are likely to be using Chinese DNS servers, provided by your ISP. These will definitely be worth changing as your location could still be exposed on Windows operating systems, even if you are connected to a VPN. You can check your DNS server location by running a very quick test on dnsleaktest.com. If the results point to China-based servers, you can switch them to public DNS servers like OpenDNS. Our guide to preventing DNS leaks features a detailed section on how to do this manually.

Alternatively, some of the providers in the list above offer their own DNS servers or settings within their apps that will automatically protect you from potential leaks.

Like this article? Spread the word!
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook3Share on Reddit0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Share on VK

TREMENDOUS

6 thoughts on “Best VPN for China

  1. Please add Ivacy VPN , i jut recently got it , in terms of price it was the most lowest with alll the same features other VPN’s have to offer !

    • Thanks for the suggestion. It seems the website is only published in Mandarin. Any idea when this service will be available in English as well?

  2. Experienced downtime a few months ago when all VPNs were attacked in China, but recently it has been stable for me if I use 443 port TCP. No point trying to use any other protocol except OpenVPN.

  3. PureVPN has worked great for me. Wasn’t hard to run on both Windows and Android. I’ve previously been with 4 other providers and tended to run into some hiccup or annoyance. Works great, very reliable so far.

  4. Thanks! VYPrVPN looks the best option for me so I’m going with that. Will let you know how it goes. Jamie L

Leave a Comment