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Thanks to the Great Firewall of China (GFW), thousands of popular sites like Pinterest and The New York Times are blocked from anyone inside its borders. So if you live in China or want to communicate with someone there, you may notice lots of your go-to websites are unavailable.
Your best chance at getting around this censorship is to use a trustworthy VPN provider. The best VPN for China will be able to bypass the GFW, offer nearby servers, come with airtight AES 256-bit encryption, and unblock streaming sites or communicate with loved ones.
After testing more than 30 top-rated providers, very few VPNs actually met these standards. See which five providers made the list of the best VPNs for China in 2023.
Top 5 VPNs for China
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Powerful VPN with diverse functionalityVisit ExpressVPN
- Fast, reliable speeds
- Verified no-logs policy
- Safe, unrestricted torrenting/P2P
- No kill switch on iOS
- Pricey subscriptions
- No WireGuard support
Topping our list is none other than ExpressVPN. It’s considered the best VPN for China thanks to its airtight encryption, fast speeds, and obfuscation technology on nearby servers. ExpressVPN is one of the few providers based in the privacy-friendly jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which adds another level of protection for users.
When it comes to bypassing the Great Firewall, ExpressVPN offers servers that are specifically optimized to obfuscate China censors. Its Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan help users get the fast speeds they need to maximize their entertainment experience. In fact, ExpressVPN even advertises a list of streaming websites it can unblock including BBC iPlayer, Netflix US, and YouTube. covers up to 5 simultaneous connections.
ExpressVPN also passed all IP/WebRTC/DNS leak tests we put it through on our end. But if you don’t want to take our word for it, consider the independent audit it underwent (and passed) from security giant PwC. ExpressVPN’s security and verified no-logs policy make it the best choice if you’re looking for a safe VPN in China.
The one caveat we have to mention is the price. If you’re on a budget or need a free service altogether, we recommend looking at some of the VPNs on this list. ExpressVPN has a bigger price tag than most premium VPNs, but seeing all that it offers, we still rank it the best VPN to use in China.
For more in-depth information, read our ExpressVPN Review.
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Emerging VPN with a sleek UI & industry-low pricingVisit Surfshark
- Great value for the money
- Top pick for unblocking streaming sites
- Unlimited device connections
- Based in the Netherlands
- Slow upload speeds on far-away servers
If ExpressVPN was too pricey for you, Surfshark might be a better fit for you. It’s a super cheap and user-friendly VPN that packs a punch when it comes to advanced privacy measures. The Surfshark VPN network consists of 3,200+ servers in 65 countries. All servers support P2P torrents, come with a Private DNS, and collect zero logs. In China, users are able to connect to nearby servers such as Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan to achieve the fastest speeds.
Surfshark is also based in the BVI, which is one of the most privacy-friendly countries for a VPN to associate itself with. With unlimited connections on a single Surfshark subscription, you can protect all your devices and configure each if you’d like to test out Surfshark’s many encryption protocols or advanced features like NoBorders or Camouflage Mode.
During testing, Surfshark delivered fast connection speeds, which helped when successfully unblocking Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. Surfshark even offers native browser extensions that have been positively audited by Cure53 and deemed secure. If this sounds like a service you’re willing to try, consider testing it out risk-free with Surfshark’s 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more in-depth information, read our Surfshark VPN Review.
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Feature-rich VPN with strong privacy practicesVisit NordVPN
- Sleek app that's easy to use
- Vast array of security features
- Fast download speeds
- Expensive short-term plan
- Does not accept PayPal
- Basic browser extensions
Based in Panama, NordVPN is another trustworthy VPN for China. It’s extremely private, secure, and fast on servers near China. Over the past few years, NordVPN has gone out of its way to assure users of its safety by undergoing third-party audits like its PwC one. In them, NordVPN passed all IP/DNS leak tests and was proven to collect zero logs. NordVPN also uses AES 256-bit encryption and a security feature called DoubleVPN that reroutes your data through encrypted channels twice for added protection against the GFW in China.
The NordVPN app is also sleek and easy to configure, making it great for beginners as well as experienced users. Subscribers can choose from over 5,500 servers worldwide and never have to worry about dropping connection thanks to NordVPN’s automatic kill switch feature. For China users, NordVPN offers obfuscated servers close by in Hong Kong (60), Japan (78), Singapore (44), and Taiwan (122) to achieve fast speeds.
A NordVPN subscription comes with 6 simultaneous device connections and compatibility with most devices, platforms, and routers. This is what you like to see if you’re bent on streaming, torrenting, and gaming freely in China. It’s also one of the more affordable premium VPNs if you select a multi-year contract like its 2-year plan that costs $4.13/mo.
For more in-depth information, read our NordVPN Review.
4. Astrill VPN
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Blazing fast VPN packed with extra featuresVisit Astrill VPN
- Free seven-day trial
- Fantastic connection speeds
- No refunds given
- Missing some server locations
Astrill VPN is one of the most reliable VPNs to actually work in China. It’s headquartered in Seychelles, which is one of a few privacy-friendly jurisdictions in the world. And while much smaller than other top VPNs, Astrill is just as effective at obfuscation in restricted areas– if not more so.
Users can choose from over 300+ torrent-friendly servers across 58 countries. The most helpful ones for China users to connect to would be Astrill’s servers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US, Japan, Singapore, Korea, and yes – China. An uncompromised VPN China server is extremely rare to come by, which is why Astrill VPN charges an additional fee on top of its regular premium to access them. For an extra $10 per month, you get the VIP add-on that gives you access to special VIP servers with optimized speeds for gamers and clients in Asia.
Even more, Astrill VPN scores highly on its privacy and security performance. In the app settings, you can configure various features that work towards safeguarding your online data. Important ones we looked for as an automatic kill switch and IPv6/DNS leak protection.
In addition, AstrillVPN supports nine different open-source and proprietary encryption protocols to not only protect your identity but also your data from China’s government surveillance.
AstrillVPN is more expensive than ExpressVPN, and for that, we don’t rank it higher on this list. However, the anonymity and encryption it provides might be worth the pricey investment. There are no money-back guarantees, but Astrill does offer a 7-day free trial before processing any payments and supports anonymous payment methods like BitCoin for extra privacy. You’ll have to live outside China, though, to take advantage of the free trial.
For more in-depth information, read our Astrill VPN Review.
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Freemium VPN provider with blazing speeds & extra featuresVisit Windscribe
- Numerous advanced features
- Amazing download speeds
- Wide device compatibility
- Email required to access free 10 GB of data
- Poor refund policy
- Free tier offers fewer servers
Windscribe VPN is the best free VPN for China, with even more functionality and support from its paid Pro version. Both applications offer a trustworthy logging policy (aka no logging whatsoever) and military-grade encryption, which means none of your web traffic can be tied back to you or censored by your ISP or China’s GFW.
The free version of Windscribe only includes 10 of its 110 server locations to choose from – one of those being Hong Kong, which is ideal for China users looking to bypass the GFW while maintaining decent connection speeds. Free users also get a generous 10 GB of data per month that can support about a week of streaming or gaming if conservative.
If you upgrade to Windscribe Pro, you get all the benefits of the free plan plus full access to Windscribe’s server network, unlimited data, and as many connections at once as you’d like.
Windscribe VPN is known to consistently bypass firewalls and gain early access to geo-restricted content. It also supports P2P traffic and guarantees your online safety while streaming with multiple encryption protocols, IP/DNS/WebRTC leak protection, and a kill switch.
You can test it on your device for free today or choose one of three paid plans using any of the secure payment methods Windscribe offers including cryptocurrency and PayPal.
For more in-depth information, read our Windscribe VPN Review.
China VPN FAQs
- Are VPNs legal in China?
- What is the Great Firewall of China?
- Are there other ways to bypass China’s Great Firewall?
- Is social media blocked in China?
- What features should you look for in a VPN for China?
- What does obfuscation mean?
1. Are VPNs legal in China?
VPNs are legal in China, but they are heavily regulated by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). The government and corporations that deal in international business are allowed to use them, but everyday citizens are barred from this freedom unless otherwise granted a license to do so.
If you’re attempting to use a VPN in China or to access content within its borders, expect it to be difficult, but not something that will land you in jail. No American has faced penalties – yet – for getting caught using a VPN.
2. What is the Great Firewall of China?
Introduced in 1998, the Golden Shield Project – or more commonly referred to as the Great Firewall of China – is a government initiative that combines legal and technological tools to regulate the internet within China’s borders. Since the government owns all internet service providers, they’ve fine-tuned the ways they do this.
Under the guise of “information sovereignty,” this censorship project uses various methods to monitor and censor, and eliminate dissenting information within the country. A few tangible examples of the Great Firewall (GFW) at work include IP blocking that bars IP addresses from VPN servers and other flagged domains, facial and speech recognition that tracks and monitors citizens, and packet filtering that scans data for certain keywords.
Few VPNs can successfully bypass the GFW consistently, let alone at all. Check out the five best VPNs for China above to see how they do it.
3. Are there other ways to bypass China’s Great Firewall?
Other circumvention tools exist to bypass the Great Firewall (GFW) besides a virtual private network. Still, they’re not nearly as effective as VPNs. Usually, these tools will provide anonymity or encryption, but not both.
Here are three common tools that may work for you in China:
- Tor: The Onion Router (Tor) is a free and open-source web browser that sends your internet traffic through three random servers in order to hide your IP address. Unfortunately, the benefits of Tor end there. Due to the extra routing, Tor is usually much slower than other browsers and doesn’t offer encryption as a VPN does. You can use Tor to spoof your IP address and unblock websites, but it won’t shield your data from your nosey ISP or government agencies. Using Tor in China isn’t for the faint of heart either. China actively blocks IP addresses linked to the Tor network, which means you may have to experiment with different settings.
- Proxy Server: Similar to Tor, a proxy server can hide your actual IP address, but it doesn’t encrypt your internet activity. This means your data can still be seen by online snoopers. The main difference between a VPN and a proxy is that a VPN will anonymize all internet traffic sent and received from your device while a proxy only anonymizes specific programs. For example, you can set up a proxy on just your internet browser to privatize your web traffic, but it can’t guarantee your safety when using other applications.
- Mirror Websites: This circumvention method is used when a website is blocked by the GFW. Companies will sometimes clone their website under a different URL. So long as this “mirror” site itself hasn’t been blocked, users in China should be able to access it.
4. Is social media blocked in China?
Many popular social media sites are blocked in China including:
The professional app, LinkedIn, is one site that is allowed. We suspect this is because its business focus helps companies dealing with international affairs.
In order to access blocked social media platforms, you’ll need a strong VPN with proven obfuscation technology to get around the GFW.
5. What features should you look for in a VPN for China?
When shopping for a China VPN, you’ll want to look for providers that offer airtight security and privacy features. Many VPNs will claim to work in China but fail when put to the task.
Here are key features any trustworthy VPN should include:
- Military-grade encryption
- Kill switch
- Strict no-logs policy
- WebRTC leak protection
- IP leak blocking
6. What does obfuscation mean?
In terms of a VPN, obfuscation relates to obscuring or masking user data. A popular obfuscation tool is Stunnel, which is an open-source technology that masks OpenVPN traffic as SSL/TSL. HTTPS uses SSL/TSL to encrypt information. When you use Stunnel, you essentially make it look like your data is coming through standard HTTPS methods rather than a VPN.
Obfuscation is particularly important in restricted areas like China where the web is anything but wide open.