NordVPN is the best VPN for China, with an extensive server network to unblock your favorite international streaming channels and country-specific services while in China.
Considering the Great Firewall of China, I also chose Surfshark, ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and PrivateVPN as the best alternatives to NordVPN in China. These providers offer robust security and privacy, plus an extensive network of ultra-fast servers to protect you against unfavorable Chinese data retention rules without sacrificing your connection speed.
In the rest of this guide, I’ll review each VPN, providing my tests and findings to back up why they’re the perfect bet for China.
So, walk with me to find more details and make the best buying decision!
Top 3 VPNs for China (September, 2023)
Unblock geo-restricted sites and bypass censorship on blocked services/apps like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. ExpressVPN’s security and privacy mechanisms prevent ISPs, the Chinese government, hackers, and snoopers from monitoring your online activity or detecting your VPN usage.
Get robust security features, such as the NordLynx protocol, Onion over VPN, Threat Protection, DoubleVPN, and obfuscated servers, to defeat China’s Great Firewall and surf the web anonymously over 5200+ servers in 59 countries.
An ideal VPN provider to binge-watch your preferable streaming channels such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Netflix US without buffer or unnecessary internet interruptions in China. Above all, enjoy top-notch online privacy and security at the most affordable prices
If you’re traveling to China, you might have heard about the famous Great Firewall of China and how it restricts internet users with censorship and content blocks.
Even worse, the firewall is strong enough that not all Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can defeat it to access the free web. Therefore, you’ll lose access to some websites, apps, media portals, porn sites, search engines, and work tools once you enter Chinese territory.
In the early 2000s, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) started censoring popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. And worse, the censorship rules are driven and implemented from national to local levels. So, you suffer the same stringent internet censorship rules even in the smallest Chinese towns.
Even though it might sound almost impossible to defeat China’s sophisticated censorship system, there are great VPNs for China to circumvent the system.
So, keep reading to see my honest tests and findings on the VPNs that work best in China.
Afraid of the Chinese Digital Firewalls? Get My Top VPNs for China to Defeat Them!
If you’re in a hurry, here are the top five VPNs and what they hold for you in China
- NordVPN – It boasts an extensive server network and is exceptionally speedy for seamless streaming and torrenting. Besides, NordVPN offers top-notch security, military-grade AES-256 encryption standards, a built-in ad blocker, and an automatic kill switch.
- Surfshark – An impressive VPN to binge-watch your favorite shows and movies from streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix US, and BBC iPlayer in China. Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous device connections, top speed, and security at affordable prices.
- ExpressVPN – Strong VPN choice for China with over 3000 servers in 94 countries to access censored content, unblock websites, and enjoy unrestricted internet anywhere. Also, ExpressVPN offers fast obfuscation protocols to beat the Chinese firewall without losing connection speed.
- VyprVPN – Provides stable connection, fast speeds, and excellent uptime. Above all, VyprVPN offers Chameleon technology to defeat internet access restrictions and censorship in China.
- PrivateVPN – Has strategically located 200+ servers in 63 countries, making it an excellent VPN to access various online content from anywhere in China. With its Stealth VPN protocol, the VPN provider offers strong obfuscation to defeat automated firewalls.
These VPNs look fantastic, but that’s just a hint.
Below are full details of each China VPN, including how they compare and how they can help you stream content/unblock websites and apps in China without putting your online privacy and security at risk.
Full Analysis and Comparisons of My Top VPNs for China
After 120+ hours of thorough and rigorous research, only 5 VPN providers won my trust. I have no doubts that these VPNs have what it takes regarding security, privacy, reliability, speed, and online anonymity in China.
So, read further to learn more!
NordVPN - Best Overall (Fast Speeds, Robust Security, and Extensive Server Network)
NordVPN is my top VPN choice for China, with an extensive network of ultra-fast servers and a top-notch suite of security features.
The VPN gives you access to 5200+ servers in 59 countries, allowing you to
- Access censored apps like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wechat, and Gmail.
- Stream content on popular but geo-restricted channels like Hulu, Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.
- Access foreign websites blocked by the China Firewalls, such as Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
- Unblocked censored search engines such as Wikipedia, Google, DuckDuckGo, and Amazon (Alexa).
Plus, its combination of AES 256- encryption with robust protocols like IPSec/IKEv2, NordLynx, and OpenVPN masks your actual IP addresses to hide your online footprints.
Also, its Threat Protection feature comes with a built-in ad blocker for additional data privacy and protection by blocking annoying ads, preventing malware injection and virus attacks.
Worrying about online surveillance by the Chinese government?
NordVPN is located in Panama, beyond China, and away from the 5/9/14 Eyes Surveillance. That, with its audited no logs policy, ensures ISPs like China Telecom and China Unicom, hackers, government agencies, and other third parties can’t pop their hands into your online activities and data.
And that’s not all.
NordVPN uses IP/DNS leak protection plus an automatic kill switch to block any loopholes that would cause your traffic to go out through the regular/unencrypted route. Otherwise, you may be exposed to your Chinese ISP, snoopers, and hackers.
But I didn’t just take its word for it. So, I tested NordVPN for IP/DNS leaks and wasn’t disappointed.
Sadly, this VPN provider isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN. However, it offers reliable speeds compared to other VPN providers I tested, like Surfshark.
To be sure, here are my speed test results!
Speed without VPN:
Speed with NordVPN:
I didn’t suffer a significant drop; my speed only went down by 4.78%.
This means you can stream and download your stuff in China without major internet lag. You’ll also get better performance with a faster base internet speed.
One more thing!
NordVPN has apps for Mac, Windows, Smart TV, Linux, Android, Routers, and iOS. So, don’t worry about whether the VPN will work on your device(s).
In fact, you can connect up to six devices simultaneously using a single NordVPN subscription, making it a good VPN choice for a small group or family traveling to China.
Finally, NordVPN is one of the most affordable, and it’s not as pricey as ExpressVPN.
Plus, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Thus, you can cancel your subscription and get a full refund if you are not 100% satisfied with what you get.
If you’re ready to start, grab our exclusive NordVPN deals HERE to enjoy EXCITING DISCOUNTS and the money-back guarantee!
Surfshark - The Most Affordable VPN for China
Surfshark is the second-best VPN choice for China, given its 3200+ servers (though fewer than NordVPN) in 100+ countries to swiftly bypass China’s Great Firewall and access blocked sites on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google.
Plus, Surfshark offers lightning-fast servers for streaming and browsing in China, even though it isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
Connecting to its proximity servers in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore means you don’t have to struggle with internet speed buffers or lags while watching Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms on Netflix.
To be sure, I tested Surfshark’s speed over its Hong Kong server.
Before connecting to the VPN server, my internet connection speed was 4.01Mbps.
After connecting, my speed changed to 3.85Mbps, a drop of 3.99%, which isn’t a huge fluctuation.
Lest I forget, Surfshark’s success in China lies in its suite of security and privacy features, including
- AES 256-bit military-grade encryption – Protects your online traffic through an encrypted tunnel. So, there’s no worry about the Chinese government or ISPs like China Telecom and China Unicom Beijing knowing about your online activities.
- Automatic Kill Switch – Cuts off your internet connection if the VPN stops unexpectedly.
- Strict no-logs policy – The VPN doesn’t monitor, track, or record what you do online. Thus, there’s nothing to be issued in case China’s surveillance team requests your connection or activity log.
- IP/DNS leak protection – Each Surfshark server you connect while in China has leak protection and private DNS enabled, keeping your true IP address and transmitted data safe and secure against snoopers or hackers.
Of course, I tested the Surfshark IP/DNS leak claim to ensure no leaks would give hackers hints about sensitive information I may be sharing securely online, such as my banking login details or other financial information.
Here’s what I found!
Impressive, but that’s not all!
Surfshark offers two extra features to unblock content in China.
First, there’s NoBorders mode, which automatically detects geo-restriction and selects reliable servers that work best for such conditions.
You can set the NoBorders Mode manually by navigating through Settings > Advanced and toggle opening the NoBorders slider.
The second feature is my favorite, Camouflage Mode, which removes traces of you using a VPN such that no one (not even the Chinese government and ISPs) can tell you’re connected to Surfshark.
And, of course, Surfshark is a good VPN for unblocking international and local streaming services to stream bufferless content on Netflix US, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or any other streaming service you prefer.
For instance, I like watching “In the Mood for Love“ and “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress“ on Netflix US with the help of Surfshark VPN, even while roaming Beijing hotels!
One last thing about Surfshark!
You’re not restricted on the type of device to use. Whether you’re in China with your Android, Windows, Mac, Apple, or Linux device, there’s a Surfshark app for each OS.
Plus, Surfshark outshines ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and other VPNs by allowing unlimited devices to be connected under a single subscription, making it a perfect VPN for China when traveling there with a large group of family or friends.
And best of all, Surfshark is the most affordable VPN for China.
Plus, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you time to test the services and ask for a refund if you’re not satisfied.
Still, you can save a HUGE BUCK with our Surfshark Discounts HERE!
ExpressVPN - Most Secure VPN for China With Encryption and IP/DNS Leak Protection
ExpressVPN impressed me incredibly with its suite of security features, 3000+ servers in 94 countries, and built-in obfuscation technology on every server and protocol. In other words, your VPN connection is disguised to get over China’s Great Firewall’s VPN blocks!
ExpressVPN also provides servers close to China, including in Japan, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Taiwan, offering robust encryption to unblock Chinese content easily. Everything I threw to its Hong Kong servers, including watching The 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre YouTube videos, was nothing too much for it to handle.
When the Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Taiwan servers weren’t enough to let me access everything I wanted, I switched to global servers.
For instance, I connected to the US – Los Angeles server to seamlessly watch football reviews on PPTV Sport China and stream the latest shows, movies, and dramas on RiverTV.
Besides, I was lucky to unblock other content channels in China using ExpressVPN, as shown in the table below.
Surprisingly, I didn’t experience connection speed lags when unblocking these content channels. In fact, I got 3.93Mbps on a 4Mbps connection speed test with ExpressVPN. Thus, it’s the fastest, considering the minimal speed drop. And that’s with obfuscation (the VPN speed killer) enabled!!
As I said earlier, ExpressVPN has robust security features against internet data against thefts and surveillance by Chinese ISPs and the government.
First up is its highly encrypted open-source protocol, Lightway, concealing your VPN traffic to make it look like regular traffic. That way, you can bypass Chinese government firewall blocks to online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and websites.
ExpressVPN also encrypts its servers with AES 256-bit encryption, which is impossible for hackers, snoopers, or the Chinese government to decipher.
Plus, it promises IP/DNS leak protection for optimal privacy.
I never doubted the claim, but testing to confirm didn’t hurt.
So, it doesn’t answer to anyone, meaning
- Your information isn’t kept by anyone.
- The Chinese government or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t access your internet activities.
Moreover, this VPN provider has easily-navigable Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux apps. So, you’re always protected on your preferred devices.
But here’s a dealbreaker:
ExpressVPN has the least simultaneous device connections – only five.
This is less than NordVPN, which supports six, and is incomparable to Surfshark, offering an unlimited number of device connections.
ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN provider on my list.
However, you get what you pay for!
While ExpressVPN tends to be the most expensive, its fast obfuscation, free port forwarding on the router app, in-house VPN protocol, ultra-fast servers, and robust security make the difference.
Luckily, our ExpressVPN deals can help you CUT THE PRICE and enjoy a 30-day risk-free subscription to test if the VPN service is worth your precious coins.
VyprVPN - Stable Connections, Fast Speeds, and Excellent Uptime
VyprVPN is a perfect backup VPN for China despite not providing servers there, like the other VPNs on this list.
Luckily, it offers servers near China, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tokyo. With that, I comfortably maneuvered the Chinese firewalls to unblock websites and social platforms such as YouTube, Whatsapp, and Gmail.
Plus, VyprVPN owns 700+ international servers spanning South America, North America, Oceania, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
However, this is the least number of servers recorded compared to other VPNs in my list.
But, knowing that these servers hub 300000+ IP addresses, you won’t lack a reliable server to connect to whenever in need.
Another reason VyprVPN works in China, regardless of the strict VPN blocking in the country, is its exclusive Chameleon technology, scrambling data packet metadata on users’ traffic to conceal VPN usage.
Plus, the obfuscation Chameleon mode enables smart IP automatically.
That way, your IP address is changed regularly without impacting your connection. In other words, no snooper, hacker, ISP, or even the Chinese government can trace your online footprints.
Not that alone! VyprVPN also offers other security and privacy features, such as
- AES 256-bit military encryption: This secures your traffic in an encrypted tunnel so that no hacker, ISP, or prying eye can see what you do online.
- Audited zero logs: This is a crucial privacy feature backed up with VyprVPN located in Switzerland, away from the 14 Eyes Surveillance. So, your online activities aren’t kept or shared with anyone, including the Chinese government.
- Data leak protection: I tested and agreed with the claims that VyprVPN offers DNS/IP/WebRTC leak protection. See proof of the test below.
On that note, I connected to VyprVPN’s Taiwan servers to watch The Empire of the Sun on YouTube and successfully streamed the Chinese Super League highlights on YouKu.
Other international streaming sites I was able to unblock include:
- Netflix US over the US – Los Angeles server
- BBC iPlayer on the UK – London server
- DAZN on the Canada – Toronto server
- Voot on India – Mumbai server
- Amazon Prime Video on the Australia – Melbourne server
- French TV on France – Paris server
… And more!
Moving on, VyprVPN delivers fast streaming and browsing speed, averaging 3.62Mbps on a 4.00Mbps connection. Even though this was less compared to ExpressVPN and NordVPN, I didn’t mind it because the speed drop was only an insignificant 9.5%.
Plus, with its unlimited bandwidth promise, VyprVPN can deliver the optimum speed to watch and stream anything in China.
But of course, I recommend NordVPN and ExpressVPN for HD streaming plus unlimited bandwidth.
Moving on, this VPN provider supports 30 simultaneous device connections, covering PCs, routers, and mobile devices. However, even though this number is more than what NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer, it’s still behind Surfshark’s unlimited connections.
Lest I forget, VyprVPN is pocket friendly but is the second most expensive VPN on my list after ExpressVPN.
Even so, you can grab THESE VyprVPN deals to enjoy a BETTER price and a 30-day risk-free trial.
PrivateVPN - Best With Expert and 24/7 Customer Support
If you thought VyprVPN offers few servers, here’s PrivateVPN with only 200+ servers in 63 countries.
But that’s not a dealbreaker.
PrivateVPN works well in China with servers close to China, including in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. I included this VPN in the best VPNs for China because of its Hong Kong – China route server, which isn’t just for showing off. I connected to it to access China’s restricted local streams, such as CCTV 4 Asia, and blocked apps and sites.
I also tested PrivateVPN’s global servers successfully on
However, there was always a concern while testing PrivateVPN on these streaming services!
Even though the VPN recorded better speeds in my tests, it constantly gave slow speeds and low-quality video on certain servers.
But maybe that’s because the VPN’s servers aren’t optimized for speed.
Thus, I suggest you choose any other VPN, like NordVPN, for better quality video and fast streaming in China.
Fortunately, I was convinced by the various encryption strengths and privacy measures offered by PrivateVPN to guarantee maximum online protection.
It even provides five protocol options, L2TP, PPTP, IKEv2, and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), for internet data security and online privacy in China.
While you can set the VPN to connect automatically to any of the above protocols based on your network type, I suggest you manually select the OpenVPN protocol. With that, the protocol utilizes secure TLS/SSL protocol to bypass China firewalls as well as hide the fact that you’re using a VPN.
But that’s not all!
PrivateVPN also gets on top of the game with its proprietary Stealth VPN protocol. Knowing that StealthVPN has a 100% success rate in beating the Great Firewall of China, I wasn’t afraid of DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) by ISPs like China Unicom and China Telecom.
But here’s the downside!
The StealthVPN feature kept pulling down my internet speed whenever I turned it on.
However, I was at ease to turn off the StealthVPN feature, knowing that PrivateVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption plus other best data security and privacy measures, including
- Kill switch
- IP/DNS/WebRTC leak protection, and
I conducted a PrivateVPN IP/DNS leak test, and everything was true to its word.
Still, on privacy, I noticed that PrivateVPN is located in Sweden, a staunch member of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, thus a privacy-unfriendly country.
I felt this would be a significant risk to users’ privacy even though the VPN provider upheld that it doesn’t log users’ activity.
So, if that doesn’t sit well with you, opt for other VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, as they’re strategically located away from 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance.
Moving on, I was impressed that PrivateVPN is compatible with almost all platforms and operating systems. For instance, I successfully tested the app on
- Amazon FireTV and FireStick
In addition, PrivateVPN allows ten simultaneous connections, enough for a large family and a better option than ExpressVPN (which allows 5 less) and NordVPN (which allows 4 less). So, this leaves Surfshark and VyprVPN as the better options.
Even so, PrivateVPN competes with Surfshark by offering juicy subscription plans.
Plus, you can grab OUR PrivateVPN DEALS to enjoy a HUGE discount and a 30-day risk-free trial with a 100% money-back guarantee!
How to Set up a VPN in China? (Step-By-Step)
Setting up a VPN in China is as easy as ABC. You need to choose a preferred VPN provider, a suitable protocol, and connect to a server.
Here are the quick steps to set up a Virtual Private Network in China:
- Select a good VPN provider and buy a subscription. I recommend NordVPN.
- Download the VPN app and install it on your preferred device. In my case, I use a Windows PC.
- Activate the VPNs Kill switch to prevent IP/DNS leaks. Navigate to Settings > Kill switch > toggle open the “Internet kill switch” button.
- Choose a suitable and secure protocol. For NordVPN, go to Settings > Connection > VPN Protocol and select the most secure obfuscation protocol, OpenVPN, for China. You can also choose NordLynx for the best speed.
- Look for a preferred server and connect.
- Wait for the connection to be successful.
- Test for IP/DNS leaks. I use www.ipleak.net.
- If you don’t realize any leaks, surf the web securely and limitlessly.
I used a Windows PC in this setup, but the process is similar across mobile phones and MacOS.
However, some VPN providers (NordVPN, in my case) don't have a kill switch setting in their iOS apps.
Luckily, the feature is inbuilt into iOS devices and set to connect automatically whenever you connect to a VPN server.
What Is the “Great Firewall” of China?
The Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield project, refers to the Chinese government’s stringent internet restrictions and censorship.
It involves a combination of legislative and technological actions by the government, enforcing Chinese ISPs (like China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom) to monitor and filter all internet traffic going in and out of China.
That way, the government monitors its internet domestically and blocks access to certain foreign sites.
The working mechanism of the Great Firewall of China deploys five main censorship techniques:
- URL and Keyword Filtering: Detects and analyzes requested keywords. If the keyword is blocked in China, access to the entire website or a part of the webpage is denied.
- DNS Spoofing/poisoning: The Great Firewall of China manipulates the DNS caches to contain a wrong IP address, thus, blocking access to the requested website.
- IP Filtering: This involves blacklisting specific IP addresses to block access to the target websites.
- Deep Packet Inspection (DPI): Inspects and scans outgoing and incoming internet traffic to exclusively block data packets containing sensitive keywords and information blocked in China. It can also restrict some VPNs from working perfectly.
- Legal enforcement: Entails set rules and regulations preventing the distribution of sensitive information censored in China. This may include China’s police force deploying thousands of workers to manually search, check and investigate those who infringe the rules and take legal action against them.
So, with these censorship techniques, accessing certain apps and websites for people who travel to China remains a nightmare. However, reliable VPN services (like the ones I listed above) help you get around the firewalls.
Can I Bypass the Great Firewall Without a VPN?
No, you can’t bypass the Great Firewall of China without a VPN.
If you can’t get a VPN, you will need to use other ways to bypass the Firewalls, which aren’t as good as using a VPN.
For instance, you can use the following:
- Lantern: This is a designed software that helps bypass restrictions by using a bandwidth shared by peers in a more internet freedom country. However, using a lantern doesn’t encrypt your traffic hence no anonymity.
- Proxies: You can change your IP address using proxies such as Shadowsocks (Officially forbidden in China), although your traffic isn’t encrypted. This means you will access blocked sites and apps, but the China ISPs and Chinese government will be keeping watch on your activities.
- Mirror sites: This approach lets you access websites when their original URL gets blocked. For instance, ExpressVPN creates a mirror URL, allowing you to access its app while in China.
- FreeBrowser: This is a built-in circumvention technology that you can use as a browser to access blocked sites in China. However, the technique only works on Androids and won’t help you access apps like Instagram and WhatsApp.
- Tor: This is another free web browser that sends your online traffic over multiple random nodes. As a result, it lets you unlock sites blocked in China.
Which Websites and Apps Are Blocked in China?
Chinese censorship blocks access to apps and websites, including news media, search engines, social platforms, and streaming sites.
But for clarity, here is a list of websites and apps you can’t access in China unless you use VPN services.
|Social and messaging apps||Streaming platforms||Search engines||News Media||Websites and Blogging platforms|
|YouTube||DuckDuckGo||New York Times||WordPress.com|
|Telegram||Pandora||Google services ( App Store, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Search, etc.)||Wall Street Journal||Blogspot|
|Snapchat||Twitch||Reuters||Politically sensitive websites|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There isn’t a single free VPN known to work in China, as even some paid VPNs struggle due to the tough VPN blocking practices in the country.
Even so, free VPNs aren’t recommended in China, even if one is working.
This is because such VPNs are unreliable, may phish spyware on your devices, and steal your online data to sell to the highest bidder.
VPNs are legal in China, but only government-approved VPNs.
However, according to my research, I haven’t heard of anyone being chased down for using non-government-approved VPNs. Instead, the Chinese government blocks VPN websites and technology, so no one can access them while in the country.
Yes, you can download a VPN in China, although you need to use a proxy server to gain access to the VPN website or use the VPN provider’s mirror websites, like ExpressVPN.
However, to avoid too many challenges, I recommend you set up your VPN before arriving in China.
What’s Next About VPNs in China?
If you’ve been wondering if it’s possible to bypass the Great Firewall of China, I’m sure you now know it’s real and doable!
Choosing a reliable VPN for China is the first step to online anonymity, privacy, and security against the Chinese government and its loyal ISPs working to terrorize your internet freedom.
Luckily, you have NordVPN, the best deal for most VPN users in China, with an extensive server network, fast speeds, and robust security features to bypass the Great Firewall of China without hassles.