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The best VPN for China to get

Whether you're a resident of China or just visiting, a great way to have access to all of the best websites is to use a VPN.

Published onDecember 5, 2020

expressvpn review logo
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

A VPN provides a great way to keep your information private and secure when using the internet. One of the biggest selling points of a good VPN service is the access it grants. VPNs have a lot to offer, from social media in restricted regions to circumventing geolocation blocks for streaming content. This access is even more important in countries like China, with its notoriously closed and censored internet. Here’s everything you need to know about using a VPN in China!

Why do I need a VPN in China?

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The “Great Firewall” of China, officially called the Golden Shield project, is a far-reaching internet filter set in place by the government that restricts access to certain websites. There are over 3,000 major websites blocked in China, and the list keeps on growing. Anyone living or traveling through China won’t have access to many popular websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, WordPress, and many others. A VPN is required to get around these restrictions.

Is it legal to use a VPN in China?

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Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Considering the heavy censorship and the continuous clamping down of VPN services, the obvious question is, “are VPNs legal in China?” The short answer is yes, but it’s unfortunately not as black and white. Using a VPN isn’t illegal, and there are actually no laws in the country that address the use of such a service. However, what remains an issue is if you use a VPN for illegal activities, which in this case, is doing anything you would usually do online.

There are plenty of anecdotes that put VPN use firmly in a grey area. There have been reported instances of Chinese nationals being fined for using and selling VPN services, but foreigners haven’t received such fines yet. However, all the back in 2015, Josh Summers had his cell phone services shut down. He was then asked to report to the police station, where his phone was taken away. The police then deleted apps like Skype and the VPN service and returned the phone to him.

What to look for when buying a VPN for China?

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Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Unauthorized VPNs are not just discouraged, but Chinese censors actively try and block access to these services. This makes it nearly impossible to figure out the best VPN for China, since which services work and which don’t change often.

When choosing a VPN, make sure that it offers a money-back guarantee. Every option listed below offers one. Only consider services that run many servers and have locations relatively close to China to get a better experience with connection speeds.

You will have to temper your expectations severely. You will face extremely slow speeds, multiple failed connections, and intermittent access. It might be better to subscribe to at least a couple of services at the same time to hedge your bets. If a service gets shut down, you will already have access to another.

If you’re traveling to China, make sure that you subscribe to the service and download the apps you need before leaving. The websites for most VPNs are blocked in China, and you won’t have access to the Google Play Store. Apple has also pulled all VPN apps from its app store this year.

The best VPNs for China:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. VyprVPN
  4. Surfshark

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best VPNs for China regularly as new ones launch.

1. ExpressVPN

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  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Logs: No logs
  • Simultaneous connections: 5
  • Encryption: AES-256, OpenVPN, LT2P/IPSec, PPTP
  • Servers: 3,000+ in 94 countries
  • P2P: Yes (all servers)
  • Streaming: Yes
  • Price: $8.32 — $12.95

ExpressVPN is considered one of the best VPNs around with good reason. To steal a term from smartphone reviewers, this is my VPN “daily driver,” and the one I’ve been using for a very long time.

It’s based in a country that doesn’t have mandatory data-retention laws, and a zero-logging policy should help ease any concerns even more. You get access to an impressive number of servers in cities around the world. It also comes with all the essential security features like a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and more.

Apps are available for all major desktop and mobile platforms, and helpful guides can be found to set up ExpressVPN on routers, gaming consoles, and media streaming devices. The apps are also straightforward and easy to use.

ExpressVPN has always been a personal favorite because of its fast and stable connection speeds. However, it is far more expensive than other providers, and that’s where its biggest drawback is. The lowest monthly rate is available with the annual plan, but it’s still a hefty $99.95.

2. NordVPN

nord feature - vpn with free trial in India
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
  • Jurisdiction: Panama
  • Logs: No logs
  • Simultaneous connections: 6
  • Encryption: AES-256, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec
  • Servers: Around 5,500 in 59 countries
  • P2P: Yes (dedicated servers)
  • Streaming: Yes
  • Price: $3.71 — $11.95

If I had to pick a second choice, NordVPN would be it. This VPN is all about security. The company is based in Panama, and your online activity is completely private since it doesn’t keep any logs.

You’ll find specialty servers for P2P and anti-DDoS available. You also have the option to enable Double VPN and everything through two servers. Apart from a network kill switch, NordVPN also comes with an App Kill Switch that automatically closes selected apps if the VPN connection drops. Finally, its CyberSec feature blocks ads and protects your device from malware as well.

NordVPN is also quite affordable, with multiple long-term plans with increasing discounts. If you’re ready to commit long-term, you can enjoy a monthly rate of just $3.71 with a two-year subscription.

NordVPN has been facing connectivity issues in China recently, but so has every other service on this list. Its obfuscated server feature, which is supposed to help in restricted regions, doesn’t seem to work as well right now.

3. VyprVPN

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  • Jurisdiction: Switzerland
  • Logs: No logs
  • Simultaneous connections: 5
  • Encryption: AES-256, Chameleon, OpenVPN, IKEv2
  • Servers: 700+ in 60+ countries
  • P2P: Yes
  • Streaming: Yes
  • Price: $2.50 — $12.95

VyprVPN completely overhauled its business model and, more importantly, its privacy policy a few years ago. It has quickly become one of the best cheap VPNs for India you can get.

The service went from one that keeps connection logs to now featuring a strict no-logging policy that has been independently audited. It also comes with a proprietary VPN protocol called Chameleon that lets you use it in restricted regions like China.

Its server list is somewhat limited compared to some of the more popular options out there, and the connection speeds aren’t the fastest either. However, it was still fast enough to comfortably stream high-quality videos and do everything else I’d normally do in my experience.

You won’t find an extensive list of supported devices either. But the popular operating systems are all covered, including Android, Windows, macOS, and iOS. You can find the VyprVPN app on some smart TVs and directly install it on a Wi-Fi router as well.

VyprVPN may not be the absolute best of the lot, but it is the cheapest option on this list when it comes to its long-term plans. With a two-year commitment, you can get this VPN service for just $2.50 per month.

4. Surfshark VPN

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: Unlimited
  • Encryption: AES-256, OpenVPN, IKEv2
  • Servers: 1,700+ in 63 countries
  • P2P: Yes (all servers)
  • Streaming: Yes
  • Price: $1.99 — $11.95

Surfshark hasn’t been around for that long, but the VPN service provider has been making waves since its launch. In many ways, Surfshark brings together some of the best features of competing VPNs to provide a complete package. To start with, it comes with a strict no-logging policy. Surfshark also utilizes the most secure encryption standards and VPN protocols.

It’s one of the most feature-packed VPN services you can get. This includes an ad-blocker and a Kill Switch that work really well. Multi-hop servers add another layer of security, and a Camouflage Mode ensures that your Internet service provider can’t tell that you’re connected to a VPN. You should also not have too much trouble using Surfshark in restricted regions with its NoBorders Mode.

They have also quickly expanded the number of devices and platforms you can use the VPN with. Surfshark has gone from only iOS and Android, to now supporting Windows, macOS, Linux, smart TVs, streaming devices, and gaming consoles. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox are available, and you can also directly set it up on a VPN router. What makes Surfshark stand out from the crowd though is that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections.

Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. I’ve had a few issues when trying to connect to a server. This is generally quick for the most part. There have been instances where it takes a long time to connect or requires multiple attempts. The speeds are quite fast, but fluctuates quite a bit.

Surfshark comes with one of the highest monthly rates for a VPN service at $11.95. It quickly becomes one of the cheapest though, priced at $5.99 per month ($71.88 charged yearly) and just $1.99 per month ($47.76 charged every 24 months). Its long-term plan is an absolute no brainer, and you can take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Will free VPNs work in China?

There are a handful of good free VPN services out there, but I wouldn’t suggest using any of them. Most won’t even work, and with the limited servers and data caps, those that will aren’t worth it either.

Free VPNs also offer fewer security features, like lower-level encryption and the lack of essential features like a kill switch, so it’s definitely not worth the risk. If you’re planning a short trip, I’d suggest taking advantage of the money-back offers from premium VPN services instead.

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