China is infamous for its oppressive internet censorship. Residents and visitors to the country find their resources immediately restricted, cutting out a huge list of foreign sites and throttling any connection that leaves the mainland. The Great Firewall of China also creates a barrier for outsiders looking to access content within the country’s borders, including the original versions of streaming sites like Youku, Tudou, QQ Music, and Sohu. The best way to break through the censorship barrier is to use a VPN that offers local IP addresses. If you need to VPN into China, read the guide below to get started.
- 1 Evaluating the Best VPNs with Servers in China
- 2 Can You Get Access Chinese Websites from Taiwan or Hong Kong?
- 3 Is it Possible to Run Your Own VPN from China?
- 4 Temporary Access to Chinese Sites using Free Web Proxies
- 5 Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy
- 6 Other Ways to VPN into China
Evaluating the Best VPNs with Servers in China
Online privacy is of paramount importance, especially when you’re using your VPN to access content in China. Keeping your identity safe will prevent surveillance efforts from following your activity as well as avoid setting off any red flags with ISPs local and abroad. We used the following criteria to select the best VPN with servers in China, ensuring you can browse websites across the border with a fast, secure, and private connection.
- Servers in China – A VPN can only offer IP addresses in a country if it has servers located in the area. It’s both difficult and expensive for VPNs to do this, which is why the vast majority simply leave China off their network.
- Logging policy – VPNs can store information that passes through their servers, creating a vulnerability both hackers and government agencies can exploit. If that data is never stored, however, it can never fall into the wrong hands. A strict zero-logging policy against traffic is a must-have feature for any VPN.
- Additional security protocols – OpenVPN is the protocol most VPN providers prefer to work with, as it features the best balance of speed and security. There are other protocols that sacrifice speed in favor of better encryption, however. These are perfect for accessing sensitive information across international borders. L2TP/IPSec and PPTP are the most common, as are SSH and SSL tunnels. The more options a VPN supports, the better.
- Jurisdiction – Where a VPN is registered makes a huge difference. Some countries require VPNs to keep logs and share them with government agencies upon request, all without disclosing the information to customers. To keep your data completely private, always choose a VPN in a jurisdiction that places user privacy first.
- Speed – VPNs can be as much as 10-20% slower than a standard internet connection, largely due to encryption overhead. If your physical location is far from China, you can also experience a great deal of lag. Our recommended service goes to great lengths to ensure fast downloads and uninterrupted speeds no matter where you live.
PureVPN: A Private VPN Security Suite
PureVPN is one of the few reputable virtual private network services that offers reliable access to Chinese servers. The company operates six inside the border, with four in Guangdong (southeast China, near Hong Kong) and two in Shanghai (east central coastal China). It’s a small list, to be sure, but seeing as how most of the competition has zero, PureVPN is clearly the way to go.
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PureVPN owns and operates its entire network of servers, all 750 in 141 different countries, including the ones in China. This is tremendously important for your privacy, as it prevents third parties from gaining access to your data. PureVPN also deploys a thorough zero-logging policy on all traffic, so even if a government seizure took place, your information would stay safe.
Rounding out its privacy offerings, PureVPN locks all data down with 256-bit AES encryption, provides software protection against DNS leaks, and has automatic kill features to keep your identity private. If anonymity is high on your list of priorities, you can even pay with a variety of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and more!
PureVPN delivers far more than just a stellar VPN experience. Users get to take advantage of a complete suite of security features, everything from a built-in ad-blocker to web filtering, malware protection, and even virus scanners. These perfectly complement the encryption and location variability provided by the VPN, and they make your online experience safer and more secure than ever.
PureVPN’s best features at a glance:
- All-inclusive custom apps for a wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and even a Chrome extension
- No restrictions on torrent or P2P traffic, no throttling or speed caps, and completely unlimited bandwidth for all users
- Advanced anti-virus protection, web filters, and anti-phishing features
- Unlimited server switching and five simultaneous connections
- Six servers located within China for reliable internet access
Can You Get Access Chinese Websites from Taiwan or Hong Kong?
Up until 2009 it was possible for anyone using a Hong Kong or Taiwan based IP address could access most websites filtered outside of mainland China. This was perfect for VPN users, as a wide variety of providers offer server locations in both areas. Unfortunately, new laws were eventually passed that blocked both Taiwan and Hong Kong from the Chinese internet. Apart from the low-latency benefits gained by their close proximity, neither area offers any benefits over IP addresses from another country.
Is it Possible to Run Your Own VPN from China?
When commercial solutions fail, a lot of users turn to the DIY community to help meet their needs. Because Chinese server availability is so scarce there’s a growing desire to run custom, private VPNs from within the country, allowing open access to the Chinese internet from other regions. The Great Firewall of China is such an impenetrable barrier that it’s nearly impossible to break through, however. VPNs are heavily restricted and regulated, as are services that could conceivably supply VPN-like services.
It’s technically possible to set up your own private VPN in China through a company that offers virtual private servers (VPS), but be prepared to jump a lot of hurdles, wait for months or even years, and pay upwards of 50 USD per month for the privilege. If you manage to get things set up, you’ll also encounter incredibly poor speeds, bandwidth limitations, and frequent disconnects, making it an endeavor that’s hardly worth your time.
Most of the difficulty surrounding custom VPN servers in China is obtaining an Internet Content Provider license. ICP permits are issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and are required to run any website or server from within the country. Many businesses spend years trying to get their ICP permits approved, forcing them to partner with Chinese firms so they can operate in the mainland. Google China didn’t even have a license between 2006 and 2010. If Google had a hard time doing it, imagine the problems a small business might encounter.
The short answer is yes, it’s possible to run your own VPN from China. You’ll spend a lot of time and put a lot of effort into obtaining the document necessary to do it, and your connection won’t be that great, but it can happen. Read the full breakdown of the ICP license process for more information.
Temporary Access to Chinese Sites using Free Web Proxies
It’s normally a bad idea to use free web proxy services. They’re notoriously sketchy, often injecting ads into users’ browsers or collecting and selling information that passes through their servers. If you just need quick, temporary access to a website exclusive to China, however, a web proxy might be a good solution.
AZProxy is a great option for a no-frills peek at any website in China. Simply enter the URL and click “go”. Keep in mind that your connection speeds will be extremely slow, so watching videos or streaming music won’t be possible. Also remember never to share personal information while connected through a free web proxy, and if you have a VPN service, keep it active at all times.
Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy
Using a VPN to take a look over the Great Firewall of China can be risky. The Chinese government is working on strict regulations that all but prohibit the use of VPNs. There’s even talk of banning them outright, which could happen as early as 2018. While it’s currently not illegal to access websites within China from outside of the country, your activities could be closely monitored the moment you connect, even with a solid VPN protecting your privacy. In short, you can’t be too careful, which is why you should follow the tips below to double up on your internet privacy.
- Never use a free VPN – Free VPNs rarely have servers in China. If you happen to stumble upon one, however, you should ignore it. Free VPN services have a bad reputation for storing and selling user data, putting your privacy at risk instead of protecting it. In other words, you might as well be announcing your presence to the Chinese government! Stick with a reliable paid VPN service to keep your identity a secret
- Install privacy browser plug-ins – Browser extensions can add security and privacy to everything you do online, including accessing Chinese websites. Privacy Badger is a great start. It cuts out harmful scripts and tracking code that can follow you across the web. HTTPS Everywhere is another good plug-in that forces websites to use the HTTPS protocol, encrypting data to help keep it private. You should also use a strong ad-blocker when looking through Chinese sites, as many of the ads can track your information, even with a VPN
- Incognito mode won’t help – Web browsers often have incognito or private tabs which let you surf without leaving a trace. Those “traces” refer to local cache files and link history, however, not the data that leaves your device. Incognito mode will keep your activity clear on a shared computer, but it won’t help you defeat the Chinese government
- Don’t use mobile devices to VPN into China – Smartphones have some peculiar privacy vulnerabilities that are easier to exploit than a full desktop operating system. If you have a VPN and are using it to access websites in China, always favor a laptop or desktop PC over your Android or iOS phone. Not only do desktops offer better firewall protection, but they don’t carry as much private data as a smartphone
Other Ways to VPN into China
If you need a Chinese IP address and are located outside the country, your options are extremely limited. PureVPN is by far the best VPN service that offers servers and connections from inside China. It’s fast, it’s secure, and your privacy is guaranteed. There are a few other VPNs that have limited ties with China and can help you access content from within the country. Below are a few of the more reliable options.
HideMyAss is an alternative VPN service that offers two servers and six IP addresses in China (Beijing). All of the basic necessities are here, including 256-bit AES encryption, no P2P port blocking, and anonymous payments through bitcoins. It’s a bit pricier than most VPNs, however, and doesn’t offer as many extras as a provider such as PureVPN.
TorGuard is a well-liked but simple VPN service with a few nodes located in China. It offers strong support, fast connections, a good zero-logging policy, and unlimited bandwidth. Its subscription plans run a little higher than average, but if you absolutely need to VPN into China, TorGuard is a valid option.
Astrill is a somewhat limited VPN service that provides at least one server in mainland China. Its main features include support for a wide variety of platforms and good alternative security protocols. It doesn’t have a clear policy on traffic logs, however, restricts some P2P network downloads, and subscriptions run on the expensive side.