Google Drive is yet another victim of China’s Great Firewall, but there is still a way to reliably unblock the service: by using a VPN. In today’s guide, you’ll learn about how Chinese censorship of the Internet works, plus how to choose and use the right VPN provider regain access to your favorite cloud storage service.
While having access to websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter may be a given to most people worldwide, China is notoriously strict about its internet access. This is all a result of the Great Firewall of China, which is a set of laws and technologies used to block foreign websites from being available within the country. This can be particularly frustrating if you are merely visiting China and cannot use your favorite websites and services.
There are only a handful of VPNs proven to work in China, but thankfully the ones that do are some of the best on the market:
- NordVPN – Best for China – NordVPN has made military-grade privacy provisions available to all and sundry, delivering encrypted connections via thousands of servers around the world. NordLynx punches through Chinese censorship, enabling you to access Google Drive and other critical services.
- Surfshark – A new provider with a smart array of features designed to topple the Great Firewall.
- ExpressVPN – Long-standing favorite of Chinese users who prioritize connection speeds, now even faster with the rollout of Lightway encryption.
CyberGhost– Editor’s note as of Xmas 2020: CyberGhost no longer works in China. We’re standing by for updates, and will keep you posted.
We have good news, though. There is a way to bypass the firewall, and it can be done within a few minutes by using a VPN service. A VPN will allow you to beat these strict geographical restrictions whilst increasing your online security. This article will explain how to use a VPN to unblock Google Drive in China, give you our top provider recommendations, go into more detail about using a VPN in China, and, finally, give you a step-by-step guide on getting started.
What makes a provider good?
In order to overcome the Great Firewall of China, you will need to be selective about your VPN provider. Not all VPN services work within China, but there are things you can do in order to make this process worth your while. Below, you will find VPN features that will help you pick a provider to suit you.
- Available in China – Not all VPN providers work in China, so it is important to find one that does. All our recommended providers are available in the country.
- Easy-to-use software – Since the most popular websites are blocked in China, you will probably need to use a VPN every day. Opt for a VPN with a user-friendly interface that will simplify the task for you.
- Quick connections – You will need a VPN with fast server connections, especially if you are also looking to stream video content on websites like Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
- Strong security features – Choose a VPN that uses 256-bit AES encryption (at least) and has a zero-logging policy. This will protect you from security breaches, especially with the government.
- Device availability – In order to use a VPN at all, the provider must have software compatible with your device and operating system. Pick a VPN with wide software availability.
Unblock Google Drive in China with these VPNs
The market is flooded with uncertainty – “will this provider really help me when I go to China?” Unfortunately, this is not something you want to wait to find out only once you’re within Chinese borders. The following list contains VPNs which are proven to unblock Google Drive and other essential services in China:
NordVPN is a secure and powerful VPN provider with the most robust server network in the industry. At the moment, it has 5,500+ servers in 58 countries, and the list keeps on growing. Its key selling point is security. NordVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption via NordLynx, which is considered military-grade, to protect your data. It also has features like the automatic kill switch, which keeps your device and identity protected when your VPN connection drops. Furthermore, the provider’s no-logging policy is considered to be one of the most complete in the industry. It ensures that all your data, from traffic information to bandwidth, is never stored with NordVPN or elsewhere.
Due to the massive network, NordVPN also offers specialty servers for advanced users, including Onion over VPN, anti-DDoS, P2P, and double VPN. DoubleVPN routes your data through a second server and an extra layer of encryption, which lets you unblock Google Drive without worrying about someone else getting a hold of your user information. Moreover, some of NordVPN’s encryption protocols are specifically geared toward bypassing censorship blocks. This means that despite harsh restrictions placed by China, you will be able to overcome all national filters with NordVPN.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Very affordable plans
- Fast and stable connections
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Strict zero logs policy on both traffic and metadata
- Money back guarantee policy (30-days).
- Apps can be a bit cumbersome to use.
Surfshark is a new provider packing a serious punch when it comes to privacy. It employs some of the most advanced methods for getting past China’s Great Firewall, and unblocking essential services like Google Drive.
Chief among these is 256-AES-GCM encryption via OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, or WireGuard (plus Shadowsocks on Windows and Android). These protocols connect you to Surfshark’s outstanding network of over 3200 servers in 65 countries, enabling you to grab a foreign IP and hide your traffic. Of course, this alone isn’t enough to get past Chinese censors.
Surfshark also enables the trifecta of obfuscation, smart DNS and a special NoBorders mode to defeat government censorship methods including packet sniffing, DNS poisoning, firewalls, and more. You don’t have to configure these; they automatically work when Surfshark detects restrictions.
Rounding it out is one of the industry’s best no-logging policies, backed by RAM-only servers physically incapable of long-term storage of your identifiable metadata.
- Unblock VoIP in oppressive regimes like WhatsApp, Skype, Discord, and more
- Torrent safely on any server, no guesswork required
- VPN split tunneling available
- Zero logging policy ensures your activity can't be used against you
- Get help any time of day via email, phone, or live chat.
- Server network is not nearly as expansive as major competitors
- Apps may be too simplistic for power users.
Read our full Surfshark review.
ExpressVPN is one of the most popular and reliable VPN services on the market, and it deserves its reputation. The user interface is accomodating to inexperienced users as much as it is to advanced users. Within a few clicks, you can protect all data coming in and out of your phone, PC, tablet, and more. ExpressVPN can connect up to three devices, and has been known for being able to overcome the Great Firewall of China.
With a network of 3,000+ servers across 94 countries, ExpressVPN gives you plenty of connection options. Since China is the only country where Google is entirely banned, you have the liberty to connect to the fastest server available and enjoy fast uploads on Google Drive. Furthermore, ExpressVPN’s service does not place any bandwidth limitations or use speed caps, which will allow you to enjoy the connection without buffering or delays.
ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption, which keeps your identity safe and secure while you are browsing banned/restricted websites. The zero-logging policy ensures that there is no logging on anything from DNS requests to browsing history, and the automatic kill switch (available on desktop) ensures that should you ever get disconnected, your outgoing connections will be shut down entirely.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off - link below)
- Fast serves with minimal speed loss
- OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2 Encryption
- Keeps no logs of personal data
- Great customer service via chat.
- Priced slightly higher.
Editor’s note as of Xmas 2020: CyberGhost no longer works in China. We’re standing by for updates, and will keep you posted.
CyberGhost’s services focus on privacy, reliability, and ease of use. Upon launch, the app presents you with six configuration profiles; you just need to pick one based on your needs. These profiles include “surf anonymously”, “unblock streaming” and “unblock basic websites”, which will be particularly useful for unblocking Google Drive in China. You can then choose to add certain features to boost performance, such as “block online tracking” or “extra speed”. CyberGhost uses 256-bit AES encryption protects your data as well as your online identity. Encryption protocols include UDP, TCP, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP, in case you need to play around with these settings in China. This provider’s industry-leading logging policy ensures that almost nothing is logged, not even your email address. With a server network of over 6,200 servers in 90 countries, CyberGhost gives you plenty of options when it comes to choosing a location to connect to you. Furthermore, the unlimited bandwidth and lack of speed caps will protect your connection from being interrupted by buffering or loading. CyberGhost allows you to connect up to five devices, and is available on Windows, Mac OS, Android, Chrome OS, Router, and others.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
- SPECIAL OFFER: 79%OFF
- Compatible with TOR
- Not in the 14 Eyes
- Strict no-logging policy
- 45-days money back guarantee.
- WebRTC IPv6 leak in macOS
- Can’t unblock some popular streaming sites.
Why do I need a VPN in China?
Unblocking banned websites in China isn’t always straightforward. The local government has implemented strict laws for ISPs concerning traffic filtering, which makes it much harder for standard services to overcome geo-blocks. The Great Firewall of China – a combination of laws and technologies that regulate the domestic Chinese internet – prevents users from accessing massive websites like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest.
Due to these harsh internet restrictions placed by the Chinese government, Google Drive is inaccessible to locals. According to government officials, the internet and the content people are exposed to represents the country and its sovereignty. Therefore, they believe that availability of foreign content is unnecessary and the internet should be controlled by the country internally. Unfortunately, Google Drive falls under said “foreign content”.
The second reason for restrictions within China is to help local businesses flourish by eliminating foreign competition. This, in turn, promotes local retail and feeds the internet economy.
The Chinese government has been gradually banning foreign-based websites, but the list has only been growing longer and longer. In 2010, Google was added to the list of banned websites, and the only way for China’s locals to use the search engine is by using a VPN. Some other websites blocked in China include:
- Other Google products, such as Gmail, Maps, and Google Drive.
Is it legal to use a VPN in China?
While the Great Firewall of China prevents people from accessing some of the biggest websites in the world, a quality VPN can get rid of these restrictions. But the question still stands – is it legal to use a VPN in China?
While there are no concrete laws concerning the usage of VPN, there is a lot of grey area, particularly if you are using the service as an individual. In politically sensitive areas of China, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, there have been cases where locals were detained and even charged for using a VPN. Furthermore, in 2011, the Shanghai court issues a suspended jail sentence and a fine to a software developer who created a VPN service.
These reports, however, are quite specific. First of all, businesses in China need to use a VPN for work purposes, and they must be granted permission from the government to do so. Moreover, these rules do not technically apply to individuals, so in theory there is no strict law against using a VPN. These laws have changed over time, so the idea of the Chinese government introducing something more concrete in the future is not so far-fetched.
How to get started with a VPN in China
Once you have picked your VPN provider of choice and logged into your Google account, you are ready to begin. With a VPN, you’ll be able to unblock forbidden websites, store everything from your photos to documents on Google Drive, and even use the search engine as much as you desire.
Follow the simple steps below to get started, it only takes a few minutes.
- Open your browser and log into your VPN account. Download the app for your device, but make sure you select the software that is compatible for your device and operating system. This step may redirect you to the OS’s app store, depending on where you are browsing from.
- IMPORTANT: Since you will be using Google Drive in China, we recommend that you download the VPN app prior to traveling. This will help ensure that the access to the VPN itself is still available. Don’t worry if you are already in China, though – this almost never happens with our recommended VPN providers.
- Install the VPN and launch the app as soon as it is done downloading. Log in, now within the app.
- Upon launching and logging in, most VPN apps will immediately connect you to the fastest available server. This will ensure that your data is encrypted as quickly as possible. However, you can select your server manually, but since your aim is to use Google Drive in China, make sure the country you select allows access to Google.
- Now that you are connected, it’s important to check that your connection is secure. This is particularly important for China since the local laws are strict. Go on ipleak.net – this page will automatically run an IP address lookup test. Give it a few moments and check the “Your IP Address” section. If you see the server you have chosen, you are ready to go. If, however, you still see ‘China’, contact the VPN provider and inquire about a potential leak in the connection.
How to make your VPN more secure
VPNs are a great, multifunctional tool for people who want to bypass geo-restrictions and browse the internet securely. However, not all services are perfect off the bat, so some tweaking could make all the difference in bypassing the Great Firewall of China.
In order to unblock access to Google Drive, it is helpful to play around with port settings. The majority of VPN providers allow you to change ports within a few moments, so if you cannot seem to load Google with the default settings, try switching the TCP port 80 to 443. Make sure to restart the app before trying to browse with the VPN again.
Another option could be changing the encryption protocols. Most quality VPN providers have at least a handful to choose from, and OpenVPN comes as the default. Try switching to L2TP/IPSec or PPTP. Reload and chances are it will be working just fine. In case you cannot locate these settings options in the app, check the support page for more information.
Shadowsocks is an open-source proxy developed specifically for overcoming restrictions created by the Great Firewall of China. Standard proxy services connect a user to the internet by first routing the connection through a proxy server in another location. Shadowsocks, however, takes it one step further and partially encrypts the connection between your computer and said proxy server by using SOCKS5 – an internet protocol that helps bypass internet filtering by using a remote proxy server. Despite its advantages, this entire process can be costly and time-consuming, so make sure you have tweaked other settings prior to using SOCKS5.
Using a free VPN for unblocking Google Drive in China
While opting for a free VPN service may be tempting, avoid using one at any cost, especially when trying to bypass restrictions in China. No-cost VPN services promise security and fast connection speeds, but in reality, there is a price to pay.
First of all, free VPNs limit the amount of bandwidth you can use, which basically caps your browsing time and will at some point interrupt your streaming, too. Furthermore, some free providers do not allow simple services like torrenting or P2P, which makes it everything but useful in the long run.
Free VPNs also have weak security features, which put your data at risk of being exposed. VPN companies that offer free services have been known for selling user information to the highest bidder, and technically, nothing is stopping them from doing so. Choose a provider with a zero-logging policy and strong encryption – it is a paid luxury but your data will always be protected.
Unblocking Google Drive in China is not as difficult a task as it may seem. Our recommended VPN providers will not only allow you to bypass the Great Firewall of China without much hassle; they will also protect your privacy while you are enjoying the world of engaging content and useful services, such as Google Drive.
What are you planning on using your VPN for first? Give us some ideas in the comment section below!
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.