VPNs are a digital solution for online privacy and security. They are virtual and private networks and allow users to hide their IP addresses by employing remote VPN servers. Furthermore, these networks depend on VPN clients to enable tunneling between the server and the user. This tunnel is the core of the VPN technology, and encryption and data transfer happen within. Today, a VPN is essential, especially if you worry about your online safety. But not every country accepts the use of VPNs, and China is rigorous and cracks down on it.
There may be several reasons behind this discrimination, but some countries ostentatiously try to curb VPN influence. Thus, it is hard to find a working VPN there. More precisely, China is one such country where VPN usage is highly regulated, not free, and hard to achieve. Nonetheless, several services work flawlessly within its borders most of the time. We will mention these providers in our list of the best VPNs for China.
Disclaimer — The following article is a subjective representation of the writer. We do not condone the use of VPNs against applicable laws and notices.
What is the Great Firewall of China?
GFW or the Great Firewall of China is a nickname given to China’s Internet censorship system. The country is infamous for internet regulations and online content censorship, and it does so through legislation and filtering. Since 2003, China has had the power to monitor and restrict internet access to anyone. Hence, the Great Firewall can regulate and censor the internet within national borders without hassle. It does so by limiting, slowing, or completely blocking internet access to many well-known websites and services—even a VPN.
Yes, the Firewall is strong enough to curb VPN services. Nominally, a VPN can easily tunnel through a Firewall to reinstate access, but the Chinese deploy DPI or Deep Pocket Filtering to recognize and block VPNs extensively. Chinese Firewall is inbuilt into the basic internet infrastructure of the country. Hence, the nation employs five different methods to block your access:
- IP blocking — The government blocks sensitive or undesirable IP addresses.
- DNS spoofing — It can also divert your traffic from the defined destination to a website of its own by fooling your browser with DNS spoofing.
- Keyword and URL filtering — The government scans and blocks websites and services with specific keywords.
- DPI — Uses tech to inspect the data packet headers to figure out the destination IP address and acts accordingly.
- Manual control — Employs thousands of workers to censor the internet.
Best VPNs to use in China
Due to DPI and the Chinese government’s policies, most VPNs do not work within the country. These include popular services like ProtonVPN, CyberGhost, IPVanish, and TunnelBear (at this time). But there are a few services tailor-made for use in a high-censorship state. Hence, they have a spot on our rundown of the top VPNs for China:
1. Astrill VPN
Astrill is a powerful VPN that claims to work in China at all times. The service is the sole entry on this list that promises 100% uptime and effective obfuscation. Thus, it is a reliable choice and our go-to VPN when concerning states with high censorship like China. The service is costly, no doubt, but the VPN comes with servers optimized for use in China. Hailing from Seychelles, a jurisdiction favoring data prevention, the VPN employs a strict no-logs policy to ensure trustworthiness.
Although, at $10 per month, the vendor lacks a few extra stuff like browser extensions and such. However, the service with 107 servers offers not one but two stealth protocols. Yes, the absence of a refund policy and sky-high prices makes for a glaring flaw, but the service offered more than make it up. Further, interested parties can look at our Astrill VPN review for a more detailed analysis of this VPN vendor.
The next VPN on our list is the world-renowned ExpressVPN. Although it often takes the top spot in most lists, the service hasn’t done that well recently regarding bypassing censorship in states like China. But the provider is still one of the leading choices among VPNs for China. It can nonetheless work acceptably within its borders, even if not at 100% efficiency. The service based in the British Virgin Islands offers attractive speed at lower costs. However, it isn’t the cheapest one on our list. But given its performance and price against Astrill, at $8.32 per month (on a yearly plan), it’s a decent alternative.
The service offers 3700 servers and comes with exclusive obfuscation technology. The VPN provider is not lacking in crucial areas and offers a great experience, including the time you contact Customer Service. Furthermore, it has a dedicated 30 days money-back guarantee in place that ensures trustworthiness. You can learn more about the service in our ExpressVPN review.
Windscribe is the only free VPN (that we trust) that works in China. The vendor offers a reliable service at low costs for the premium version. It also has a free app available. It should be noted the free VPN has a monthly data limit of 10 GB. However, it is one of our favorite VPN services that works flawlessly in China. Along with a good price, Windscribe also takes care of your privacy by employing a strict zero-logging policy. The vendor even goes a step further by denying card details to ensure anonymous purchase.
Talking about China and obfuscation, the Canadian provider offers two distinct modes: Stunnel and Wstunnel. While Stunnel operates on OpenVPN with TLS encapsulation, Wstunnel wraps packets in WebSocket. Although the Windscribe client for iOS lacks obfuscation features, the service is still a good choice for those who want a VPN in China. For more details, look into our review of Windscribe.
Although VPN.ac is a service that is less consistent than Astrill or ExpressVPN, at $3.75 per month it makes for an attractive alternative. However, it is a relatively unknown entity in the consumer VPN market. Luckily, VPN.ac operates from Romania and is well known in the corporate world for IT security and solutions. Since 2009, the company has managed to amass a decent network of 117 servers across 21 counties. However, most of these servers are optimized for use in countries with severe censorship.
The service uses OpenVPN XOR protocol with TCP port 443 to sneak past the Great Firewall of China. Simple app, on-point features, and dedicated obfuscation tech make it a worthwhile replacement for big-name vendors. Sadly, we do not have a detailed review of VPN.ac available yet. However, we can ensure readers that it is a decent VPN that can work well in China.
PrivateVPN is the final entry that made it to our list of trending VPNs for use within China. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not inferior to the other services mentioned here. The vendor makes up what it lacks by being the cheapest VPN with obfuscation technology. At €1.8 or $2 per month, the vendor offers a network of 150 servers. Although devoid of browser extensions, the service ensures safety by preventing leaks of all kinds (IP, DNS, and WebRTC). The service houses a proprietary protocol, Stealth VPN, to ensure stability in countries that impose censorship.
Also, the VPN can work flawlessly with Tor and TCP port 443. PrivateVPN has a user-friendly UI and the company also offers a 30-day refund policy. Hailing from Sweden, the company employs a strict zero-logs policy to protect users. It is a respectable entry-level VPN with sufficient features to ensure your online safety. Feel free to look at our PrivateVPN review to learn more about the service.