China has one of the most heavily-censored internets in the world. The country doesn’t just block websites of organizations that disagree with the government, it also restricts access to services like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, making it difficult for tourists to stay in touch with friends and family back home. With widespread harassment of journalists, protesters, and foreign visitors, it’s vital that you take steps to keep yourself safe and anonymous when in China.
The easiest way to do this is to use a VPN. This will encrypt your traffic, preventing it from being read by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the Chinese authorities. VPNs also allow you to route your traffic through servers in other countries, meaning you’ll be able to access sites and services that are usually blocked in China. However, it’s important to note that the country’s Great Firewall is constantly being upgraded, and as a result, most VPNs won’t work. Below, we’ll explain whether you can use IPVanish in China.
Does IPVanish work in China?
IPVanish doesn’t work in China, although this service does provide a guide to manual configuration in case you’d like to try it anyway. However, as the Chinese government has blacklisted many of this service’s IP addresses, it’s unlikely you’ll find a way to make IPVanish work in China on your own.
Instead, we recommend using ExpressVPN. This service works reliably in China, and even on the rare occasions when updates to the Great Firewall force it offline, it’s usually up and running shortly afterward. If you’d prefer a low-cost alternative, NordVPN and Surfshark are both excellent choices.
While ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark all work in China, the government currently restricts access their websites. For this reason, it’s important that you sign up and install the VPN before arriving in China. It’s also a good idea to save manual installation instructions and details of any mirror sites your VPN might operate just in case the VPN isn’t working when you arrive.
How to browse safely in China with a VPN
The good news is that if you’re using ExpressVPN, you don’t have to manually configure anything: just connect to a server in your desired country and you should be able to browse the web as normal. However, to make sure you’re completely anonymous online, we also recommend enabling a few of your VPN’s other settings.
All of the above services offer protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. They also include a kill switch which automatically stops data transferal if you lose connection to the VPN. Below, we’ll explain how to activate these features and access any website you like while in China.
Note: ExpressVPN often refers to its kill switch as a “network lock” in help center articles; these terms can be used interchangeably.
Click the menu icon in the top-left, then choose Options. Move over to the General tab and enable the Stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly option. Now, click the Advanced tab and check Prevent IPv6 address detection while connected and Only use ExpressVPN DNS servers while connected.
Start by clicking on Settings at the top of the screen. Open the General tab and activate the Internet Kill Switch. This service’s IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak protection are enabled by default and don’t have to be manually configured.
NordVPN users also have to tell the service that they’d like to use special obfuscated servers. To do this, return to the settings page and click on Advanced. Toggle the Obfuscated servers option. Finally, go back to NordVPN’s main screen and click on Obfuscated servers in the list on the left to automatically connect to a suitable server.
Click on the Settings option on the left-hand side. Now choose Connectivity and enable the Kill Switch option. Go back to the settings page, open the Advanced tab, and activate Surfshark’s NoBorders feature. This will allow you to browse the internet freely while in China.
Why does China censor the internet?
China’s internet restrictions are designed to keep people safe from material that could harm, mislead, or divide. The problem is that the government gets to arbitrarily decide which content is suitable for its citizens to view. As a result, the Great Firewall is often used to block access to impartial news sources, websites showing the Communist Party in a negative light, and social media (as these platforms make it more difficult to prevent the free flow of information).
The main piece of legislation that deals with internet censorship in China is the Computer Information Network and Information Security, Protection, and Management Regulation. Conveniently, the criteria for blocking content are broadly-worded and open to interpretation. For instance, section five makes it a crime to spread rumors. This has since been used to justify everything from shutting down gossip sites to prosecuting journalists who’ve exposed corruption.
Which websites and services are blocked in China?
While we don’t have a complete list of every blocked website in China, as of September 2018, around 10,000 websites were inaccessible. Below, we’ve listed the types of content that are banned in China and a few examples of each:
- Social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Communication apps (WhatsApp, Gmail, Skype)
- Streaming services (Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Spotify)
- Search engines (Google, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo)
- Impartial news websites (The Guardian, NYTimes, Reuters)
- Cloud storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, Mega)
- Privacy-oriented and VPN websites (OpenVPN, ExpressVPN, Comparitech)
- Sources of impartial information (Wikipedia, Archive, Quora)
If you’re unsure of whether a particular site is blocked, you can use our Great Firewall checker to find out. Bear in mind that new websites are blocked all the time. As such, even if a site is accessible at the moment, it might not be when you actually arrive in China.
What should I do if my VPN stops working unexpectedly?
Unfortunately, you can expect to see periodic outages when using a VPN in China. However, most major services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN are back up and running after a few hours. In the meantime, there really isn’t anything you can do other than wait.
You can stay safe in such situations, although doing so requires a little preparation before you arrive in China. Make a note of your VPN’s customer support email addresses, as well as any mirror sites it might have. Remember: cloud storage isn’t available in China, so you’ll have to save this information locally, ideally in a password-protected file. This approach ensures that, even if your VPN doesn’t work for an extended period of time, you’ll still have a way to get in touch with your provider.
Can I get into trouble for using a VPN in China?
VPNs technically aren’t illegal in China, but they are difficult to access, partly because of the Great Firewall, and partly because at least one app store prevents users from installing VPNs if they live in China. Nevertheless, with VPN providers being arrested and an increasing focus on internet surveillance, it’s vital that you protect your privacy when in China.
- 1 Does IPVanish work in China?
- 2 How to browse safely in China with a VPN
- 3 Why does China censor the internet?
- 4 Which websites and services are blocked in China?
- 5 What should I do if my VPN stops working unexpectedly?
- 6 Can I get into trouble for using a VPN in China?