Anyone living in or visiting China knows too well that many popular websites are blocked in the country. The number of blocked sites changes regularly, but some estimates put the number at around 10,000 domains. The Chinese government defends its actions as a means to protect its citizens. However, the restrictions are viewed by many as dangerously oppressive. For those visiting the country for tourism or business, it can be hugely frustrating to not be able to use the same sites and apps as you would back home.
That said, knowing which sites are blocked can help you prepare for what to expect. Plus, having a handy tool to bypass the blocks will make for a stress-free trip. Below we list the most popular websites that are currently blocked in China. We’ll also explain how the blocks can be bypassed with the use of a VPN, and reveal the best VPNs for the job.
Which websites are blocked in China? Top 140+
We conducted a study of the most popular websites around the globe and tested them to see if they were blocked in China. We’ve listed blocked sites by category below. Don’t see a site on the list? You can check if it works in China using our “Blocked in China” tool.
News sites blocked in China
Streaming platforms blocked in China
Social media sites blocked in China
Email, messaging, and calling apps blocked in China
Search engines blocked in China
Blogging platforms blocked in China
Gambling sites blocked in China
Other sites blocked in China
Note: Most VPN provider websites are blocked (more on VPNs below).
It’s important to bear in mind that even if a domain is not blocked in China, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access all the content you want. For example, the Netflix website isn’t blocked in China, but the company does not provide a service in the country, so you won’t be able to watch anything. Similarly, many betting sites are available in China, but due to regional laws, most betting sites will restrict access to accounts and features when they detect a Chinese IP address.
All of this can be circumvented with a VPN, which we will explain in the next section. Although, you should check local laws before using a VPN to access content or perform actions that may be illegal in the country. Find out more in Is a VPN Legal in China?
How to access blocked sites in China
Thankfully, just because websites are blocked in China doesn’t mean they’re completely inaccessible. Armed with the right VPN, you can bypass China’s Great Firewall and use the internet as if you were outside the country.
A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a secondary server in a location of your choice. When you’re in China, choosing a VPN server outside the country will reroute your traffic through that server, hiding which sites you visit. Due to the encryption aspect, the contents of your internet connection are unreadable.
Here’s how to access blocked sites in China with a VPN:
- Select a suitable VPN provider (see the list below). We recommend ExpressVPN.
- Download the appropriate app for your device and go through the installation process. Note that most VPN websites are blocked in China and VPN apps aren’t available in Chinese app stores. As such, you should set up your VPN before traveling to China.
- Connect to a VPN server. For sites that aren’t geo-restricted, any server will do. However, for those that restrict access based on your location, for example, many streaming and gambling sites, the server location will need to correspond to the website you want to unblock. For example, use a US server for Hulu. Note that some VPN servers only have select servers that work in China, in which case, you’ll need to connect to one of those.
- If required, adjust your VPN settings. Depending on which VPN you choose, it may not be a plug-and-play solution in China. Some require you to switch to a different “mode” or protocol by adjusting settings within the app. Again, you should find out this information before traveling to China.
- You should now be able to access websites normally as if you were located outside China.
Bear in mind that you may need to troubleshoot if you run into issues. As such, it’s a good idea to download any relevant support material from your VPN provider’s website before you travel and store it offline for easy reference.
Best VPNs for unblocking sites in China
An important factor to note is that not all VPNs work in China. The government actively tries to block VPN use in the country via various methods. These include blocking traffic going to known VPN servers and using advanced Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) techniques to detect VPN traffic.
Thankfully, a few top providers work hard to get around these measures so that users in China can continue to access blocked sites. Don’t worry, there’s no need for trial and error. We’ve tested dozens of VPNs to see which ones still work in China, despite the government’s best efforts.
You can read about the best VPNs for China in our dedicated article, but here’s an at-a-glance look at our top picks.
Best VPNs to unblock websites in China:
- ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is our top pick for circumventing blocks in China. It’s blazing fast and is well-known for its reliable connections in the country. ExpressVPN doesn’t require special settings for use in China. It comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
- NordVPN: A budget provider with a huge network, NordVPN is a go-to for many users in China and other countries where access to the internet is heavily restricted. Connect to special obfuscated servers when in China.
- Surfshark: Surfshark offers an unlimited number of connections on its fast and private network. Use NoBorders mode to bypass blocks.
- VyprVPN: With a special protocol designed for disguising VPN traffic, VyprVPN is another solid choice for China or anywhere else in the world. Switch to the Chameleon protocol for use in China.
- Hotspot Shield: This provider has stepped up its game in terms of bypassing censorship. It’s extremely fast and has excellent security features. There are no special setup requirements for China.
- PrivateVPN: Using PrivateVPN in “Stealth mode” will ensure you have full access to the free web in China. Plus, this provider offers fast, reliable connections.
See also: How to use WhatsApp in China