Is Gmail blocked in China?

Is Gmail blocked in China?

Yes, Gmail is blocked in China, as are all Google services. After a series of frequent service interruptions, Gmail users on the mainland were completely cut off in December 2014.

China gradually removed Google’s presence in the country entirely over a period of time. It started with a dispute in 2010 between Chinese authorities and Google, in which Google refused to censor its search results for users in the mainland on behalf of the government. Google subsequently redirected all search traffic to its Hong Kong servers, but eventually lost almost all of its market share.

Tip: To access Gmail or other blocked sites and services in China you will need a VPN.

Gmail disruptions started around early June 2014, in the run up to the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. China’s Great Firewall–the country’s nationwide internet censorship system–often ramps up censorship efforts around this time of year to prevent the public from dredging up the infamous day when government forces violently crushed a large scale demonstration mostly made up of students.

Gmail never recovered from the annual disruptions, although it was still accessible for a time using SMTP, POP3, and IMAP forwarding protocols. Even those were blocked completely by the end of the year. Other Google services, such as Google Drive, Google Translate, and Google Maps, are also all censored on the mainland.

How to access Gmail in China

You can access Gmail in China using a VPN. Short for virtual private network, a VPN encrypts all of a devices incoming and outgoing internet traffic, and then routes it through a server in a location of the user’s choosing. By connecting to a VPN server that hasn’t been blacklisted by the Great Firewall, Gmail users can access their email normally.

Normally, a paid subscription is required for most VPNs. A good VPN offers strong security, plenty of server locations around the world, and fast speeds.

If you prefer to use Gmail on mobile, make sure the VPN provider you choose makes an app for your device. VPNs work on both mobile data connections and wifi, though the latter is more stable.

Don’t just buy a subscription from any provider, however. Chinese authorities have caught on to VPN use and blocked many known VPN servers. Check out our list of the best VPNs for China to find the most reliable options.

Our top recommendation is ExpressVPN. By all accounts, it works well in China and offers reliable service, live customer support, and an intuitive app. Apps are available for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Linux (command line).

Once you’ve signed up for an account, download, install, and run the app. Select a server in whichever country you choose, and hit Connect. Once the connection is established, you may access Gmail just as you would from outside of China.