Is Instagram blocked in China?
Is Instagram blocked in China?
Yes, Instagram is blocked in China. It was blocked intermittently starting in 2014 and now it is completely censored. Attempting to access the app from within mainland China will result in an error message saying the feed cannot be refreshed. Instagram is also absent from Chinese app stores.
Tip: to unblock Instagram or any other site you will need a VPN. Only a handful of service work, see our China VPN list for details.
Instagram was likely blocked for the same reasons most other western social networks are censored in China. First, it allows users to see and openly communicate with users in other countries, particularly those who live in western democracies. Secondly, users can freely post and comment on a forum that’s beyond the reach of Chinese authorities. This freedom of expression could undermine Communist Party rule and is therefore perceived as a threat.
China already blocked Facebook long before Instagram. Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook and inextricably linked to it, it makes sense for Chinese authorities to block Instagram as well.
Banning Instagram also creates a vacuum to be filled by a homegrown Chinese competitor. Several Instagram-like apps have sprung up on Chinese app stores attempting to take its place. This arguably benefits the Chinese economy, but critics call it protectionism.
How to access Instagram in China
You can access Instagram in China by connecting to a VPN on your phone. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts all of your device’s internet traffic and then reroutes it through a remote intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. By connecting to a VPN server in the US, for example, the user can gain access to all of the content that an American has access to.
VPNs are typically subscription services that require a monthly or yearly payment. Reputable VPN services offer users a wide selection of servers to choose from around the world, unlimited bandwidth, strong security, and no data caps.
Most VPN services are blacklisted by China’s Great Firewall, the advanced online censorship system that China uses to control the country’s internet. However, ExpressVPN still works, they have a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free. They also have an offer for 3 months extra free here with their annual plan. If you are not yet in China it is best to sign-up before you go and VPN provider sites sometimes get blocked, even though the VPN itself will work.
Because Instagram is primarily a mobile app, be sure to choose a VPN provider that makes an app for your device’s operating system. VPNs work on both wifi and mobile data, but wifi is generally more stable.
Our preferred VPN for accessing sites in China is ExpressVPN. It’s extremely easy to use, reliable, and operates servers in 78 countries.
Once you’ve installed the app, just log in and connect to a server in the country of your choice. Once the VPN connection is established, you may access Instagram as you normally would outside of China.
Despite the ban, Instagram is still fairly popular among Chinese users with VPNs and those living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and elsewhere around the world. Here’s a pro tip: try hashtagging in Chinese to get more likes!