Every year, China gets stricter and stricter when it comes to internet censorship. The great Chinese firewall now blocks a majority of websites on the internet, and you’ll be hard pressed trying to access sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, or sadly–even Wikipedia without using a VPN. The Chinese government accomplishes this mass feat of censorship by using a technique called deep packet inspection that lets them monitor citizens on a mass scale and control internet use.
If you’ve never been to China, and are planning on visiting, you are in for a bit of a culture shock. Sure, the crowds are oppressive, and the heat might be unbearable, but a lot of people forget how differently the government operates. Unlike the US, China controls most facets of society–and perhaps the most important part of our newly evolved society, the Chinese government completely (or at least regarding appearances) controls the internet.
This means that a large majority of Chinese citizens cannot access over 2600 sites in China. These sites include but are not limited to Google, Gmail, Yahoo, Vimeo, Soundcloud, WordPress, and Wikileaks.
Best Method for Unblocking Websites in China
The easiest and most secure way to unblock websites in China is by using a VPN. Since you’re here, you most likely already know what a VPN is–but perhaps you’re new to the technology or not aware of how they operate in China.
When you connect to a VPN, you are sending your traffic through a virtual tunnel that connects your computer to an external server. This external server makes your computer appear in a different location with a new IP, and the entire process encrypts your internet traffic. Unfortunately, the Chinese government does not like VPNs and their use since they allow the circumvention of Internet blocks. It’s illegal to operate a VPN without proper registration in China which means all of the VPN apps that aren’t government controlled and monitored are maintained and based outside of China.
You’d think it’d be easy to just setup a VPN in China and get access to anything you want, but it’s not that simple. The fact of the matter is that using and operating a VPN in China is getting harder and harder. To control VPN services, the Chinese firewall blocks common VPN access by limiting port connections used by VPN services. This means that a large majority of VPN ports do not work in China, and most VPNs aren’t safe anyway since a lot of them have been compromised.
The way that the Chinese government achieves mass VPN blockage is complicated, but the easy explanation is that VPN traffic appears different than normal web traffic, so only VPNs that use special techniques like Stealth VPN can bypass VPN restrictions in China.
What VPNs Do Work in China in 2017?
If you want a working VPN in China for the year 2017, we have a good solution. While some websites have mentioned TorGuard has worked before, it’s never quite at the top of many lists, and you might wonder why.
Simply put, TorGuard doesn’t spend thousands of dollars paying off websites to get high rankings and promotions. We haven’t received a dollar from TorGuard to promote them in undisclosed sponsorship deals that I’ve seen so prevalent lately. However, whereas some services spend thousands of dollars on sponsorship deals, TorGuard instead puts that money into high-speed servers, VPN app updates, and their special Stealth VPN. This is why they are our top-rated VPN as seen in our TorGuard review and speed tests.
TorGuard’s unique Stealth offering is what makes them the best VPN for China. They have Stealth VPN, and also a Stealth proxy. Their Stealth VPN works by obfuscating VPN use which makes using TorGuard in China looks like normal HTTPS traffic–which is normal web traffic.
So when you use TorGuard in China, you won’t raise any red flags, and you won’t find that the ports are blocked since Stealth VPN uses a different port. And if you are feeling ultra paranoid, or you just want that additional layer or security, you can also use their Stealth proxy configuration in the settings.
I mentioned before that one reason TorGuard is good is that of their constant updates, and we’ve even seen improvements with their Stealth VPN tech since we’ve reviewed them. Now, all of their servers support Stealth VPN, and it’s super easy to use now.
TorGuard doesn’t log your information; they have high speeds and very good customer service. They are also SUPER cheap at only $29.99 for six months or around $60 for a whole year. One final reason that TorGuard is my top recommended VPN is that they work with Netflix streaming through the availability of purchasable dedicated IP addresses which aren’t as easily flagged and blocked by Netflix’s tirade against VPN and proxy users in 2017.
Which VPNs Don’t Work in China in 2017?
Unfortunately, the few VPNs that operated outside of China that have services like “Stealth VPN” aren’t too great, and we’ve reviewed and tested them all.
We’ve had many users complain about Astrill VPN and how it’s gotten laggy, and they’ve received horrible customer service (Astrill VPN Review). Astrill VPN also has layers and layers of add-on pricing which makes the service quite expensive if you want to get everything you need.
VyprVPN is a perfectly mediocre VPN, but their pricing model, as well as speeds, leave much to be desired (VyprVPN Review). ExpressVPN (ExpressVPN Review) is probably the best of these VPNs I’m mentioning that don’t work well, but the price is higher than any other VPN out there, and the speeds aren’t that fast in 2017 in our most recent speed tests.
ExpressVPN is particularly aggressive with their marketing campaigns, however, and a lot of resources on Chinese VPNs you’ll find flooded with other bloggers claiming that they work or are the best solution.
These articles and resources will try to get you to forget about the more high price and claim that the 30-day trial or fast speeds will make you forget about it. But not me, if something is expensive, and MORE EXPENSIVE than other VPN options, I can’t recommend it as the best VPN for China in 2017.
How to Use VPN in China in 2017
Using a VPN in China sounds like a tricky process, but once you find the right VPN, it’s not hard at all. Our recommended VPN to use is TorGuard VPN due to their Stealth VPN option which ensures you won’t have VPN access blocked.
The first step is purchasing a subscription, which you can do here. Once you do that, you’ll get an email with login instructions and a link to download the TorGuard Lite client.
Download the client, and you can also download the TorGuard client on the app store or Google Play Store. If it’s blocked, make a new iTunes account and change your region to the US, then download it, and you can switch back to your real account. Another good option is using Cisco Anyconnect (tutorial here) which is great for Chinese users, especially on iOS.
Once you have TorGuard installed and downloaded, go ahead and start it up and install it. This is where you will enter in your login information received in the initial email.
Once TorGuard is launched, filter the servers by picking “stealth servers.” All of these servers are good to use in China, but the Los Angeles “Asia Optimized” server is very good is you want to use a US Server. If you want to set up the Stealth Proxy, you can do so by navigating to the “Proxy” part of the settings and then picking “Stealth Proxy” and the location you want to use it in.
Once you pick the right server, just click “Connect” and you will be good to go! And remember, if you want to access Netflix in China with TorGuard, check out this guide here.