10 Best VPNs for China That Still Work 2020 | Get Unrestricted Internet in China

China has developed the most extensive and sophisticated internet censorship system in the world. The good news for anyone living in or visiting mainland China is that although formidable, the GFW can usually be evaded by the simple measure of using a VPN.

In this guide, we'll show you which VPNs are up to the task and how to use them for the best chances of success.

The best VPNs that work in China at a glance

Take a sneak peek at the top 5 VPNs our experts recommend for China below. For more information on these services or for some other alternatives, click here.

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for China. ExpressVPN uses “stealth” servers to bypass the GFW & is armed with privacy features to keep you secure online.
  2. Surfshark - A great VPN for streaming in China. This cost effective VPN works in China and offers great speeds & unblocking options for streaming.
  3. VyprVPN - A robust VPN that beats the GFW with Chameleon technology.
  4. ProtonVPN - A strong VPN for privacy in China. You get a no-logs policy, excellent encryption standards and important features like a kill-switch.
  5. Hide.me - A reliable VPN for unrestricted internet in China. Hide.me offers obfuscation across all its apps and a free plan to test it all out.

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The authoritative internet censorship effort established by the Chinese government is formally named the “Golden Shield” project, but is better known colloquially as the Great Firewall of China (GFW).

Obviously, the ability to bypass the Great Firewall of China is the main requirement of a VPN listed here. But, once you have access to the internet, it's imperative that you are secure and your browsing goes unnoticed. We look for the following requirements from any VPN we recommend for use in China:

With the above requirements in mind, let's take a look at which VPNs are the best to use for an unrestricted internet in China.

What is the Best VPN for China?

The VPNs listed below all have a strong track record of working in China. On top of that, they are also routinely recommended to us by our on-the-ground contacts who rely on VPNs to access the internet in China uncensored. 

Best VPN for China: ExpressVPN is our #1 pick. With this service you get excellent security for bypassing the GFW combined with excellent speeds for streaming.

  • Pricing

    From  $6.67 - $12.95
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 5

ExpressVPN is a popular choice for VPN users in China, and this has a lot to do with the company's excellent customer-centric approach, the reliability of its network, and the servers it has deployed specifically to circumvent the Great Firewall. ExpressVPN offers superb 24/7 customer support via live chat, email, and a ticketing system. The ExpressVPN website also provides a substantial troubleshooting section that covers virtually any issue you may encounter with the service. What's more, the robust approach to customer care and technical troubleshooting you get from ExpressVPN is especially helpful should you run into any issues using the service in China.


Furthermore, ExpressVPN boasts a healthy network of servers in 94 locations around the globe, with many servers near China to ensure top-notch speeds and reliability. Technical features include DNS leak protection, a firewall-based kill-switch, and military-grade OpenVPN encryption. The company also operates a network of “stealth” servers in Hong Kong with the explicit purpose of bypassing the Great Firewall. To top it off, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it completely risk-free!

Surfshark is an ideal pick for streaming in China. Subscribing to Surfshark gives you access to super fast servers and the ability to unblock most streaming sites.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.49 - $12.95
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • Unlimited

Surfshark is another excellent VPN for China that is both strong on privacy and great for unblocking content from around the world. Not only does the VPN have servers in over 60 countries, but it has servers located in and around Asia and the Pacific to get better speeds from China. Surfshark is massively praised by subscribers thanks to its outstanding apps, which are available on all the most popular operating systems. These apps provide OpenVPN encryption, a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscation for getting around the great firewall of China.


This VPN unblocks international restrictions such as Google services, BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Twitter, US Netflix, Hulu, and much more – making it a well-rounded unblocking solution for in China. Subscribers can connect with an unlimited number of devices at once with just one subscription, which makes Surfshark exceptional value for money and ideal for families or people who own a lot of devices. This VPN is also lightning-fast, which means it is good for video conferencing or streaming HD content. You can test it risk-free thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.

VyprVPN is a robust pick if you need a VPN to use in China. This service runs its own servers globally, offers watertight privacy features & a no-logs policy.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.50 - $12.95
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 5

VyprVPN is a popular choice among VPN users in China. VyprVPN is relatively unique in that the company fully owns and maintains its entire network of servers, ensuring superior speeds and reliability for its customers. One of the more advantageous features offered is VyprVPN's proprietary “Chameleon” technology, which effectively works to hide your data from deep packet inspection as a way to circumvent the Great Firewall. Important to note, however, is that Chameleon is not available for iOS devices at this time.


VyprVPN owns a network of over 70 server locations around the world, including 14 locations in Asia. Other features include SmartDNS, NAT firewall, 24/7 customer support via live chat and email ticketing, unlimited bandwidth, and a slick app that works on any device. VyprVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test it for an entire month risk-free. Overall, we find VyprVPN to be a superb VPN to use in China.

ProtonVPN is a great VPN for China with some real privacy pedigree. It can bypass the GFW across all of its apps & can access a lot of highly sought-after content.

  • Free option

    Yes

    Pricing

    From  $3.29 - $5.00
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 10

ProtonVPN is a provider based in Switzerland that was developed by the minds behind ProtonMail. This gives the VPN excellent provenance and means that it is a highly trusted and desirable service. ProtonVPN implements a strong no-logs policy and military-grade encryption. This makes it ideal for accessing censored content blocked behind the Great Firewall of China.


ProtonVPN has apps for all platforms that come with a kill-switch and OpenVPN TCP over port 443 (which is a basic form of obfuscation). We enjoy using ProtonVPN for accessing Western content, and the VPN can successfully access sought-after content such as BBC iPlayer, Google services, and Netflix US from China.


You can test it risk-free thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee. And it even has a free subscription plan for you to test the service.

Hide.me is a great VPN to use in China. It has extremely advanced features like a kill-switch and "stealth" obfuscation technology, making it perfect for staying safe online.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.43 - $12.95
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 10

Hide.me is a VPN provider based in Malaysia that is great for accessing censored Western content in China. The VPN has apps for all platforms that are extremely advanced and provide vital privacy features such as a kill-switch and obfuscation. This makes it excellent for bypassing restrictions without your ISP or the government finding out.


Admittedly, Hide.me does not unblock as many streaming services as some of our favorite VPNs. However, if you need to access Google services, VoIP apps, and social media such as Facebook; this VPN is ideal. We enjoy using this VPN because of its advanced features, which make it great for downloading torrents and gaining digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi or at work. It's an excellent VPN with a strong no-logs policy.


You can test it yourself to compare it to our other recommendations thanks to its money-back guarantee. And it even has a free subscription plan for you to test the VPN yourself right away.

NordVPN is great to use in China because of its security features. You can browse an unrestricted web with peace of mind thanks to the stealth tech and DNS leak protection.

  • Pricing

    From  $3.71 - $11.95
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 6

NordVPN is a provider based in Panama that is recognized as an excellent all-rounder for protecting your privacy and gaining online freedom. The VPN stores no logs, which means it can be trusted to always protect your privacy. It has servers in over 60 countries around the globe, and those servers are fast to let you unblock HD streams like Netflix US, or to download via BitTorrent.


NordVPN has apps for all platforms that come fully featured with a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscation. This makes the VPN safe for bypassing censorship in China. Considering the level of service you get, this VPN is pretty cheap – particularly if you commit for a longer time. We are always impressed by this VPN's extra features, such as its port forwarding, double-hop encryption, or VPN into Tor.


There really is no arguing with the efficiency and reliability of NordVPN, and for this reason, we recommend taking it for a trial run. You can test it risk-free using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Hotspot Shield is a great free option for a VPN in China – this makes it ideal for browsing. If you intend on streaming or gaming, we recommend upgrading to the paid service.

  • Pricing

    From  $3.88 - $16.84
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 5

Hotspot Shield VPN is a US-based provider, great for accessing Western content for free. With its free subscription plan, users get access to just one server location: the USA. However, this is ideal if you need to access blocked social media, university websites, news, Google services, or anything else that is unavailable behind the Great Firewall of China.


For those who want access to a larger assortment of servers, Hotspot Shield also provides a premium subscription plan with servers in over 80 countries. This will allow you to access Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and many other geo-restricted streaming services from around the world. Admittedly, Hotspot Shield does not implement OpenVPN encryption. Instead, it has a proprietary protocol. This may put some people off, but the encryption is thought to be robust, and it provides great speeds for streaming in HD.


For those who want to pay for a VPN, it probably is better to stick to one of our other recommendations, but the free plan with a US server makes this an excellent option in China.

PrivateVPN is the best cheapest VPN for China on our list. This service is packed full of useful features that make using an unrestricted internet in China safe and easy.

  • Pricing

    From  $1.89 - $7.12
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 6

PrivateVPN is a service based in Sweden that has long been a consumer favorite VPN. This service has apps for all platforms that come with a massive array of advanced privacy features. This includes a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, OpenVPN encryption, and obfuscation. This makes PrivateVPN perfect for those seeking to bypass censorship in China.


PrivateVPN can unblock more international Netflix catalogs than just about any other VPN, and it can unblock Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and much more. We always enjoy the connection speeds we get with this VPN – and while it isn't as fast as ExpressVPN, it will always be good enough for streaming content and downloading via BitTorrent. We find this VPN very easy to use on any platform. And you can install and use it on up to 6 devices simultaneously.


All in all, PrivateVPN is a superb VPN provider that offers incredible value for your money and is exceptionally reliable. You can test it risk-free for up to 30 days.

Windscribe works great as a VPN in China. With this service you get a strong no-logs policy, all the essential features you need from a China VPN & you can test it with a free plan.

  • Pricing

    From  $4.08 - $9.00
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • Unlimited

Windscribe is a VPN based in Canada that provides an outstanding service overall and is excellent for use in China. The VPN has apps for all platforms that are ideal for giving you digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi. The apps come with all the most important features, including a kill-switch and DNS leak protection. Thanks to its no-logs policy, you can trust this VPN to never have any details about what you do online. This means that even if it is approached by the Canadian authorities, it will never have any records to hand over.


When it comes to unblocking sought-after streaming content like Netflix US, this VPN can help. However, you will need to pay for a premium subscription because advanced unblocking is only available to those who pay. We enjoy this VPN and find it fit for just about any purpose. It isn't as cheap as some other VPNs in this guide, and it can't compete with ExpressVPN or Surfshark on speeds. However, it is a service that is known to work in China once you have the software installed.


Worth testing using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Astrill is a lesser-known VPN to use in China, but it bypasses the great firewall as well as the other services in our list. Plus, you can try before you commit with a 7-day free trial.

  • Pricing

    From  $10.00 - $20.00
  • Bypasses GFW?

    • Yes
  • Stealth mode?

    • Yes
  • Simultaneous connections

    • 5

Astrill VPN is a lesser-known provider based in Seychelles. This puts it well out of reach of invasive jurisdictions such as the UK and the US. In addition, Astrill provides a no-logs service, which means it never has any records of what its users do online on its network. Apps are available for all platforms and they come with essential privacy features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a choice of strong encryption protocols – including OpenVPN.


Astrill is not quite as good at unblocking foreign services like iPlayer and Netflix as others on this list. However, it is a VPN that works well in China and it will let you access the vast majority of websites and services that have been restricted by the Chinese Communist Party. This makes the VPN great for accessing foreign university resources, social media sites, news, and anything else you might need to access from behind the GFW. However, please remember, this VPN has a 7-day free trial but no money-back guarantee.

To find out even more about any China VPN service listed in this guide, please check our detailed VPN reviews.

What are the fastest VPNs for China?

Any VPN service will impact your internet speeds, simply due to the nature of how a VPN works. Your data needs to be encrypted, decrypted, and routed via a VPN server in a remote location. This increases the amount of time it takes for your data packets to get from point A to point B, thus resulting in slightly slower connection speeds.

To find the fastest VPNs to use in China, we conduct speed tests daily using a dedicated gigabit line. You shouldn't expect similar speeds, but it provides a strong indication of which VPNs are performing well. 

Why do I need a VPN for China?

The Chinese government prevents its citizens from accessing many areas of the global internet using a range of technologies. These include simple IP blocks on website addresses, DNS filtering, URL filtering, and packet filtering.

Besides blocking content it deems undesirable, the GFW also tries to block websites and technologies designed to bypass its filters. This includes VPNs. It does this using IP filters plus a variety of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) techniques.

A VPN service that works in China will allow users to unblock websites such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. It's important to note that you will need a fast VPN service if you want to unblock YouTube or any other streaming website.

If you're new to the world of VPNs we recommend getting up to speed with the guides below:

How does a VPN beat China's Great Firewall?

The VPN server acts as a proxy sitting outside of the Firewall – and this is how a VPN for China can bypass the GFW. You'll be able to access censored internet content via the VPN server so long as the server itself has not been blocked.

how a VPN bypasses the great firewall of China

Obfuscation is important

As you can see from the image above, the ability to beat the GFW relies on the VPN server. If this server is discovered and blocked in China, you're going to run into issues. The Chinese government often blacklists IP addresses known to belong to VPN companies. However, all the VPNs that work in China offer some combination of “stealth servers” and obfuscation technology to bypass the IP blocks enacted by the government.

This "stealth" technology helps to disguise your VPN traffic as regular internet traffic, preventing detection. Even the sophisticated deep packet inspection employed by the Chinese government can be fooled using XOR obfuscation.

To learn more about "stealth" technology and how it works, check out our guide to VPN obfuscation and How to Bypass VPN Blocks for more details.

Are VPNs in China illegal?

Technically, yes. Last year, a citizen of the Guangdong province was fined 1,000 Yuan (approx. $145) for accessing foreign websites using the Lantern VPN app.

Although the incident was widely hailed as a new crackdown on VPN use in China, this is the only known case of an individual getting into trouble simply for using a VPN in China. The municipality of Chongqing city has also announced fines for VPN users, but as far as we know no-one has ever fallen foul of this.

This is quite amazing when you consider that China boasts the largest number of VPN users in the world! Freedom House estimates that in 2018 between 20 and 30 million people in China used a VPN to evade the GFW out of a population of 1.5 billion (around half of which uses the internet).

We'd say that the odds of getting into trouble for using a VPN in China are relatively slim.

While the sentencing of a Guangdong man to nine months in jail was widely reported, it was a unique case where the unfortunate individual was selling rather than simply using VPN services.

The China VPN Ban

There is no doubt that China is trying to suppress VPN use designed to evade its censorship measures.

What has made a much bigger impact is China’s demand that Apple removes VPN apps from the China App Store. Disappointingly, Apple agreed. Google, of course, has long been banned in China. And this includes access to VPN apps in the Google Play Store. This is not to say accessing Google Play Store in China is impossible though. Click the link for more information on this. 

Visitors to China can make their lives much easier by downloading and installing VPN apps before they set foot on the mainland. If, however, visitors wait until they are already in China to install an app, finding a VPN for iPhone users becomes much more difficult.

On the other hand, Android users can obtain VPN apps with relative ease. If you read Chinese, then you can get them from one of China’s many “unofficial” Android app stores. Alternatively, many VPN services are happy to email customers in China direct links to their VPN apps. Just ask.

If you plan on using a VPN in China on your mobile, then take a look at our iPhone VPN and Android VPN guides for more information.

Which VPNs don't work in China?

There are a few big names missing from our list of the best VPNs for China – you may have noticed that top-class providers like IPVanish and CyberGhost aren't up there. These services did once work in China, but they no longer do. This highlights the fluid, cat-and-mouse nature of bypassing the GFW, as VPN providers try their best to stay one step ahead of the Chinese government.

Below we list some popular VPN services that you should avoid if you are in China:

  • IPVanish – Used to work, but no longer does. We will continue to monitor the situation and update this page if anything changes.
  • CyberGhost – This VPN worked in China for a while, but when tested, we found it can no longer bypass the GFW.
  • Zenmate – This well-known VPN failed when we tried to bypass the GFW.
  • Psiphon – This VPN didn't work in China when we tested it and as far as we know it never has worked.

Online gaming in China

China is set to introduce new laws banning online gaming, aimed at preventing its citizens from interacting with foreigners located outside the GFW.

The move follows news that Hong Kong activists have been posting pro-democracy messages in the massively popular online multiplayer game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The government has also banned the sale of this game in online stores.

Hong Kong pro democracy message on animal crossing

Although undoubtedly a blow to gamers' freedoms in China, this ban can be easily overcome using a VPN that works in China. Mobile players should check out our guides to setting up a VPN on Android and on an iPhone

We also have guides for setting up a VPN on your Xbox (One or 360), PS4, or Nintendo Switch. If you have an older Nintendo console, you can still use a VPN with it. The bottom line is that any game console can share a VPN connection using one of the methods detailed in our how to share your VPN connection guide.

Can I get a free VPN for China?

We make a few recommendations for those looking for a free VPN to use in China in the list above. But, be warned, free plans can often be restrictive. While there is little harm in trying one of the services you will only really be able to generally browse the internet if you don't upgrade to a premium plan. So if you're a streamer or a gamer, we suggest not wasting your time with a free VPN.

What can I unblock with a China VPN?

Facebook, all Google services, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp are all blocked in China. On the table below you can find which popular services are currently blocked. If the website or service isn't listed below, you can use our Blocked in China tool to find out if any website has been blocked by the GFW.

Website When was it Blocked Block status
Google services 2014 All services are blocked
DuckDuckGO 2014 Blocked
Youtube 2009 Only Available in cities Haikou and Sanya
Facebook 2009 Only Available in cities Haikou and Sanya
Twitter 2009 Only Available in cities Haikou and Sanya
Instagram 2014 Blocked
Pinterest 2017 Blocked
Tumblr 2016 Blocked
Flickr 2014 Blocked
Whatsapp 2017 Blocked
Pornhub 2012 Blocked
Xvideos 2011 Blocked
Xhamster 2011 Blocked
BBC 2014 Blocked
HBO 2020 Blocked
Line 2013 Blocked
ProPrivacy 2017 Blocked

If you want to unblock streaming services when in China, take a look at the guides below:

FAQs

Below, we’ve listed a few frequently asked questions regarding VPN usage in China that we’ve curated using questions from Reddit.

Conclusion

Now we have covered which VPNs are the best to use in China and why, let's review our top picks:

  1. ExpressVPN - The best VPN for China. ExpressVPN uses “stealth” servers to bypass the GFW & is armed with privacy features to keep you secure online.
  2. Surfshark - A great VPN for streaming in China. This cost effective VPN works in China and offers great speeds & unblocking options for streaming.
  3. VyprVPN - A robust VPN that beats the GFW with Chameleon technology.
  4. ProtonVPN - A strong VPN for privacy in China. You get a no-logs policy, excellent encryption standards and important features like a kill-switch.
  5. Hide.me - A reliable VPN for unrestricted internet in China. Hide.me offers obfuscation across all its apps and a free plan to test it all out.

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.

95 Comments

Fede
on January 11, 2020
Reply
Also Astrill, after 11 years in this country, they never let me down...
ernie
on September 27, 2019
Reply
Currently Nord does not work in China https://support.cn-accelerator.site/General-info/1047408742/Connecting-from-a-country-with-internet-restrictions.htm Trying to find one that is running but the webpages for many of them are also being blocked so I can't download the app of another service
Louis Coleman
on July 27, 2018
Reply
I went to china months ago and I used VPN free application to still access my SNS accounts while in there. It's quiet cool how it works and I did enjoy accessing my accounts using it. Anyway, thank you for this informative article, I learned what are the best VPN apps to use aside from what I'm using.
Al
on April 26, 2018
Reply
I live in China and been here for a while and now and have tried just about every vpn to see which one works. First you have to understand with VPNs in China they are very location and ISP specific. You need to try out which one works for your work or home. I actually use two one for work and one for home. Different ISPs so different results, even though my home and my work are only a few Km apart. Take advantage of the trial periods. Make sure they work and get good speeds where you need them. Even then you may have difficulties a few months later. China is always adapting against VPNs, so what may work now might not work later. I know it sucks. Different areas in China will have drastically different results. Even building by building. China's internet infrastructure is very chaotic. When I first got here I found a fantastic VPN worked wonderfully but I don't use it now, because China blocked it and after I couldn't get the same speeds and connection stability I had before. The one I would recommend is ExpressVPN. In my experience, and out of all the expats I know, around 80% use it. I work with a few hundred expats, and that is the go to VPN for most. It is very reliable and stable. Also it is a larger company so they have the resources to adapt quickly to China's ever changing Firewall. The smaller VPN companies usually have difficulties in that area. You have Vypr ranked best in China, I would rank it one of the worst for China. I had it for a year no matter where I was at or what city it wouldn't connect or if it did was very slow. Almost all expats download tv/movies from their home country and Vypr will suspend your account if caught. Right there is huge con against Vypr in China. Some tips if you are going to China and will be there a while get a VPN before you go, just a monthly sub. Just a monthly sub because if doesn't give you speed or stability you need you can cancel and not be locked into a year. When you get there use that VPN to download other VPNs, only ones with a trial, preferably at least 7 days. Try them all out so which one works the best and go with that one. Remember to uninstall ones you tried, they may interfere with each other. I wouldn't pay for more than a year. Because if it gets blocked or slows down you aren't stuck for two or more years of a useless VPN.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to Al
on April 27, 2018
Reply
Hi Al, Thanks for that great post, which, I think, confirms much of what I have said in this article. You make a good point about VyprVPN's policy on copyright infringement, although it is my understanding that it works well in China.
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