So what is a VPN? How do I get a VPN? Is VPN illegal in China? All very good questions, and you are in luck.
So firstly, what is a VPN?
DEFINITION – A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that conceals a user’s IP address, or in other words their location, providing private internet access.
This, in turn, allows the user to access content on the internet that may be censored or restricted due to location.
VPN = Virtual Private Network
What does a VPN do?
When initially connecting to the internet, you will first connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
This, in turn, connects you further to any other websites. Every website that you go through or any service you use on the internet will first bypass your ISP – and can also be viewed by your Internet Service Provider.
When connecting to a VPN server (i.e. a server run by your VPN provider), you will be doing so via an encrypted connection.
Still with us… good!
This means that all data that travels between your computer/device and the VPN (i.e what internet services or website you’re using) is encrypted so that only you and the VPN server “sees” it.
Your ISP will not be able to track your traffic on the internet, but only see that you are connected to a VPN server.
If anyone is monitoring your searches, you will appear to be accessing the internet from the IP address of your VPN server provider only, and it will be much more difficult to trace back to you.
A VPN provides private internet access, but depending on the VPN you’re using, this access may not be 100% private, since the VPN server may be logging or able to view the sites that you are too.
This is the case with many free VPNs, but other more expensive VPNs are much more private. If privacy is your number 1 priority, you can choose your VPN accordingly.
We definitely recommend downloading one before you get to China, since downloading a VPN in China get can become very problematic and at times stressful if you need to contact family.
Why should I use a VPN?
In China, the websites that are blocked include many popular social media websites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Youtube and (almost) all Google services are also blocked, so in order to access YouTube or Facebook in China, you will need the help of a VPN service.
There are 4 main reasons to use a VPN:
- Unlimited Access
Use the internet in privacy without others seeing what you’re up to.
Use the internet freely without being blocked by any government censorship.
Choose your location depending on where you want to appear from, and be able to access certain websites and services only available in certain countries.
As far as the internet is concerned, you are located in the same place that your VPN is connected to. So if you’re wanting to access BBC iPlayer (which is only available in the UK) whilst you’re abroad, you can set your VPN location to the UK and your server will be none the wiser.
Likewise when using Netflix, if a favourite TV programme of yours is only available on the US version of Netflix, you can connect to the US server and enjoy access! Clever, eh.
Using a VPN allows you to download and torrent safely.
You can also use public WiFi hotspots safely without having to worry about hackers. Even if a hacker manages to intercept any data, it is encrypted anyway so it’s safe.
Do VPN’s work in China?
In short. Yes.
Because of the nature of a VPN, you can use and access them anywhere, but you may have to download a VPN them before you get to the country.
If a country censors its internet a lot, the chances are that it will also not allow VPN usage.
Every other month rumours go around about how China is cracking down and blocking VPNs, and that they will stop working.
Well, we can safely say that they are still working. You may find internet access more difficult via a VPN connection, especially in cities such as Beijing, is during important government talks. An example of this was the 19th National Congress of the Communist party of China in late 2018.
Other examples like this pop up when an important meeting is about to take place in Beijing, let’s say the President of the US is arriving. Things mysteriously get tighter.
You may notice that your internet speed may slow down when using a VPN.
This is because the encryption and decryption of data require a lot of processing power, as well as the extra distance that your data is traveling.
However, there are hundreds of VPNs that you work and that you can use in China.
Is VPN illegal in China? Can I use a VPN in China
Whether or not it is legal or illegal to use a VPN in China is a very grey area, and the government deliberately make it so.
In spite of the whether it is illegal or legal to use a VPN in China, using it as a (foreign) individual in the country will not cause any trouble.
There are more politically sensitive areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang where you may come across certain issues.
You may have to delete your VPN or your may find that the provider has cut off your phone connection, but instances such as these are rare.
Elsewhere in China, using VPN as a foreigner is incredibly common. In fact, it’s more strange if you don’t use one. After all, most foreigners crave access to the aforementioned websites. China also has a habit of blocking websites as and when it feels.
The UK website bbc.com felt the pinch in recent years, but has since had the ban lifted. What China wants, China does!
If China censors their sites then why doesn’t it just block all VPNs?
This is a very good point. The simple answer is that many businesses in China need VPN.
A VPN is essential for businesses, and without it, they cannot run as a business in China.
So, China would lose much of its business with international companies that use VPN on a regular basis.
China’s VPN regulations from April 2018 are highly directed at companies using a VPN illegally. As a company in China you may obtain permission to use a VPN.
However, it is illegal if you don’t have such permission. It is these such companies that the new rules will be targeting and cracking down on.
Now you’re clued up on what a VPN is, and why you need one, the next step is choosing your VPN.
There is a large selection to choose from. Hundreds in fact. Here is a list of our favourite free and paid VPNs that still work in China.
China VPN FAQ’s
A Dictionary definition of a VPN is as follows: A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that conceals a user’s IP address, or in other words their location, providing private internet access.
In short a VPN allows you to access blocked content by connecting to a different server. For example, in China, Google is blocked so you cannot access it. However, by using a VPN you can trick your computer into thinking you are in a different location, say Australia. Therefore, the VPN allows you to access Google thanks to your location (or where your computer thinks you are that is)
Yes you can. Most foreigners in China use a VPN and pretty much all big businesses likewise. Because of the nature of a VPN, you can use and access them anywhere, but you may have to download a VPN them before you get to the country.
To access content you cannot get to. In China, the websites that are blocked include many. These include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Youtube. Most Google services are also blocked, so in order to access these, you need a VPN to help you.
A tricky one to answer. Whether or not it is legal or illegal to use a VPN in China is a very grey area, and the government deliberately make it so. That being said, international businesses in China would not function without the usage of a VPN.
China flex’s it’s muscles with VPN’s by sometimes slowing connections down but the threats of shutting down VPN’s has never come to fruition. It would have quite extensive impacts on businesses in China if this were to happen.
You can but it’s troublesome and can be awkward so we highly recommend you downloading a VPN outside of China. If you are already in China follow our guide to downloading a VPN in China.
Although you can get away with using free VPN’s in China, if you are here for a significant amount of time (longer than a few weeks) we absolutely recommend going for a paid VPN.
Follow our guide on FREE vs Paid VPN’s for more information.
There are hundreds of VPN’s on the market but the most downloaded and popular with expats in China are Express VPN, Nord VPN and Astrill.
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