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Best VPNs in China (2023)
China is known as one of the most repressive superpowers in the world right now. The Chinese Communist Party holds complete control over what their citizens see, learn, and consume…
Or so they like to believe. The reality is that there are plenty of ways you can elude the CCP’s watchful eye.
The Chinese government might control the internet in China, but that does not mean they control every single computer in China. Many citizens make use of VPNs—Virtual Private Networks—that allow them to use the internet without any oversight by the Chinese government.
Table of Contents:
The Best VPNs in China ➡️
In order to keep yourself safe while still opening the way for internet freedom, you do not just need any VPNs. You need the best VPNs. Through a thorough analysis of what makes a VPN work in China, we have assembled a list of the best VPNs that you can use to stay safe and free in China.
You will note that the best VPNs in China are going to be slightly different than the best overall VPNs. This is because what may work in our countries might not work in China.
1. ExpressVPN – Best Overall VPN
The reliability of a VPN in China can be pretty easily gleaned from looking at its servers: Does it have servers in or around China?
If it does not, then it probably does not provide reliable service to China. However, ExpressVPN has servers in over 90 different countries, including China.
This means that you are never far away from a server that can provide you with high-speed VPN coverage. This also means that you can take advantage of ExpressVPN’s most intensive security features.
What Does ExpressVPN Offer?
Besides its high speeds, ExpressVPN also offers coverage on multiple devices, extremely high-quality encryption, and a network kill switch. Network kill switches are especially important in China.
A network kill switch is a feature that disables your internet whenever the VPN is not operational. It does not disconnect your internet by doing anything to your modem; rather, it turns off your computer’s wired and wireless internet connectivity drivers. This leaves no way for it to connect to the internet.
This gives it another layer of security that makes sure that your computer cannot connect to the servers that would spy on it without the protective VPN there to protect it from being spied on.
However, this feature in particular is one that some consumers get a little worried about. After all, your VPN is reliant on your internet connection. Doesn’t that mean a bad connection to your VPN could result in your internet connection being inconsistent as well? Luckily that is not necessarily the case.
The network kill switch, like many other features ExpressVPN offers, is highly customizable. You can set it up to be on all the time, on as long as the VPN is on, or anything in between.
The biggest drawback to ExpressVPN is its cost. It gives you the first three months free, which does a lot to mitigate this, but after that, it is priced at an above-average rate. You get a lot of features for that cost, but more importantly, you get reliability. Just be sure you know what you are getting into.
- Very reliable
- Feature heavy
- Easy to use despite all the features
- Pretty expensive
2. NordVPN – Best Tracker Blocker
You have probably heard of the word “triangulation” at some point in your life, most likely from an action movie. Someone shouts “We’re triangulating his position!” When a serial killer is on the phone or in some other extravagant circumstances. There is a real basis to that phrase, and it is relevant to VPNs.
Triangulation in this context means that someone is using multiple points of reference—in this case, three—to determine something’s location. Imagine you cannot tell where someone is, but you can tell how far they are from a certain point. Triangulation uses three points to quickly find their location.
The Chinese government and the ISPs that work for them use similar tools to track people who are using VPNs. They do not always do this, so you do not have to be in a constant state of alert.
But you should have a degree of awareness. If you are not spoofing an IP that is within China, then you are already giving them one data point to find you. If you enter your information anywhere then that is another data point. It would take only one security breach to compromise what you are doing.
NordVPN helps keep you from being triangulated with its tracker blocker, which doubles as an ad blocker. This is a program that obscures your activity beyond the normal IP address spoofing.
What are its Other Features?
Besides the tracker blocker, NordVPN also features the standard VPN tools: Heavy encryption, worldwide coverage for high-speed connections, and use on tons of devices.
One of the things that makes it unique is its dedicated IP service. This allows you to pick an IP to use as your spoofed IP and gives it to you exclusively. This is great for Chinese citizens, as it gives all the appearance of normal internet use, while the tracker blocker prevents your VPN from being caught.
It also has browser extensions that make its features usable and adjustable through your browser. But those are not the best in the market, which leads us neatly to the service’s drawbacks.
NordVPN is a classic example of a service that is so heavy with features that it ends up being harder to use. All of its features work, many are great, and some are exclusive to NordVPN, but it is still hard.
On top of that, like ExpressVPN all these features and reliability come at a literal cost. NordVPN’s first year is 50% off at all times, but after that, it is well above the average price of a VPN. This makes sense in a way, as it has well above the average number of features as well. But that’s not going to make it any cheaper to someone who cannot afford it in the first place.
- Tracker blocker provides extra security
- Great encryption and speeds
- Dedicated IP service
- Harder to use than most
3. Surfshark – Best Antivirus
When it comes to antivirus software it can be hard to tell that it is all that special of a feature for a VPN.
Whenever you look up the best VPNs in the world it seems that all of them have some kind of antivirus.
But if you expand your search to include VPNs outside the industry leads, you will find that antivirus software is actually quite uncommon. Even among the best VPNs, most of the antivirus software available is going to be rather token. Not so with Surfshark’s antivirus software.
Surfshark designs its VPN experience with a “top-down” design. Everything starts with the security of the antivirus. This means protecting your IP from tracking and leaks, scanning your computer, removing damaging files, and giving you alerts for when things happen, and plans change.
This also means giving you options for how to customize your security experience. After all, no one wants to be constantly bothered by their security software constantly giving them updates.
What are Surfshark’s Features?
While Surfshark does come with the usual features of a high-end VPN (multiple devices, encryption, etc.) it is lacking the kill switch provided by others. This is not so bad since a kill switch is less necessary when you can basically be assured your computer is free of the viruses that might tamper with your VPN.
It also comes with a truly unique feature, which is the ability to hide from search engines. This is easier than it seems, as it is all a matter of denying a search engine’s ability to put cookies on your computer.
Since the search engine can never verify that you are a reliable person to search for, it will never show you on searches. This can be toggled on and off at will in case you want to show up in searches.
The biggest issue with Surfshark is its speed. It is by no means slow, and it has plenty of coverage. It has servers in plenty of countries, the issue is just that those servers are not as advanced as the servers of other VPNs. It does not have as much of a cost issue as a result though, so it is cheaper than them.
- Excellent antivirus
- Unique search-hiding feature
- Makes you particularly hard to track
- Imperfect speeds
4. PureVPN – Best Secure Servers
Server security is more of a priority than you might think. Most companies in general do not talk about their server security. If Facebook or Amazon had to talk about it, they would show their hand as having horrible, frequent security breaches. These security breaches can cause big problems for you.
PureVPN helps alleviate this problem by having incredibly well-protected servers and top-of-the-line encryption. They keep their servers safe from external files and programs that make sure nothing ever finds its way onto your computer while you are connected with them.
But you might be noticing that “not having viruses on their servers” and “encrypting their own data” is not setting a very high bar. The thing is that most tech companies do not take these precautions except for on their own internal servers. As far as they are concerned, your data can just get stolen.
PureVPN operates differently. The security of their servers extends to you, meaning that it is a VPN that works to keep you safe from both being tracked and having your computer compromised by viruses.
What are its Features?
Given all that, it will probably not surprise you to know that it has its own antivirus software. PureVPN has a slight usability focus that makes its native antivirus software less feature-heavy than others.
This also means that its other features are there, and strong, but less customizable. These include the classic high-speed, high encryption browsing options with spoofed locations.
The complexity of its security systems means that it will always be a little bit slower than the competition. If your internet connection is strong, then you will never notice. But if you regularly stress your internet connection with simultaneous downloads and streaming, it will become clear.
Its usability can also be a problem for advanced users. The big issue with a lack of customization is that it translates to a lack of optimization. That means you cannot change things to fit your needs.
- Highly secure web browsing
- Good antivirus software
- User friendly
- Slower speeds than the competition
5. VyprVPN – Best Smart VPN
To someone unfamiliar with the technologies, most VPNs seem pretty smart. But the truth is that they are actually rather linear technologies. They scramble data but rarely do they scramble specific data while leaving other data intact. They handle threats, but only because threats are obvious.
VyprVPN provides the smartest VPN out there: A VPN that can adapt to any attempt to track it.
VyprVPN was actually designed specifically for eluding governments that are trying to block their citizens’ connections to the internet. They have studied all the tricks those governments employ to catch their people being free and have developed some cutting-edge tools to combat those methods.
The main tool Vypr uses to sneak by these governments is their Chameleon Protocol. This is a protocol they build into their IP location spoofing that makes it change IP addresses periodically. This means that your activity is always on the move and therefore nearly impossible to track or scrutinize.
This combines with their tracker blocker to help reduce the government’s ability to find your original IP. All together it creates a highly versatile and responsive system of countermeasures.
What Other Features Does it Have?
VyprVPN’s features are hard to point at and say, “Look at this awesome thing!” since so many of them are handled on the server-side of things rather than on your own computer. But that is part of what makes them so good: Because they are on the server, you do not have to tinker with them.
It also means that they are located far closer to the “action” as far as internet security goes. Primarily, this means features like no-log DNS protection to keep DNS trackers from finding your computer.
It also means public wi-fi protection for your devices when you connect to particularly vulnerable networks. It also has the stability and coverage to give you an internet kill switch option.
Vypr is pretty stable, but it is not perfect. The first issue most people face is its lack of customization. Particularly because of its complex features, this is understandable to some, but sacrilege to others.
Most of its features being server-side means you have to put a lot of trust in the VPN to do its job. Vypr is young, but it has generally done well to earn that trust. Even so, not everyone is going to afford that trust. This is understandable given that people get VPNs because they distrust most companies.
It has also faced scrutiny for its cloud-based computing solutions. It has good coverage, but a lot of its servers are digital servers rather than physical servers. This makes some people worried, more for stability than security. It is fast, but it could be easily slowed down by heavy traffic.
- Great at adapting to whomever is looking for you
- Low-maintenance tools keep you safe without much effort
- Specifically designed for use in China
- Lacks customization
- Its technology is so new some people are skeptical about it
6. StrongVPN – Best Pricing Options
VPN pricing options are an art form on their own. The most important parts of VPNs are going to be similar across all VPNs. They encrypt your data, block tracking, and so on and so forth. The extra features are important for making them stand out, but pricing is important to make them accessible.
That is what StrongVPN offers. It is no slouch in any of the essential departments. It has servers in over 30 countries with a total count of over 950 physical servers, meaning its speeds are above average. And it has a no-logging policy, ensuring that your information is always safe in the event of a data breach.
But none of that is unique among the best of the best VPNs. The reason StrongVPN is here is that it has great payment plans.
What are These Payment Plans?
The first of these payment plans is their standard monthly model. This costs less than $4 a month, making it far cheaper than most VPNs. In particular, it is cheaper than other VPNs that have good speeds in China and much cheaper than most VPNs that have no-logging policies.
Its alternative plan is about $11 a month. For this, you also get access to 250 gigabytes of cloud storage. This is especially relevant to the Chinese market. Many people use their VPNs seasonally, getting them for a few months, and then not renewing them after that.
This is usually because people use VPNs to watch some American TV. The tricky thing in China is that no matter what you use your VPN for, whether it is torrenting classified data or watching American dramas, it is all illegal. That means any files, even cookies, leftover on your computer are also illegal.
Once your VPN is gone the Chinese government will have no issue finding those files. StrongVPN’s cloud storage option is designed to help you with just that. As long as those files are on cloud storage rather than on your local computer, the government cannot find them by looking at your computer.
The best part of StrongVPN’s plans is that both of them can be cancelled within the first 30 days for free. You pay at the end of the month for the service you used, rather than at the beginning of the month.
StrongVPN has some shortcomings, but none of them are cataclysmic. The main issue is their lack of features. Considering their price, this makes sense. A lack of features also means an accompanying lack of customizability. As mentioned before, lacking customization means lacking optimization.
They also lack a desktop app, but that is actually by design. They operate through browser plugins in order to keep from having to put files on your computer. The advantage is that nothing is left after you are done using their service. The disadvantage is that it requires you to use compatible browsers.
- Great pricing options
- High speeds
- Cloud storage options
- Low on features
- Browser reliant
7. Hotspot Shield – Best Multithread Connection
Location spoofing is the backbone of using a VPN in China. You need your computer to act as if it is from a different region if you want to connect to data centers that are outside the control of the government.
But there is a common problem with VPNs in China: Imagine you are using a VPN to make your computer’s location appear as if it is in America rather than China.
Without the proper security features, your internet service provider will be able to see two things.
The first is that an American IP address is connected to their network. This will immediately clue them in to the fact that someone they provide internet to is using a VPN. The second thing they will see is that your IP address is connected to their network, but has zero activity going on in it.
This is basically impossible. If an IP address is connected, it should at least be issuing “pings” that confirm the connection. If an IP address is connected but registers zero activity, then it is probably using a VPN. All they need to do then is connect the dots between the American IP and the zero-activity IP.
How do you deal with this? With Hotspot Shield’s Hydra Protocol. This is a protocol of “split connecting” or “split tunneling”. This means that you can be connected to the internet at two different locations.
Most of the time these two locations are China and the United States. With the United States connection, you are doing whatever you want—watching TV, torrenting, using blocked sites, etc.
But with the China connection, you are doing nothing. But by doing nothing you are covering your tracks as you use the American IP at the same time. Your Internet service provider will see an American IP connected to their network, but your IP will appear low activity but otherwise totally innocent.
Beyond this, Hotspot Shield also has the encryption and data center support you can come to expect from the best VPNs in the world. It is also really good about keeping data off of your computer. By default, it is set up to clear temporary data from your computer after every use of the VPN.
This helps keep your computer from storing anything incriminating on it. A feature like this is more useful than you might think. A surprising number of websites host illegal data. If that data finds its way onto your computer, it does not matter how it got there. It will still be considered a crime.
This is frustrating since that data can end up there through cookies, ads, and people sending you files that you did not even open. It is hard to believe, especially for authorities, but you really can play host to illegal data without realizing it. This is part of why policing the internet is borderline impossible.
Hotspot Shield helps keep you safe from this by prioritizing keeping your computer not only hidden but also clean. This has the side effect of working like accidental antivirus software. Though, it is still not antivirus software, so keep that in mind.
Hotspot Shield’s drawbacks are mostly a matter of features. It has everything a VPN needs to be functional, but its split connections are the main thing it uses to set itself apart.
It also has slower speeds in China than other VPNs on this list. This is less a matter of the data servers it has access to and more a matter of the infrastructure behind split connections. This is a good thing, as it means that you will not be subject to disconnections. It is slow in a different way than instability.
There is also a slight issue with the fact that it relies on a desktop app. This can cause problems if your computer is audited with the program still on it.
- Split connections make it basically impossible to spot that you are using a VPN
- Reliable number of data servers
- Incredibly strong encryption
- Slower than most VPNs
8. AstrillVPN – Best BitCoin Support
A big issue with governments like the Chinese government is that they can feel like anything that is not expressly legal is illegal by default.
This has been the case for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. For a while, Bitcoin mining was exploding in China.
How Bitcoin mining works is that it uses high-speed computers to connect to a “blockchain” app over the internet. Bitcoin gets its value from the fact that each link in the blockchain can confirm where the Bitcoin is, therefore preventing fraud from happening.
Bitcoin mining is when powerful computers spend all day, every day confirming where Bitcoins are. For a while, China’s abundance of natural resources and lax regulations on how to acquire or use them made it the place to be when it came to mining Bitcoin. The government was not a fan of this, however.
Currently, Bitcoin mining is banned in China. And if you were to track the Bitcoin blockchain’s locations, you would find that none of them are in China at the moment. But did these Bitcoin mining operations just disappear overnight? No. They all got VPNs to make it looks like they disappeared overnight.
AstrillVPN takes Bitcoins as payment and also specializes in location spoofing Bitcoin mining operations. This means having incredibly fast servers, as well as responsive tools like internet kill switches and split connections. And of course, it has good encryption to make this all safe against surveillance.
Each of these components is critical to making a Bitcoin mining operation work. You need a different location in order to get around China’s watchful eyes, responsive tools to make sure you don’t get caught, and encryption to make sure your information is safe the whole time you are doing it.
The biggest issue with AstrillVPN is that all of this together is going to cost you a good amount of money. It is also the riskiest thing you can do with a VPN, and we recommend against it. Doing this is legal in most countries, but you should be very careful that it is legal in yours before you try anything with it.
On top of that, Bitcoin mining comes with lots of secondary costs. It requires high-end computer parts that include capacitors, superconductors, and even graphics cards and RAM. These machines need to be cooled, not to mention the fact that you need tons of them in order to make your money back fast.
In short, while AstrillVPN is obviously the VPN you want to use if you plan on mining Bitcoin, there are so many reasons to not mine Bitcoin that it quickly makes itself less useful in its entire conception.
- Makes Bitcoin mining discrete and secure
- Besides that, has good speeds and features
- Hard to use
VPNs in China 🇨🇳️
Now that we have looked at the VPNs that are good to use in China, it is worth asking a few questions about how VPNs work in China.
After all, they are the best way to access the internet at large from China… But most other countries can just access the internet normally. So, what is the deal there?
How a VPN Hides You from the CCP 👀️
VPNs work in a few steps. Using a VPN in China is a little more difficult because you have to make sure that each of these steps is being performed properly in order for your activity to be hidden.
- The VPN “spoofs” your location, making it look like you are using a different IP address.
- The VPN encrypts your data, making sure your computer’s information is unreadable.
- The VPN also encrypts the data being sent to it, making sure your computer cannot be compromised from the inside by cookies or programs being quietly put onto it.
1. Spoofing Your Location 🗺️
This is the most important step to make sure you get right before you start making use of the VPN. Location spoofing will mean that your VPN will pick out an IP address and act as though you are connecting to the internet from that IP address. In doing so, it hides your activity.
This works because most IP addresses are not in use. There are a dizzying number of possible IP addresses, and only a small percentage of them are actually being used at any given time.
But there is a catch: While most IP addresses are not in use, one can pretty reliably tell which IP addresses belong to which countries. China has a range of 351,884,280 in it. You have to use one of those if you want it to look like you are connecting to the Chinese internet from China.
Why is it important to connect to the Chinese internet from China? Because if you connect to the Chinese internet from an IP address native to a foreign country, then your internet service provider will be able to see that you are using a VPN. They might not spot it immediately, but they will if they look.
Your VPN will still hide exactly what you are doing, but if an ISP sees a foreign IP address connected to the Chinese internet, all they have to do is look at the IP addresses they serve to see who has zero activity despite being connected to the internet. It will not take long for you to be audited.
2. Encrypting Your Data 🔒️
This is the reason why most people in the west get VPNs. In any country that has American big tech mega-corporations like Facebook and Google, you can be assured that most of the internet is collecting your data. Encrypting your data is a great way to make sure that they do not get a hold of it.
Why encrypt your data? Well, because people are trying to steal it for nefarious reasons.
In the case of western corporations, they are trying to steal it so they can sell it. Their primary markets are selling users’ personal information to advertising companies, though they sometimes end up selling your information to places like scammers, spammers, and identity thieves.
In the case of the Chinese government, encrypting your information makes sure that you can have information on your computer that they cannot look at whenever they want. This makes sure that even after visiting a website that should be blocked you do not get caught with its files on your computer.
3. Encrypting Their Data 👁️
Encrypting your own data makes sense, but why encrypt the data you are receiving? This is a little less intuitive, but it is because the data you receive can result in your computer’s security being compromised even when you have a VPN.
You see, all websites use miniature files called “cookies” that help speed up the use of the site. Cookies help your computer load information and graphics from the site by downloading tiny files that help your computer in those tasks. But those tiny files can do more than just their original task.
Cookies can, and on some particularly dangerous websites do combine to compromise your computer’s security. Encrypting these cookies means that not only can they not “talk” to your computer, but they cannot talk to each other. Websites might be slower as a result, but they are safer.
Are VPNs Illegal in China? 🤔️
This is a more complicated issue than you might think. The short answer is that no, VPNs are not illegal in China. Most ISPs will take action against you for using them, but you will not be imprisoned over one.
You see, while VPNs are not illegal in China, much activity on the internet is. Or at least it is highly regulated. You cannot post certain things, look at certain websites, or transmit certain data. The only way around these restrictions is using VPNs. As such, VPNs have been banned from China.
But wait, how can VPNs be both banned, but also not illegal? That is why it is complicated. It is illegal for VPNs to do business in China. But it is legal for Chinese citizens to do business with VPNs. As an extension, it is also legal for anyone visiting China to use VPNs.
VPNs are still heavily scrutinized, however, as it is known that they are used to cover up illegal activity. This is why the best VPNs are the ones that keep information off your computer as much as they can.
VPNs in China are a complicated business that exists at the edge of the law.
We do not advocate for any illegal activity, of course, so if VPNs are suddenly illegalized completely, we advise you to act within the limits of the law for your own safety. But since they are not currently illegal, you can still use them.
Just be sure you are doing so safely. Be aware of what you can and cannot do, while at the same time being aware of what your VPN is meant to do.
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