Hello and a very belated welcome to the 2021 China VPN blog. Here is where you will find the latest China VPN speed tests and tips to optimize your VPN connections in China.
Remarkably, after almost 2 years, I still find myself unable to return to my home in China due to the ongoing global pandemic. Although I have a computer running at my apartment in China, I have found this to not be ideal for VPN testing for several reasons.
For example, the Teamviewer connection often fails if I get a bad VPN connection (successful connection but no data transfer). Or sometimes my computer just crashes or freezes and need to find someone to go to my apartment and reboot it.
Anyway, I have now set up a Windows Remote Desktop on a cloud server in Shenzhen which is using the China Telecom network. This cloud server will be used for future testing (unless stated otherwise).
August 24, 2021 – Physical computer vs cloud computer
Before I turn off my computer in China, I will do some comparison tests to see if my cloud server has similar performance to my physical computer behind a residential China Telecom connection.
I will be testing various VPN, Shadowsocks, and V2Ray connections. Some with good bandwidth, and some with poor bandwidth to China Telecom.
My home internet is a Guangdong China Telecom 100M/20M fibre connection. My cloud computer’s internet connection is using a China Telecom backbone with a bandwidth of 80M/80M.
Some tests were done multiple times if I suspected the speed may not be stable.
Surfshark Seattle – Manual Shadowsocks IP 188.8.131.52
Not much difference here except the higher upload capacity of the cloud computer is evident.
Surfshark Vietnam – Manual Shadowsocks IP 184.108.40.206
This is not a server that I recommend using by the way. I just wanted to see if there was any difference in performance on a server with poor bandwidth to China Telecom. I don’t see much difference here except the cloud computer has a lower ping. The download and upload speeds are equally throttled.
Surfshark Vancouver – Manual Shadowsocks IP 220.127.116.11
Latency is very similar here but the download speed seems to be higher on the residential connection.
Surfshark Seattle – Manual OpenVPN UDP IP 18.104.22.168
OpenVPN speed can be unstable compared to Shadowsocks, and this is evident on both connections. Overall, very similar results.
VPN.ac China Optimized – Taipei – Windows App (OpenVPN XOR)
Almost exactly the same performance on this server. Even though the cloud server has a higher upload capacity, it was not utilized.
VPN.ac China Optimized – Hong Kong Kowloon – Windows App (OpenVPN XOR)
This one has good latency to China Telecom, but the speeds are a bit slow and unstable on both connections.
WannaFlix China Daily Usage 4 (Singapore) – V2Ray
WannaFlix China Daily Usage 1 (Hong Kong) – V2Ray
For the WannaFlix V2Ray results, you may think it looks like I made a mistake and put the results in the wrong columns.
My home internet is 100Mbps download and the cloud server is 80Mbps download. However, the results are correct as listed. The cloud server seems to be able to go over 80Mbps for short periods of time which sometimes results in speeds greater than 80Mbps on a speed test.
Overall, the results are very similar. Some servers perform a little better on the cloud server, while others perform a little better on my home internet.
Going forward, all tests done for this blog will be done using the cloud computer unless stated otherwise.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets get down to some VPN testing. Check back again soon…
Sept 15, 2021 – ExpressVPN Major Improvement
As the regular readers of this blog know, I stopped using and recommending ExpressVPN last year because their service became basically unusable in China.
Some of you have commented recently that ExpressVPN is now working much better and that their new “Lightway” protocol is worth trying.
I have to admit I was skeptical at first but after testing it I am very impressed with the improvements made. The new Lightway protocol does indeed work very well in China!
The above 4 tests were done using Lightway UDP (you can also leave it on Auto and it will usually use Lightway anyway).
The locations tested: Singapore Marina Bay, Japan Yokohama, Los Angeles 5, and UK Wembley.
The biggest improvement is the connection time and stability. Most locations are now connecting in less than 1 second. Gone are the days of waiting up to 5 minutes for a working connection! No more connection dropouts either (so far).
I also did some tests using the IKEv2 protocol, which is another new addition to the ExpressVPN Windows app. I found I was able to connect to more locations with IKEv2 compared to Lightway. So if you need to connect to locations other than the recommended ones, changing the protocol to IKEv2 can be useful.
Despite the improved performance, there are still a few drawbacks of using ExpressVPN in China.
- No low latency Asian servers (best ping for China Telecom is around 160-170ms)
- No China accessible website to sign up on if you are already in China and don’t have another VPN to use.
If you want to try ExpressVPN (or try it again after being disappointed with the performance in the past), the Tips for China special offer for 3 months free is still available. Just make sure you are using another VPN in order to access the website if you are in China.
Special Offer for ExpressVPN
Get an additional 3 months free with the annual plan (15 months total). This brings the price down to $6.67 per month for the annual plan.
How is your experience with ExpressVPN in China recently? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Sept 18, 2021 – NordVPN is barely working in China!
It’s been a while since I tested NordVPN in China. Let’s see how it’s working.
I first went to the support section of the NordVPN website to see what the latest instructions are for connecting from China.
As you can see, the support article has a link to a “special test-app” version 3.36.30.
I downloaded this app and followed the instructions but it didn’t work at all. Quick Connect was not working and I could not get a connection by manually selecting locations either.
Next I went back to the NordVPN website support section and tried the live chat. The live chat seems to be a chatbot now, which is disappointing. The bot just referred me to same support article where I already downloaded the app from. Mr. Bot didn’t seem to understand “not working”.
I was able to get a human support agent by simply asking the bot to speak to a human. Honestly I didn’t think that would work but it did.
The support agent gave me a link to download a newer version of the test-app, version 3.39.30.
I wonder why the link on the support article is for an outdated app that no longer works? Having to jump through hoops with a chatbot and then a human agent seems like a really inefficient way to get a link to working app to users in China!
Anyway, this new app did not work at first either. I was eventually able to get it to work after going into the advanced settings and opening the “diagnostics tool”. From there I did an “app reset” and a “network flush”.
I found that the Quick Connect always wants to connect to USA and even when you select a different country, it still tries to connect to USA anyway! Sometimes if you click several times on a different a specific country it will eventually respect your choice and try that country. However, most of the non-US locations didn’t work anyway, even if it connected successfully. Taiwan #91 is an example of this. Connects just fine but no internet connectivity.
Eventually, I was able to get a working connection in the UK in addition to the US connection preferred by the Quick Connect algorithm.
NordVPN USA #7496 (Nordlynx protocol)
NordVPN UK #2031 (Nordlynx protocol)
Although I was able to eventually get a few working connections, it took a good hour of my time. I don’t think NordVPN is a good choice for users in China at this time due to the complex process of getting a working connection. On Windows anyway, maybe the mobile apps are easier to work with.
Any NordVPN China users here? Please leave your comments below on how NordVPN is working for you lately!