Last Updated on May 7, 2020
What is the best VPN to use in China? As someone who has lived in China since 2005 and uses VPNs every day, this is a question that I am qualified to answer. I have personally tested and verified these VPNs. I can assure you that they are working well in May 2020.
China's VPN crackdown has caused most VPNs to stop working recently. Most websites have out of date information. Don't trust VPN recommendations from people who don't live in China, because the situation is always changing.
If you would like to see hard evidence to back up my claims, check the 2020 China VPN testing blog for actual VPN speed test results performed in China.
Every VPN service shown here is available with either a free trial or a money back guarantee, so you can try all of them risk-free. You will also find the best available discount offers for new customers here.
#1 Top Recommendation
#2 Top Recommendation
#3 Top Recommendation
| Monthly Price|
| Monthly Price|
| Tips for China|
|+3 Months FREE||30% Discount||3 Years for $3.49/mo|
|Recommended for Privacy|
(P2P, Torrenting, etc)
|Netflix Supported|| |
|Dedicated Apps |
(Working in China)
|Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router App||N/A (using third party apps only)||Windows, Mac, Android|
|# of Devices|
|Money Back Guarantee|
30 day no-hassle money back guarantee
No questions asked
30 day money back guarantee
30 day money back guarantee
** Note about simultaneous connections. You can install the VPN apps on as many devices as you want. The simultaneous connection limit only applies to how many devices you can connect at the same time.
To answer the question of what is the best VPN for China in a simple and straightforward way, it is ExpressVPN. Their service is the fastest and most reliable option that I have ever used in my many years in China.
The FAST Hong Kong servers. ExpressVPN always has at least one premium server in Hong Kong with direct routing to China Telecom. Right now that servers are Hong Kong 3 and Hong Kong 5. It might take a while to make the initial connection, but be patient. You can rely on these servers to stream high definition video, any time of the day (even during peak bandwidth hours at night).
The Apps. ExpressVPN is the absolute leader in the industry when it comes to VPN app development. Dedicated apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and Routers. All the apps I have used personally (Windows, Android, iOS, and Router) are extremely good and updated often.
The ExpressVPN iOS app is the only dedicated app produced by a VPN provider that supports the OpenVPN protocol. Previously, it was believed that OpenVPN connections were only possible on iOS by using the OpenVPN Connect app. However, ExpressVPN has managed to get approval from Apple to use OpenVPN in their app. This is something that, to the best of my knowledge, no other VPN company has ever been able to do.
Actually, the ExpressVPN iOS app supports 3 different VPN protocols: OpenVPN (both UDP and TCP), IPsec, and IKEv2. Most other iOS VPN apps only support 1 protocol (usually IKEv2).
If you need to use a VPN on your iPhone or iPad in China, then ExpressVPN is significantly better than anything else available.
ExpressVPN is also the only VPN company (that I know of) that has a dedicated app for Linux.
The ease of use. ExpressVPN is what I like to call an idiot-proof VPN. If you are an idiot when it comes to technology, then ExpressVPN is the VPN for you. It's the only VPN that I would recommend to people who have never used a VPN and are not good with technology.
Everything, from signing up, to downloading and using the apps, is extremely easy. The ExpressVPN links on the Tips for China website are smart-links that will automatically direct you to a website domain that is accessible from China. Although these links work 99% of the time, it's still a good idea to sign up and download the apps before you come to China just in case.
After making your payment, you will immediately see a setup page as shown below. No need to sit around like an idiot waiting for a confirmation email! Make your payment and then get connected right away!
Here is a video I made recently showing you exactly how the signup process for ExpressVPN works from within China.
Downloading and setting up a VPN doesn't get any easier than this!
The Router App. ExpressVPN has a very nice Router App available the following routers.
Linksys EA6200 (tutorial)
Linksys WRT1900AC V1
Linksys WRT1900AC V2
Netgear R6300v2 (tutorial)
Netgear Nighthawk R7000
The Netflix support. ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that is still working with Netflix in 2019. Not only US Netflix, but also Canada, UK, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (possibly other regions as well). You will never run out of movies and TV shows to watch with ExpressVPN and a Netflix subscription.
The Support. Online chat is available 24/7. No need to wait for an email or start a support ticket, their knowledgeable staff can help you immediately. Even if you are not a customer, you can still visit the ExpressVPN website and use the online chat to ask them any questions you have before signing up. Just click the icon shown below.
Split tunneling on Android (new). The ExpressVPN Android app now supports split tunneling! That means you can set a list of apps to bypass the VPN. This is very useful for Chinese apps that don't work well with VPNs.
Split tunneling has already been available on the ExpressVPN desktop apps for some time now, but I think this function is much more useful on mobile.
The logging and torrenting policies. No activity logging, torrents allowed on all servers, and shared IP addresses make ExpressVPN a great choice for downloading torrents or other activities that demand a high level of privacy and anonymity.
The money-back guarantee. The 30 day money back guarantee from ExpressVPN is hassle-free and unconditional.
Unlike some VPN providers, who have complicated terms and conditions, you can always get a 100% refund for ExpressVPN within the first 30 days no matter how many connections you have made, how much bandwidth you have used, or what payment method you used to pay.
Lack of advanced options. Unlike other VPN providers, ExpressVPN doesn't have many advanced options in their apps. For example, there is no option to change the port or specify custom DNS servers. They probably do this to improve the user experience and avoid confusing people with options they don't need, but some advanced users (like myself) would prefer to see a few more options and configurations available.
The price. Compared to the competition, ExpressVPN is priced a little bit higher. For me personally, having access to the premium Hong Kong servers is enough to justify the price, and I would even be willing to pay more if the price was higher.
If you demand the best high speed servers, low latency, and the best apps, then you will not consider ExpressVPN to be expensive.
However, if you only need a VPN for simple web browsing, or don't care too much about high speed connections, or you are on a tight budget, then ExpressVPN might be overpriced for your needs.
ExpressVPN is offering an additional 3 months free on annual subscriptions for Tips for China visitors. All of the links on this website have this special offer embedded.
Although it's technically not a VPN, I have to include WannaFlix in this list because the speed is so fast.
The speed. It's not really fair to compare the speed of a proxy to a VPN. The protocols used by WannaFlix (Shadowsocks and V2ray) are much faster than any traditional VPN.
The development work. WannaFlix is very committed to the China VPN market. They are always working hard to develop new technology (Eclipse) or make other improvements (switching from Shadowsocks to V2ray for example). Recently they also updated their website to make it load faster in China when accessed without a VPN.
VPN into China. WannaFlix is offering a server in mainland China that enables access to Chinese geo-restricted services such as QQ Music, iQiYi, etc from outside of China. This is a very hard to find feature of a VPN these days.
The ease of use . The website can be confusing to navigate and the set up process is a little more difficult than the average VPN. You need to download various third party apps and paste in special API links copied from the website to pull a server list. For iOS, you need to log into a special iTunes account to get the Shadowrocket app (or you can purchase it for $3 in your own account).
Limited payment options. WannaFlix does not currently accept credit card payments. Hopefully this will be added soon. In the meantime, you can pay with PayPal, Alipay, Union Pay, and Bitcoin.
What I like about NordVPN
The Jurisdiction and logging policies. NordVPN is based in Panama, which is completely outside of the "fourteen eyes" countries. They also don't keep any kind of logs, not even connection/session logs.
While most VPN providers don't keep activity logs, most of them (including ExpressVPN and VPN.ac) do keep some non-identifying (anonymized) session logs. Session logs usually include what server location you connected to, when you connected to it, and how much data was transferred. For example, you can find the detailed logging policies of ExpressVPN on this page.
For most average users, these non-identifying session logs are nothing to worry about. However, if you are under a high level of threat (privacy activist, high level target of a government entity, or journalist in certain countries, etc) or suffer from a high degree of paranoia, then you might want to consider a truly log-free VPN such as NordVPN.
The 30 day money back guarantee. You can try it risk-free for 30 days, but according to some reports, the money back guarantee is not hassle-free like ExpressVPN's hassle-free money back guarantee. You will likely be asked to provide a reason for cancelling, and they may try to encourage you to try some troubleshooting steps first before cancelling.
But if you are persistent then you should still be able to get your money back.
Server performance. Compared to the performance of the top 3 recommendations, NordVPN servers are not as fast or reliable.
Then again, you get what you pay for. Given the low price of some of their deals, it can be good to keep as a back up VPN if you get one of their good deals. It's always best to have more than 1 VPN these days anyway.
The above 3 are my personal top recommendations and the ones that I use on a day to day basis. What I consider to be the best may not be the same for you. Here are some more China VPN options to consider.
Although not my personal favorite, 12VPN does have some nice features.
The premium add-on servers. In addition to the standard servers, you can assign an additional 5 premium servers to your account. These servers offer premium China bandwidth, so you should definitely use them for faster connections from China.
Shadowsocks. Yet another option for Shadowsocks.
Other alternative protocols. In addition to Shadowsocks, 12VPN also offers all the latest protocols that work good in China such as Outline, WireGuard, v2Ray, and Openconnect.
Good support. Based in Hong Kong, 12VPN knows the China market very well. They seem to have some staff located in mainland China, so they know very well what protocols and configurations work well in China.
Their customer support is pretty good too. I usually get my emails answered within 1 hour during day time hours in China, and the quality of the support is good. It is often the owner of the service who responds to my emails rather than some low level employee using a script to answer questions.
The lack of VPN connection options. The service offered by 12VPN is more geared towards proxy instead of VPN connections. The connection options available in their dedicated app are different kinds of proxies, not a single VPN connection option.
This is ironic, because the name of their software is called "VPNGUI". I think the should change the name to "ProxyGUI" or something similar to more accurately reflect the type of service offered.
They do offer VPN connections through some third party apps such as Cisco Anyconnect (Mac and iOS) and SoftEther (Windows). However, support for these protocols is limited and the premium servers are restricted from using these protocols.
The logging policy (or lack thereof). I have searched all over the 12VPN website but I cannot find anything about their logging policy. Nothing in the FAQ or TOS pages. In this case, I have to assume the worst case.
12VPN is definitely not a privacy-focused VPN service. Instead, they are targeting the market of users in China who only use a VPN for accessing blocked websites.
The restrictive money back guarantee. The money back guarantee comes with quite a few strings attached.
"You are entitled to a full refund if all of the following apply:
* You claim your refund within 14 days of your order date.
* It is the first order made on your account (e.g. renewals do not qualify).
* You have fully complied with our Acceptable Use Policy and our Terms of Service.
* You send an e-mail to email@example.com or use the Support section on our website to request your cancelation.
* You have used less than 5GB of bandwidth.
* You have not previously claimed a refund from us under this policy (e.g. for another account).
* Apply for the refund by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org."
The condition that I highlighted above is the one that concerns me. 5GB is a very small amount of data. I assume they mean 5GB of data, as "5GB of bandwidth" doesn't make any sense. Bandwidth is a measurement of speed (data transfer over time, usually quoted in Mbps or MB/s).
Anyway, you will need to be very careful not to use 12VPN too much when testing it. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the money back guarantee.
The video streaming. A great feature of VPN.ac is an unofficial and unadvertised feature that I stumbled upon. I don't know how it works exactly, but I can watch any geo-restricted content no matter which server location I connected to.
For example, I can connect to a server in Hong Kong and still watch BBC iPlayer (UK), Channel 4 (UK), Hulu (US), etc. There is no need to change servers to match the country of the service you want to watch. Most streaming servers just seem to work, as if by magic.
Privacy, security, and torrenting. If you are concerned about security and privacy, then VPN.ac is a very good choice. Their DNS servers are private and secure, all DNS queries are sent to their private revolvers and encrypted with AES 128-bit encryption. They don't keep any traffic logs, and they allow torrents on all servers. They even have some special servers optimized for P2P.
VPN.ac is offered by a company called Netsec Interactive Solutions based in Romania. This company has been in the business of online security and privacy since 2009. You may wonder how a company based in the EU can get away with not keeping activity logs of their VPN users. The answer is that the EU Data Retention Directive was declared unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court.
WireGuard. VPN.ac is one of the first and few VPN providers to offer the new WireGuard protocol.
The apps. The Windows and Android apps have a few bugs and are not updated as often as the apps of bigger VPN providers like ExpressVPN.
The main complaint I have with the Windows app is that sometimes the "China Users" server list fails to load (VPN.ac has special servers labelled as "China Users" that you need to use when connecting from China). I have experienced this behavior on all of the apps I have used (Android, iOS, and Windows).
You can set the option "I am in China" in the advanced settings to force the "China Users" servers to load, but many of the servers are missing from the list when loaded that way. The only way to get the full China Users server list is by exiting the app and re-starting it (sometimes several times).
The speed of support. VPN.ac doesn't offer live chat support, and they do not have staff available 24/7. As they are based in Romania, they only answer support tickets during Romanian business hours. So you will likely not get an answer until the early afternoon if you submit a support ticket in the morning in China.
The server performance. The server performance used to be really good, but lately the speeds are much slower.
Surfshark basically no longer works in China with one exception. You can still find some working Shadowsocks servers using the "+1 method" from the Using Surfshark in China guide.
Given the insanely low price of $47 for 2 years, it's worth considering for advanced users who don't mind manually finding the working IPs and setting up Shadowsocks connections. But don't expect the VPN connections to work.
VyprVPN Website (not accessible in China)
Although VyprVPN works in China (using the Chamelon protocol), the performance is very poor. During times of increased VPN censorship, the service often goes down completely for weeks at a time.
Not much really. I guess the fact that they have a 30 day money back guarantee so you can try it for yourself risk-free.
Pretty much everything. Poor performance, fake server locations, no China accessible website, the fact that they used to keep logs and ban accounts for torrenting (they don't anymore but the fact they did before is very concerning).
There are various free VPNs that might work in China from time to time, but I do not recommend using any of them. The main problem with free China VPNs is that they get blocked much easier than paid VPNs. They will always stop working after a while (if they even work in the first place).
The other problem with free VPNs is that they are terrible for privacy. It costs money to run a VPN service, so why would any company offer this for free? The answer is that they usually make money by selling your browsing data to third parties, or worse. There is a famous saying "if you don't pay for the product then you are the product".
If the cost is a concern for you, you can alwasy cycle through the free trials and money back guarantees of paid VPNs (just remember to cancel before the free trial or money back guarantee period ends).
If you insist on using a free China VPN, here are some options that you can look into, which may or may not work.
I don't recommend Astrill because of their poor customer service, unstable VPN service, and discriminatory policies towards customers in China.
If you sign up outside of China (without using another VPN), then Astrill offers a 7 day free trial.
However, Astrill does not offer the free trial if you sign up in China (they don't offer a money back guarantee either).
Full Disclosure - Astrill deleted my affiliate account after I published the blog post about not offering the free trial to customers in China. That was in 2016 and I haven't used Astrill since then. So I honestly couldn't tell you how it's working today. Given the history of the way the treat their customers, I don't plan to ever try it again.
However, those Hong Kong servers disappeared one day, later they were replaced with inferior servers with poor routing to China Telecom. Now there is no reason to use StrongVPN in China.
This is probably the worst VPN that I have ever tested in the history of this website. Terrible apps, even worse support, and extremely unstable performance. They also handed over log files to the FBI to assist in an investigation.
Even if you are not using it in China, stay away from PureVPN.
I tested PIA after seeing this YouTube video from Linus Tech Tips. At the end of the video, he recommended using PIA in China, and claimed to be using it himself in Shenzhen, where he shot the video.
When I tested PIA (extensively) around the time that this video was released, I was unable to get even a single working connection. I tried every protocol available and sent a support ticket for further troubleshooting steps.
Determined to get a connection, I took things 1 step further. I got all of their server IPs by entering the hostnames into the OpenDNS CacheCheck website, and then batch pinged every single IP using a special software I have. Every one of their server IPs was blocked in China.
My only conclusion from this is that Linus Tech Tips is a liar. He was likely roaming with a foreign SIM card when he connected to PIA for his video.
Don't get me wrong, PIA seems like a great VPN service. It's just not one that works in China.
It's illegal to operate a VPN service in China and these are the ones that will be targeted by the government the most.
When choosing a VPN, always choose one that is incorporated outside of China.
The ones shown on the sidebar are the best ones. The sidebar is on the left side of the page if you are using a desktop browser, or on the bottom of the page if you are using a mobile device or tablet.
Additional special offers can be found on the VPN discounts and coupon codes page.
If you have the choice, then I always recommend that you buy a VPN service and download the apps on all your devices before coming to China.
There are 2 reasons for this.
1. You want to make sure that everything is working properly outside of China. Otherwise, if you have problems connecting in China, you won't know if the problem is related to being in China or not.
2. Although the China VPN mirror websites are usually accessible from China, they do go down from time to time. There is no guarantee that will be working when you are here. Better to be safe than sorry.
If you really need fast and reliable internet, then yes, you should. In fact, I regularly use at least 3 different VPN services in addition to the ones I test for this website. No VPN service is guaranteed to work 100% of time in China. You should always have at least 1 backup.
This is a controversial question. Although it is illegal to operate an un-registered VPN business in China, there is no specific law against individuals using an overseas-based VPN.
What you do after you connect to the VPN is another matter. If you are using a VPN to spread political messages or cause trouble for the government, then you may be breaking other laws. But connecting to a VPN, in and of itself, is not illegal.
Recently, there have been a few cases of individual users given fines or warnings for using a VPN. However, I think there is more to these cases than is being reported. These few individuals likely did something to catch the attention of the authorities. Such as posting negative news about the government on Twitter or something like this.
So far there have only been a handful of cases of individual users punished for using a VPN in China. None of these cases involved foreigners, and the most serious punishment was a 1,000 CNY ($150 USD) fine. So I wouldn't worry about it at all.
If you are just using a VPN to watch YouTube or Netflix, or browse Facebook, then you have nothing to worry about, you are not doing anything illegal.
As for the legality of overseas-based VPNs offering their services to Chinese customers, that is more of a grey area. Technically, these companies cannot legally sell their services in China. But then again, they do not have operations, servers, or staff in China. Therefore, they are under no obligation to comply with Chinese laws. The Chinese government can try stop people from buying and using these services, but that's about all they can do.
As of now, it's still possible to buy most VPN services using Alipay, WeChat Pay, or Union pay. If the government really wanted to put an end to overseas VPN companies sellilng their services in users in China, then it wouldn't be possible to pay for these services using these payment methods.
China could very easily completely block all VPN traffic if they really wanted to. The level of tolerance for VPNs from the government, at any given time, is a balance between controlling the flow of information, being friendly to foreign investors and companies, and collateral damage (increased filtering of traffic makes normal foreign websites slower in China).
On one hand, the government does not want their own citizens to have free access to the internet for obvious reasons that I won't go into here.
On the other hand, they must allow some VPN traffic so foreign companies to access their corporate networks. Besides commercial VPN services, some companies use corporate VPNs to securely connect the networks of their offices around the world.
They also don't want to slow down normal foreign websites too much (the ones that are not blocked). Foreign websites are already painfully slow in China when accessed without a VPN.
Although the government will block VPN servers more aggressively during sensitive political meetings or anniversaries, they will never completely block all VPNs.
China is one of the few places on earth where Netflix is not available. However, it is possible to watch Netflix in China with a VPN.
It's pretty simple. You just need to create another iTunes account using a USA address. The apps are not actually blocked from being downloaded in China, they are only restricted based on the country of your iTunes account (a type of self-censorship by Apple).
Some VPN providers rely on custom protocols to make their VPNs work in China. For example:
NordVPN Obfuscated OpenVPN
Due to limitations set by Apple, these third party custom protocols are not allowed to be used in iOS apps.
It is best to avoid these VPNs in China if you are an iOS user.
ExpressVPN has an excellent iOS app that works very well in China and is extremely easy to set-up. The app supports 3 different protocols (OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2). If you are look for a cheaper alternative, Surfshark also has an iOS app that works in China using the IKEv2 protocol.
Shadowsocks is good alternative to a traditional VPN. It is a SOCKS5 web web proxy that offers very fast connections, but does have some limitations compared to a VPN.
When it comes to Shadowsocks, you have 2 options.
If you are technically inclined, you can set up your own Shadowsocks server on a VPS.
Or you can subscribe to a paid Shadowsocks service, which is much easier to use and offers more servers to connect to.
Another VPN alternative is to use data roaming if you have a mobile phone plan from outside of mainland China. When you use data roaming, your data is sent back to your home country first before going out to the internet. So this is another way to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
If you have a US mailing address to receive the SIM card, Google Fi is a great option. What I like about Fi is that there is no extra charge for data roaming, you can get up to 10 extra data only SIM cards for free, and you can pause the service any time you aren't using it.
If you want to try it, use my Google Fi referral link and we will both get a $20 billing credit.
Personally, I am mostly using my Fi service in the US and Canada (the data is actually cheaper than Canadian prepaid SIM cards). Although I have tested it out in China, I leave the service paused most of the time because my VPNs work fine and data is much cheaper with a local SIM. But it's good to know I can pop the SIM card in my phone and resume the service any time that I might need it.
Tip for Fi users in China - You can roam with both China Mobile and China Unicom. China Unicom works better, but China Mobile is usually selected by default. You can manually select China Unicom in your network settings for better performance.
If you have additional questions about using a VPN in China, leave a comment below. Or if you are on Reddit you can ask your question on r/VPNChina.