FAQ about using a VPN in China (2019 update)

Here you will find answers to common questions about using a VPN in China in 2019. Get real answers from a real VPN user in China.

Which VPN service is really the best one to use in China?


It's hard question to answer because the situation in China is always changing, and people have different requirements about price and features.


You can always find the most up to date information on the Best VPN for China page.


The short answer is that ExpressVPN is the best VPN for China. It's the easiest to install and use, and it has consistently outperformed other VPNs since I started this website in 2017. Check the latest performance tests on the 2019 VPN in China blog page to see the actual speed tests results of ExpressVPN compared other recommended VPNs for China, such as VPN.ac and NordVPN.


What are the best discount offers available from this website?


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.


Additional special offers can be found on the VPN discounts and coupon codes page.


Should I buy a VPN and download the apps before I come to China?


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 it's a China related problem or not.


2. Although the alternate websites are usually accessible from China, there is no guarantee that will be the case when you are here. Better to be safe than sorry.


Should I buy more than 1 VPN service?


If you really need fast and reliable internet, then yes, you should. In fact, I regularly use 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.

Is it illegal to Use a VPN in China to access blocked websites?


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 stories 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.


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 Chinese payment processors.


If VPNs are not illegal why does the government block them?


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 and being friendly to foreign investors and companies.


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 a certain amount of VPN traffic to allow foreign invested business and multi-national 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.


A certain amount of commercial VPN traffic is allowed as well, because the government knows that many foreign visitors and investors need full internet access, and blocking VPNs completely would be very bad for the economy and foreign investment. During sensitive political meetings or other sensitive times, VPNs will be partially blocked or speed-throttled, but they are never completely blocked.


Is it possible to watch Netflix in China with a VPN?


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 or Smart DNS service.


Apple has removed all of the VPN apps from the China App Store. How can I download them from China?


It's pretty simple. You just need to create another iTunes account using a USA address. The apps are not blocked from being downloaded in China, only restricted based on the country of your iTunes account.


I'm using Astrill but it doesn't work on iOS. What can I do?


Due to limitations in iOS, third party custom VPN protocols are not supported. That means you can't use Astrill StealthVPN, VyprVPN Chameleon, or other custom protocols. Only L2TP, OpenVPN, and Cisco IPSec will work on iOS. 


The best solution is to not use Astrill.


ExpressVPN has an excellent iOS app that works very well in China and is extremely easy to set-up and supports 3 different protocols. You can use OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), IPSec, and IKEv2 with the ExpressVPN iOS app. This is, by far, the absolute best VPN app for iOS that I have seen anywhere.


If you are using a VPN such as Astrill that doesn't work with these protocols in China, then you can use a VPN router or a virtual VPN router.


Are there any VPN alternatives that work in China to access blocked websites?


Shadowsocks is good alternative to a full 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.


My top recommended paid Shadowsocks service is WannaFlix. They offer many fast servers that work well in China and support Netflix on many of theirs servers as well. WannaFlix is offering a very generous 30% discount for Tips for China readers.


Another VPN alternative is to use data roaming if you have a mobile phone plan from a carrier outside of mainland China. When you use data roaming, your data is sent back to your home country before going out to the internet, so this is another way to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

I have more questions. How can I find answers?


Write your question in the comment box below, and I will try to answer it. Or send me an email if you want to ask me a question privately.


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