What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It's a secure encrypted connection between your computer and a computer server overseas. All of your internet traffic is routed through this VPN server. To the websites you visit it looks like you are located in the country of the VPN server. To the government censors in China they can only see that you are connected to a VPN, they can't tell what websites you are visiting or what files you are downloading (unless they can crack the encryption). This allows you to access blocked websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc from China. Think of this real world example. Lets say you want to buy a product that is not available in the China market so you ask your friend overseas to buy it on your behalf and send it to you. In the case of a VPN you want to access a website or server that is blocked in China so you ask the VPN to connect to the server on your behalf and send the information to you. VPN is your friend - your good friend.
Is it illegal to Use a VPN in China to access blocked websites?
No, not at all. Although it is illegal to operate a VPN business in China, there is no law against individuals using an overseas 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. If you are using a VPN to watch YouTube or Netflix or use Facebook then you have nothing to worry about, you are not doing anything illegal. While using a VPN is legal it's also legal for the government to block VPN traffic when and as they feel necessary and they do this often.
In Janurary, 2017 the government has announced a crackdown against Chinese Telecom companies offering unlicensed VPN services. It has nothing to do with using a personal VPN service that operates outside of China, which is still not illegal. This announcement has been widely misinterpreted by the mainstream media and there are many misleading headlines declaring that VPNs are now illegal in China.
If VPNs are not illegal why does the government block them?
China could very easily completely block all VPN traffic if they 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 their own 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 to access blocked websites 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 but they will never completely block VPNs.
You will notice that during these times of political meetings or events that the companies which have Chinese language websites and market their products to Chinese people will be hit the hardest by the blocking. The VPN providers that don't target Chinese customers are left alone to a certain extent. It's not a matter of the VPN companies outsmarting the government censors but rather the government censors carefully controlling the level of blocking. They could completely block any single VPN provider tomorrow if they wanted to. They have multiple accounts with all providers and they know about the alternate China accessible web sites too. They usually just block the main sites and then don't bother blocking the alternate sites. It's all very carefully controlled. You will notice that the more expensive providers such as ExpressVPN whose customer base includes a higher proportion of foreign business people don't even have their main website blocked. Astrill on the other hand who markets their service to the Chinese masses including Chinese language support and selling their subscriptions on Taobao is not tolerated as much. The free services are tolerated even less. Are you starting to understand how it works now?
Are you worried that this website will get blocked?
No, not at all. The word VPN or the names of the VPN services are not blocked keywords. You can even do a search for the word VPN on Baidu and you will see that it's not a blocked topic at all.
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 with a VPN or DNS. Check the best VPN for American Netflix page for more details on which VPNs are still working for Netflix (US, Canada, UK, and other regions are currently working). That page is dedicated to an international audience and not all of those VPNs work well in China. For Netflix in China, I can only recommend ExpressVPN and VyprVPN. ExpressVPN also has a DNS service that will allow you to watch US Netflix in China without a VPN. This is very convenient for devices such as Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, etc if you don't want to run a VPN on your router. For example, check my tutorial video on how to use ExpressVPN DNS for American Netflix on PS4. I made that video from China.
I'm using Astrill but it doesn't work on iOS. What can I do?
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. VPN.ac doesn't have a native app but their VPN works with the iOS Openconnect app or PPTP/L2TP, follow these instructions.
Due to limitations in iOS third party custom VPN protocols are not supported. That means you can't use Astrill StealthVPN or VyprVPN Chameleon 256. Only PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and Cisco IPSec will work on iOS. 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.
How can I share my VPN connection with more devices if my VPN only allows 1 simultaneous connection?
Use a VPN router or follow my instructions on how to turn your computer into a Virtual VPN Router by sharing your WIFI connection through the VPN connected on your computer using free software.
VPN.ac doesn't have an iOS App. How can I use VPNAC on my iPhone or iPad?
It's not difficult to set up VPN.ac on iOS for PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN. There is no fancy app but the VPN does work. I recommend that you set up all 3 protocols PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN but in my testing L2TP was performing the best. Follow the instructions in my tutorial here to set up VPN.ac on your iPhone or iPad. My instructions for OpenVPN are much better than the instructions on the VPN.ac website.
Which VPN is the best one to use in China?
If you don't understand what a VPN is or how to use one then ExpressVPN is the best choice. Everything is very easy to install and setup. If you are an advanced user then you can also consider VPN.ac and StrongVPN as top choices for less cost. You can always find up to date information on the Best VPN for China page.
What are the best discount offers available from this website?
The best discounts available here are the VPN.ac 25% recurring discount, 15% off 1 year StrongVPN, and 40% off 1 Year VyprVPN Pro (VyprVPN is not recommended for China Telecom connections but works good with China Unicom).
Can I pay for a VPN with a Chinese bank card / Union Pay / Alipay?
Astrill - Yes
ExpressVPN - Yes
VyprVPN - Not directly but maybe through Paypal
StrongVPN - Not directly but maybe through Paypal
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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