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How to use WhatsApp in China using a VPN

whatsapp china vpn
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you've been to China in the last few years or are planning a trip, you've probably experienced or heard about the WhatsApp ban - and how annoying it is if you haven't got a VPN set up on your mobile.

Expanding your smartphone’s native calling and texting capabilities, which are pretty basic in the end, is the popular messaging app WhatsApp. Owned by parent company, Facebook, WhatsApp is an app on an epic scale with an estimated 1.5 billion users. And yet using WhatsApp in China is far from straightforward.

There’s a lot to like with WhatsApp beyond the gargantuan user base which gives an excellent chance that your friends and family are already using it (a persistent issue with new messaging apps looking to gain traction). WhatsApp also features cross platform support with apps for smartphones from Apple, Android, and Windows Mobile, and desktop apps for both the Mac and Windows platforms. Also included are messages with end-to-end encryption, video calls, and no cost, internet based international calling. This makes this app especially useful for international travel as you can keep in touch while avoiding costly international roaming, and SMS fees while abroad.

The challenge comes up in that the WhatsApp end-to-end encryption works a little too effectively, making governments of some of the more restrictive regimes in Asia and the Middle East nervous about their citizen’s rights to privacy. China is a prime example of a state that blocks WhatsApp from being used.

WhatsApp blocked in China? What can you do?

The workaround is to use a VPN to circumvent these restrictions for those traveling to these countries and wanting to use WhatsApp. A VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, connects your device directly to a server in a remote location (i.e. one not in China) so your phone effectively thinks that it's in another country.

When choosing a VPN, two things to look for include a service that has servers in many locations, specifically in different countries, and also has support for all the different devices that you use. This should include not only your desktop with support for Windows and Mac, but also the mobile platforms for your tablet and smartphone, so this should include both iOS, and Android.

TechRadar's top rated pick, ExpressVPN, checks all the right boxes with 160 servers locations spread out across 94 countries to get you anywhere you want to virtually be. It also supports every platform with software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, along with more niche applications like Chromebooks, Nook, Kindle Fire, Playstation, AppleTV and even more.  

The best VPN in the world right now is ExpressVPN. Of the hundreds of VPNs that we have reviewed, ExpressVPN tops the lot. Its pure speed and watertight strength are a great start, and then there's the sheer amount of global servers it has and adaptability to tonnes of devices and streaming boxes.

It also comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and if you use the following link, you can claim 3 months FREE with an annual plan.

How do I use WhatsApp in China with a VPN?

Some years back, setting up a VPN was a bit of a chore, but thankfully today it is really quick and simple. Just download the software, create the account, and choose the country that you want to connect to.

Therefore, if you are in China and blocked, you simply choose a location not in China that won’t restrict the WhatsApp app. In the screenshot below, we chose a server in Switzerland.

(Image credit: Future)

Wondering where you are really connected to? ExpressVPN has got you covered. Just go to the app, and click on the bottom where we indicated with a green arrow to “Check my IP.” 

(Image credit: Future)

This then opens up the Express VPN “IP Address Checker” which indicates the address that your device is displaying to the rest of the internet. It also gives a country location, and the pin on the map on the right shows us the physical location. From this webpage you can also access other relevant ExpressVPN tools that include the DNS Leak Test, and a WebRTC Leak Test. 

With the VPN tunnel established and confirmed, then the rest is really simple. Just fire up WhatsApp and now it can be used from within China to communicate beyond their ‘Great Firewall.’ It really is that simple!

Messages sent are doubly protected as not only does WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption, but also ExpressVPN has 256-bit encryption as well, which meets the requirements for governmental Top Secret communication status. 

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