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.
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 along with its ease, also comes the peace of mind that all messages enjoy the benefit of end-to-end encryption.
The challenge comes up in that this 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. So using WhatsApp in China (and now likely Hong Kong, too) is far from straightforward.
The easiest workaround to these blocks is to use a VPN to circumvent these restrictions for those traveling to these countries and needing to use WhatsApp. And don't worry - we explain these steps in full along the article so if you want the detailed explanation just make sure you keep reading to find out how to use WhatsApp in China.
- Check out our pick of the best working VPN for China
Using WhatsApp in China in three easy steps
Thankfully, with a VPN (Virtual Private Network), it's super easy to get access to WhatsApp in China. All you have to do is follow these steps:
2. Change your IP address location to outside of China (preferably to somewhere that doesn't have WhatsApp geo-restricted either).
3. Start using WhatsApp like normal!
If you're a bit rusty on how changing your IP address can let you use WhatsApp in China - well it couldn't be simpler! A VPN works by connecting your device directly to a server in a remote location (i.e. one not in China or Hong Kong) so your device effectively thinks that it's in another country.
Or if you're still getting to grips with the basics make sure you read our How to use WhatsApp guide.
How to select a VPN for WhatsApp in China
When choosing a VPN, two things to look for include a provider that has servers in many locations, specifically in different countries, and also has support for all the different devices that you use.
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.
Plus, 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 to use WhatsApp in China with a VPN
Honestly, it could not be easier - simply 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.
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.”
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.
Is WhatsApp any good?
There's plenty of reasons why it's such a popular app, or why it has such an incredible large user base which probably means 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.
Plus, messages have 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.