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The best VPN for China 2020

best China VPN
(Image credit: Future)

It's no surprise that VPN services have become so popular for the residents and tourists of China. The 'Great Firewall of China' continues to block loads of popular websites within its borders. That's why getting the best VPN for China has become invaluable for residents and visitors to obtain access to restricted online content. 

If you've had to travel to China in the last few years - either for work or leisure - you'll be well aware of how tightly restricted the state continues to keeps its internet - and now it's threatening residents of Hong Kong, too. And we're not talking about some obscure sites that you wouldn't use anyway - the country has blocked powerhouses like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Twitter, Netflix and many, many more.

Of course the country isn't happy about the use of VPN software, enacting a ban - although it remains unclear how (or indeed, whether) users will be punished for using an ‘unauthorized’ software. But many VPN providers are continuing to sell to people within China and we’ve picked out five top-notch China VPN offers for your use.

How to choose the best VPN for China

Dealing with this level of censorship of the net is far from easy, but some VPNs are willing to tackle the problem, having proven methods of maintaining uptime in a difficult online climate. Obviously you need to look for a capable provider in this respect and pick from our recommended choices of the best VPN for China.

It really does need to ticks all the right boxes. For starters, high quality customer support is a must with China VPNs - it's not uncommon that you'll need some help on hand to direct you to the best servers to use. So make sure your choice has 24/7 live chat service. Also look out for a large range of available servers (particularly those in Asia), reliably fast connection speeds, and tight security and privacy.

Today's top 3 China VPNs:

1. ExpressVPN is the best VPN for China
ExpressVPN seems to have servers dotted everywhere, making it a fantastic option for avoiding China's heavy-handed web restrictions. Its connection are really fast as well. It's extremely easy to set up and use, has helpful live chat help on hand 24/7 if required and - simply put - is our favorite VPN of them all.
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2. NordVPN - a global VPN powerhouse
When it comes to advertising and server coverage, NordVPN leaves most of the competition in its wake. You've probably seen it singing about its high-quality service on TV, podcasts and YouTube, and it has put together a network of over 5,000 servers. Luckily, it has the goods to back that all up, too.
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3. Surfshark - a more affordable option
Don't like the idea of shelling out too much on your new China VPN? Then you'll welcome Surfshark's inclusion in our countdown - it really undercuts the rest thanks to pricing as low as $2.50 USD per month. But that doesn't mean you have to compromise on quality, as it's still a service we strongly recommend.View Deal

The 5 best working VPNs for China 2020:

(Image credit: Future)

1. ExpressVPN

Best all-round VPN for China

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160 | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes

Works in China from any device
Wide range of China-optimized servers
An overall superb service
Brilliant live chat support
A bit more expensive than rivals

The best China VPN 2020 - Get 3 months free with an annual plan

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ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in China, and it’s a go-to provider for many because it deftly navigates around the Great Firewall. Express' wide array of server locations is a big plus, with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan-based servers being especially relevant in this case.

ExpressVPN offers consistent and reliable performance, with smart dedicated apps for most devices including routers. For any trouble that might occur, there’s round-the-clock live chat and email support available from China (the website is not blocked).

This provider actively monitors its network for China accessibility and ensures that its software stays ahead of the censors’ efforts to block connections. Under the hood, ExpressVPN uses obfuscation protocols and advanced technology to provide the best possible experience for users in China.

The 30-day money-back guarantee at least gives you some fall-back, and the year-long plan provides the best value for money.

Get the best China VPN 2020: 49% off and 3 months FREE
You probably get the idea by now...if you need a VPN for your time in China, then ExpressVPN is the best option. It gets even more attractive when you consider that 30-day money-back guarantee and the fact that TechRadar readers can get 3 months free and 49% off when you sign up for a great value one year subscription.
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(Image credit: Future)

2. NordVPN

Dedicated to bypassing the Great Firewall

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 5,400+ | Server locations: 55+ | Maximum devices supported: 6 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes

Great choice of server locations
Good performance
Unblocks loads of streaming sites
Not always the best on mobile

NordVPN has dedicated an entire team to the pursuit of getting around website blocking in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and, yes, China. It actively monitors connectivity and then works to carry out any necessary actions to bypass any new blocks.

It's that kind of commitment to bypassing the Great Firewall that makes Nord such an attractive option. It has obfuscated servers in nearby territories such as Japan and Hong Kong, with its Double VPN feature for further anonymity still available in Taiwan. Those local servers should mean more stability and speed when you're logging in from China.

Live chat support has really been improved in recent times - handy if you run in to any problems. And if you're still a bit unsure about whether NordVPN is right for you, there's a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Check out NordVPN's pricing and plans
Generally speaking NordVPN has some pretty great pricing and frequently does special offers, too. Like Express (and loads of other VPNs with free trials), there's a 30-day money back guarantee if you just want to give it a try before you commit to a two or three year subscription.
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Surfshark - China VPN

(Image credit: Future)

3. Surfshark

Simple, affordable and effective

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 1700+ | Server locations: 60+ | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat support: Yes

Works hard at unlocking sites in China
Attractive pricing
So easy to use
Will be too basic for some
Android app could use improvement

Largely thanks to its great value price points and user-friendly interface, British Virgin Islands-based Surfshark has really risen up our rankings of late. And it has certainly improved its Firewall of China fighting credentials, too.

Like any good VPN these days, Surfshark has plenty of servers - over 1,500, in fact - making it a great choice for making a location change to an IP address somewhere else on the world. And if that sounds like something that would be complicated to do, fear not...Surfshark is among the best around for keeping things simple and straightforward, with easy-to-follow buttons ans instructions like its 'Quick connect' function.

If privacy and security while in China are your major concerns, then Surfshark lives up to that requirement, too. It includes OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 security protocols, AES-256 encryption, and a kill switch in place in case your connection fails. There's also a private DNS and a double VPN hop for additional security.

Despite the low pricing, Surfshark makes its service available to unlimited simultaneously connected devices. Very impressive value.

High quality VPN with affordable plans
Surfshark might not quite outrank ExpressVPN on sheer quality, but it's still an excellent service and surprisingly affordable too - click through and you'll see that the starting effective monthly price comes in at around $2.50 USD!
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Hotspot Shield - China VPN

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

4. Hotspot Shield

A huge name in VPN with a decent free option, too

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 1,800+ | Server locations: 80+ | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes

Speedy connections
Nice and easy to use
Cheaper than some
No success on some streaming sites
Some lack of flexibility

In VPN circles, Hotspot Shield is probably best known for its market-leading free version. But it's clearly been putting in the hard yards to improve its premium version, too, and it has managed to get around all the blocking attempts in China.

It may sound like something out of an 80s action film, but Hotspot's 'Catapult Hydra' protocol is one of its MVP features and helps the service perform at an extraordinary speed - even when we tested some of the farthest out server locations. Handy if you're in China but are looking to connect back to the US, UK or pretty much anywhere else it has a server location.

(Image credit: google)

5. VyprVPN

Great balance of speed and security

Works on China: Yes | Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes

Nifty Chameleon security protocol
30-day money guarantee
Unblocks Netflix and more
Speeds aren't as good as others

One of the main advantages of VyprVPN is its proprietary Chameleon security protocol which can help bypass VPN blocking, scrambling OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s safe from the tendrils of deep packet inspection. 

VyprVPN is a tier-1 VPN network, which means the outfit owns all of its servers. There are enough of them to ensure good performance (it has 14 Asia server locations), along with solid support for mobile operating systems, and 24/7 live chat for troubleshooting.

The much-praised Chameleon protocol is excluded from the basic plan, which offers three simultaneous connections. On top of that, it is expensive, and there is no refund, but you do have a 30-day money back guarantee. Despite the cost, what’s on offer here could well be worth paying for – your best bet is the annual Premium plan to make sure you get the benefit from Chameleon, and save the most money.

VPN for China FAQ

What is today's best working China VPN

The excellent ExpressVPN is our #1 choice to use in China. It's reliable, fast, secure and ridiculously easy to set up and operate. Its no logging policy was audited in 2020 by PricewaterhouseCooper, so you can be confident that your identity when surfing the web and streaming in China will be well protected. And no other China VPN matches it for its sheer ability to unlock and get around banned websites and services.

What sites are blocked in China?

The list of sites and services blocked in China is a veritable who's who of all the internet's biggest names. We've mentioned a few above, but here's a more comprehensive (although far from exhaustive) list:

  • BBC
  • CNN
  • Facebook (and Messenger)
  • Gmail
  • Google Apps (e.g. Calendar, Docs, Hangouts, Maps, etc)
  • Hootsuite
  • Instagram
  • OneDrive
  • New York Times
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Reuters
  • Slack
  • Snapchat
  • Spotify
  • Twitch
  • Twitter
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Wikipedia
  • WhatsApp
  • YouTube

And you can check out our dedicated guides on how to use WhatsApp in China and how to unblock YouTube for more information still.

How to unblock Google, YouTube and more in China

Thankfully, it's really straightforward to use a VPN to unblock websites when you're in China.

If possible, we'd suggest that you get your VPN for China chosen, downloaded and installed before you go there. That way you won't run into any difficulties accessing the websites of the providers themselves. Then get the app or client for the platform you'll be using it on - for example, mobile, desktop, TV streaming device, etc.

After that, it really is easy. Get the VPN client/app open, choose a suitable server location (outside China, of course), and then turn the VPN on. You device will then believe it's in the country that you set for the server, and so your chosen service will no longer be blocked. Pretty clever, eh?

Are VPN legal in China?

This isn't straightforwardly answered. The very short answer is: no, VPNs are not illegal in China. And that's because business VPNs are an integral part of doing business online these days and so VPN use can't be flatly prohibited.

That said, China talks a big game in terms of banning the use of VPNs for other uses - and you can bet that unblocking the websites listed above would be included. But there have never been any reports of travellers to China being arrested for VPN use while in the country. So unless the government finds a reason to crack down harder on VPN use, it seems that using them there is relatively risk-free right now.

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