In China, the state is very much in control of what content its citizens, and visitors, can access via the internet. Known as the Great Firewall, the Chinese government’s restrictive methods censor and block many foreign websites—but a China VPN can help you get around some of these restrictions.
One of the most significant websites to be banned in China is Google. In this article, we’ll explain how you can use the best VPN service to log on to the world’s most-visited website from one of the most tightly regulated jurisdictions.
Why can’t you access Google in China?
One of the main reasons that Google has been blocked in China is logging. Google collects data from the people who use its service in order to optimize its search results and other personalized offerings.
The trouble is, the Chinese government isn't keen on a major US corporation handling its citizens’ data. As a result, Google is one of the main victims of China’s Great Firewall.
Before banning the service, the Chinese government wanted Google to enable them to filter search results. Google refused the request, and, since 2010, no one in mainland China has been able to access the service. Unless, of course, you use a VPN.
Why do you need a VPN to access Google in China?
Because Google is banned in the country, it’s impossible to access the website using a Chinese server. The only way to access Google from China is by virtually relocating yourself to a country that does allow access to Google.
With a VPN, you can do just that by rerouting your internet traffic to a third-party server, bypassing the restrictions. When the VPN is active, your browsing sessions will appear to take place in another jurisdiction, where you are free to access Google, and you will stay anonymous throughout the process.
How to access Google in China with a VPN
The first step is finding a reliable VPN with the unblocking capabilities you need to access restricted content in China. You’ll need to find a secure, fast, and accessible VPN that you can still use from the country—not all providers can guarantee they work in China, so check if the product has actually been tested in situ and how recently.
One thing you must be aware of is that you might not be able to download and sign up to a VPN service once you are in China. You’ll need to do this before you leave. Find a suitable VPN with the unlocking capabilities you require and get it set up on the devices you need before you fly. We recommend ExpressVPN for this, but a number of other providers can also allow you to access Google behind the Great Firewall.
Once you arrive, internet access is everywhere in China. There are plenty of free Wi-Fi spots that you will be protected whilst browsing on thanks to your VPN; there are also prepaid SIMs available that you can use to access the internet from your phone on the go.
Make sure to have your VPN turned on before you start, and then connect to the internet. Set your location somewhere Google-friendly, like the US or UK, and type the Google URL into your search bar.
It’s that simple—though if you run into issues, most reputable providers include 24/7 support just in case you need to configure your settings manually. If you’ve followed the advice in this article and are using a reliable VPN, you should be able to browse Google with ease.
Which VPN do we recommend for unblocking Google in China?
Our top pick for users who want to unblock Google in China is ExpressVPN. As well as having great firewall-evading power, it also boasts incredibly fast speeds – a feature that you will need if you want to stream content from the internet without interruption – and tons of other features as well.
ExpressVPN is reliable and has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, so there's a good selection to choose from both near and far from China. Plus, the support is second to none, so if you run into any issues you'll have the help necessary to get back up and running.
And now, Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free, so it's even better value.
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Kieron is a freelance science and technology journalist with more than a decade of experience writing for magazines in print and online. Today, his focus is on cybersecurity, blockchain, and emerging tech. He also has a passion for social affairs, arts and culture and travel writing, and recently launched a new publication covering social activism and the volunteering sector.