Whether you’re new to the world of VPNs or are looking to switch providers, there’s no doubt that you’ll be looking for the best VPN on the market. However, what makes a VPN perfect for you depends on how you plan to use it and what factors you consider the most important, be they cost, privacy, or the ability to unblock geo-specific content.
If, however, you’re planning to visit China—infamous for its strict internet restrictions and surveillance protocols—then you’ll need a China VPN to bypass The Great Firewall whilst ensuring your data and online activity is safe from government and corporate snoops. In this guide, we’ll run through some of the top uses for VPNs in China, which should help you know what to prioritize when finding the provider to best suit your needs.
And, before we start, it’s worth noting that you’ll want to set yourself up with a VPN before you enter China – thanks to government regulations, it’s just about impossible to download a VPN in China without using a VPN… Counterintuitive, we know, but seeing as they have been all but eradicated from app stores and the sites are blocked, you should invest and install before you step onto the plane.
All over the world, countries and their governments like to keep tabs on what their civilians and visitors are doing online, but few countries take this as far as China. In the same way you wouldn’t want government agents and tech companies peering through your bedroom window, it’s understandable why you’d want to keep your online activity private. The best way to do this is with a VPN, which essentially closes the curtains on your internet activity.
However, China goes to great lengths to block the use of VPNs in the country. As a result, no VPN can guarantee that its service will work 100% of the time on Chinese territory, but many providers are constantly looking to improve the reliability of their services in the country.
As the use of VPNs is becoming more common around the world, one of the most popular reasons why people get one is to unblock content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ (to name a few).
Considering Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are both banned in China (and Disney+ simply isn’t available), if streaming content is something you plan on doing in China, then you’re definitely going to want a streaming VPN that can get around The Great Firewall. What’s more, you’ll be able to access geo-specific content, so if you’ve already watched everything you want on Netflix, you might find other films and series on US or UK Netflix that will tickle your fancy.
The Chinese government isn’t the only one that wants to track your online activity. In fact, almost every website or internet service you’ve ever heard of is likely to be profiting from the data it has on you. This includes Google, Amazon, and Facebook—some of the worst offenders—and their Chinese counterparts, Baido, Alibaba, and Tencent (which has very close ties to the Chinese government).
Put simply, there’s only one way to ensure your internet activity is kept hidden from the prying eyes of these tech giants—regardless of whether you’re in China or elsewhere—and that is by using the most private VPN.
Access restricted websites
Netflix and Amazon aren’t the only sites to be blocked in mainland China. In fact, most of the sites you’ll be used to using are restricted, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, BBC, and The New York Times.
The list goes on (and on, and on), which begs the question: “What else is there to even do on the internet?!” Well, as previously mentioned, China has many of its own versions of these sites, but if you want to carry on as normal then using a VPN is the way to go.
Which VPN do we recommend for unblocking sites in China?
Our top pick for users who want to unblock the web in China is ExpressVPN (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab), so it's even better value.