Best VPNs in China in 2020 — Only 3 Work Well! (Tested Daily)

Last Updated by Kate Hawkins on February 10, 2020
Your VPN may no longer work in China! Nowadays, it’s no longer as simple as downloading a VPN outside of China and using it when you get there. Due to the government’s tightening restrictions, even some of the best VPNs (like NordVPN) are failing to bypass the country’s firewalls.

If you want to access your favorite sites from China, you need to get a VPN that has actually been proven to work in the country.

Many review sites don’t bother testing VPNs in China — but I did. By working with VPN testers based in China, I was able to find out if the internet’s most recommended VPNs actually worked there — and the results are surprising.

Many of the recommended VPNs for China are actually blocked. Due to this, I had to remove quite a few top VPNs from this list.

To save you time and money trying out VPNs that don’t work, I’ve shortlisted the only 3 tried-and-tested VPNs that can bypass China’s firewalls. With advanced security protocols, they’ll also keep your online activities private and ensure your data is safe from China’s surveillance.

Try AstrillVPN for China now

Quick Guide: Best VPNs That Still Work in China in 2020

  1. Astrill VPN — The #1 VPN for China that works consistently to bypass restrictions and has fast speeds.
  2. ExpressVPN — Works in China and has a 30-day money-back guarantee, but only limited servers work.
  3. PrivateVPN — Can access popular blocked sites, but streaming quality is inconsistent.

What to Look for When Choosing Your VPN for China

If you arrive in China with a VPN that doesn’t work, there’s not much you can do to access blocked sites. So choose your VPN carefully. Here’s what you should look for when deciding which VPN to use in China:

  • Ability to bypass China’s aggressive censorship: Is the VPN robust enough to break through “The Great Firewall of China” and freely allow internet access?
  • Servers close to China: Does the VPN have servers located close by, or in neighboring countries like Japan and Taiwan?
  • Fast speeds: Is the VPN fast enough for smooth internet browsing and buffer-free streaming?
  • Kill switch: Does the VPN have a kill switch if server connection drops? Is the set-up manual or automatic?
  • Multi-platform/device capability: Does the VPN have apps that support a range of platforms so all devices are protected?
  • Simultaneous connections: How many devices can use the VPN service at the same time? Is it enough for you?
  • Short-term subscription options: Does the VPN offer a short-term subscription for users traveling in China for a week or two?

Tip: Remember to download your VPN before entering China. You won’t be able to get VPNs or set them up from within China as they’re restricted.

Download AstrillVPN for China now

The 3 VPNs That Still Work in China — Don’t Waste Time With Others

1. Astrill VPN — #1 VPN for China: Works Consistently with Fast Speeds

screenshot of Astrill VPN UI on different devices

Pros

  • All tested servers worked to access blocked content
  • Servers located in Taiwan and Hong Kong for fastest possible speeds
  • Automatic kill switch keeps your data secure even during connection drops
  • Smart Mode split-tunneling keeps speeds high while bypassing geo-restrictions
  • Supports up to 5 device connections simultaneously

Cons

  • No free trial available in China (and not straightforward to get from other countries)
  • No-refund policy or money-back guarantees
  • Keeps temporary connection logs so some of your data is stored

Astrill is the best VPN for bypassing China’s “Great Firewall”. All the Astrill VPN servers I tested connected successfully and I was able to access Facebook, Google, Youtube, and Netflix without issues.

screenshot of vpn tester streaming netflix in china with astrill vpn
Watching The Office (U.S.) on Netflix in China with Astrill VPN

Astrill VPN’s Smart Mode feature allowed me to bypass the firewalls to unblock global content, and it did so without any DNS leaks. Smart Mode also uses regional IP addresses which are supposed to improve connection speeds for faster browsing and streaming. I found this to be true as my download speeds were faster with the VPN connected. I was even able to stream Netflix with minimal lags.

You can use Astrill with several different VPN protocols, but the only protocol that works in China is Stealth Mode. It gives you unrestricted access to the internet and is built to keep you under the radar of the Great Firewall so that it can’t detect you using a VPN. Military-grade encryption and an automatic kill switch also ensure your browsing data stays secure.

The slight downside to Astrill is that it has a higher monthly premium than other VPN services — and it has a strict no-refund policy. So if you find that it isn’t working to your expectations, there’s not much you can do about it.

screenshot of conversation with Astrill VPN support team where 7-day free trial is not given even if user is based in europe
I didn’t manage to get the standard free trial from Europe

Astrill VPN claims to offer a 7-day free trial to users based outside of China. I wanted to see if this free trial could be used for short stays in the country so you don’t have to pay for a full month’s subscription.

However, when I tried signing up from Europe, I didn’t manage to get a free trial. Customer support said the only thing that they could do was to give me a 2-day trial — which is still something, but not amazing.

If you want to use Astrill VPN in China, even if it’s just for a short period of time, you’ll have to pay. But given how well Astrill VPN has performed in these tests, I would say it’s worth it. You can see the full lab test results below (spoiler: Astrill VPN was the only VPN to pass all tests).

  • Astrill works on: Android, Windows, iOS, macOS, Linux, and routers.
  • Astrill unblocks: Google, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Hulu, Netflix, Skype, Wikipedia, WhatsApp, and more.

Get internet freedom with Astrill

2. ExpressVPN — Works in China + Offers 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

ExpressVPN

Pros

  • Access to all restricted websites
  • US and Japan servers could bypass restrictions
  • Strong security including a kill switch helps you avoid detection
  • Connects with up to 5 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee lets you use the VPN for free for a month

Cons

  • Limited servers that work to unblock sites
  • Experienced lags with streaming
  • Speeds were inconsistent

ExpressVPN remains one of the top VPNs for China. Using AES-256-bit encryption, ExpressVPN creates a secure tunnel between your device and the internet , breaking through censorship technology. I could access blocked sites like Netflix and Youtube easily without compromising on security.

The automatic kill switch feature protects your data if the connection to the server drops. This ensures your traffic is never unencrypted — keeping you safe from prying eyes at all times. You can also use ExpressVPN on 5 devices at the same time so you’re always protected.

screenshot of youtube video streaming with expressvpn in china
No lags when streaming Youtube videos from China with ExpressVPN (LA server)

A slight downside to ExpressVPN in China is that not all its servers work at unblocking sites, so you’ll have to find the ones that do (the Los Angeles and Japan servers worked for me when I tested them). The speeds you get may also vary depending on your actual location and your internet provider. I did find that on some days streaming videos could be really laggy, but on other days it would be fine. The full test results below show you exactly which ExpressVPN servers I found to work in China.

A big bonus with ExpressVPN is that you can try it out for free by using the 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re going to China for less than a month, you could actually use this premium VPN at zero cost. Just make sure you download and install it before you get to China, as you won’t be able to download it while you’re there.

  • ExpressVPN works on: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox.
  • ExpressVPN unblocks: Google, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Hulu, Netflix, Wikipedia, WhatsApp, Skype, and more.

Get internet freedom with ExpressVPN

3. PrivateVPN — Security-Focused VPN Keeps Your Data Safe in China

Pros

  • Kill switch keeps your traffic encrypted even when your connection drops
  • Strict no-logs policy protects your personal data
  • Supports 6 device connections at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Struggles to access Netflix content
  • Limited number of servers left me with less options to connect to
  • Not many servers worked

PrivateVPN has all the essential features to ensure your online privacy in China. With 256-bit encryption, a zero-logs policy, and an automatic kill switch, your online activities will be kept safe.

screenshot of instagram working in china with privatevpn
Browsing blocked sites (like Instagram) in China was easy with PrivateVPN

I did experience more lags and buffering when trying to stream Youtube and Netflix, but the quality really varies from day to day. If you’re looking for a VPN mainly for streaming in China, you should try Astrill VPN instead. Astrill’s speeds are consistently fast so you’ll have the best chances of getting good streaming quality.

PrivateVPN supports up to 6 connections at the same time, each with a unique IP address for added security. It also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try the VPN service out at no risk — perfect if you’re traveling to China for a short stay.

  • PrivateVPN works on: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux.
  • PrivateVPN unblocks: Google, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Wikipedia, and more.

Stay safe in China with PrivateVPN

Full Test Results: Working VPN Servers in China 2020

For each VPN, I tested 8 servers to see which of those servers could successfully unblock popular sites. Astrill VPN was the only one that could remain undetected and bypass all restrictions with ease. Both ExpressVPN and PrivateVPN struggled, and I only found 2 servers that worked.

I’m still testing these VPNs on a daily basis and update these test results every time there is a change (I tend to find one every two weeks or so, though it really depends).

AstrillVPN — 8/8 working servers

USA for China servers 1 + 4 UK London + Manchester servers Canada server Australia server Hong Kong server Taiwan server
Facebook    
Netflix
Youtube
Google
Wikipedia
Google Maps
Instagram
Pinterest
BBC News
Wall Street Journal

Get AstrillVPN for China now

ExpressVPN — 2/8 working servers

Los Angeles server Japan server
Facebook
Netflix
Youtube
Google
Wikipedia
Google Maps
Instagram
Pinterest
BBC News
Wall Street Journal

Try ExpressVPN for free now

PrivateVPN — 2/8 working servers

Toronto, Canada server Hong Kong server
Facebook
Netflix X
Streaming error presented
Youtube X
But video lagged
Google
Wikipedia
Google Maps X
Could connect but failed to load directions
Instagram
Pinterest
BBC News
Wall Street Journal

Try PrivateVPN for free now

Got a VPN but It’s Still Not Working? Try This

These servers were recommended by ExpressVPN for the most reliable connection

Even the best VPNs can have trouble with China’s internet restrictions, particularly during a government crackdown. If you’ve got a VPN but still can’t connect to blocked sites, here are a few things you can try:

  • Change the server connection — You should be able to find a server list in your VPN interface and choose an alternative to connect to.
  • Change the VPN protocol — In your VPN settings, you should find a section for “Protocol” and be able to choose a different one for your connection.
  • Port forward to port 433 — Port 433 is most often used for encrypted communication, so this could get you connected again.
  • Before you travel to China, check your VPNs support articles — They will tell you how to access port forwarding and give you specific instructions on how to set up port 433.
Tip: Get in touch with customer support for recommended server locations before going to China — if your VPN doesn’t work in China, you won’t be able to contact customer service while you’re there.

Popular VPNs that Don’t Work in China

During my tests, I found that popular VPN services like NordVPN , Surfshark , CyberGhost, VyprVPN, TunnelBear, and Windscribe couldn’t bypass China’s “Great Firewall”. China’s geo-blocking technology is constantly improving, and not even the best VPNs always stay ahead of the restrictions.

The 3 VPNs I’ve recommended have the highest probability of working reliably and consistently in China. Not only do they get around any geo-blocks, but they also have fast enough speeds so that you don’t waste time waiting for webpages to load. There may be times when even these VPNs can’t connect, but they quickly combat geo-restrictions with new servers for you to use.

Try ExpressVPN for free now

Using a Free VPN in China Puts You at Risk

There are some good free VPNs available, but you always have to compromise when you use a free service. Sometimes it’s a small inconvenience, like limited data usage or slower speeds. Sometimes it’s more significant security and privacy risks.

Some free VPNs work in China, but they won’t keep you safe like a premium VPN. Free VPNs generate revenue by showing you ads and have been known to sell information to third parties. This compromises your data security and location information. In China, the consequences of this can be serious. You could even face prosecution or jail time for accessing “illegal” sites.

Free is always tempting, but when it comes to your data security in China, I wouldn’t take the risk with a free VPN.

Get AstrillVPN to stay secure in China

FAQs on VPNs in China

What is “The Great Firewall of China”?

The “Great Firewall” is the nickname for a group of laws, regulations, and technology used by the Chinese government to regulate internet usage in China. These regulations block users in China from accessing certain external sites and applications, like YouTube, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Even for foreign websites that aren’t blocked, internet speeds can be significantly throttled.

Why use a VPN in China?

China’s government-regulated internet monitoring is intrusive and is often heavily censored. A VPN protects your data from prying eyes, and you can freely browse the web, stream Netflix, or use social media without any restrictions.

Are VPNs legal in China?

Technically, no. On February 1st 2018, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) made it illegal to use a VPN in China.

However, government-approved VPNs are allowed as these are closely monitored and provide the Chinese government with backdoor access to logged information. Use of non-approved VPNs can result in a fine. In my research, fines seem to be more for Chinese nationals rather than foreigners. Almost all tourists to China arrive with a VPN and there was no record of any claims by the government against tourists.

Which sites and apps are blocked in China?

Many social media and foreign news sites and apps are blocked in China. Here are some of the most popular sites/apps that cannot be accessed without a VPN (these are just a handful):

Youtube Facebook Twitter Instagram Whatsapp Skype
Pinterest Google Google Drive Google Maps Google Hangouts Twitch
Spotify The New York Times The Washington Post WordPress Medium Snapchat

Do VPNs work 100% in China?

Even the best VPNs are not 100% guaranteed to work in China. Government clampdowns on VPNs have intensified in recent years. Services like Astrill VPN and ExpressVPN are usually able to provide a solution quickly after servers are blocked, limiting time spent without reliable connections. If you’re willing to spend a little for more reliability, go with a premium VPN provider.

Can I download VPNs while already in China?

Only government-approved VPNs can be downloaded from within China. Chinese VPNs downloaded from the Apple App Store are heavily monitored and won’t give you the security you need.

I recommend downloading and installing your VPN before you get to China. This way, you don’t have to compromise your privacy by using a government-approved VPN.

Can I Watch Netflix in China?

Yes, Netflix is accessible from China — if you use a premium VPN like Astrill VPN or ExpressVPN. Just launch your VPN, choose a server located outside of China (use US servers to get access to the whole Netflix library!) and log in to your Netflix account.

Stream Netflix in China with Astrill VPN

Which free VPNs work in China?

I’ve found that free VPNs that work reliably in China are rare. Most of them are not equipped with the technology to bypass China’s strict censorship.

The popular free VPNs I tested had connection issues, which means your traffic may be left unprotected while using the VPN. They also couldn’t bypass restrictions consistently for me to access blocked sites. Speeds also tended to be too slow to stream any videos, and you’ll have loading times on normal webpages.

For that reason, I recommend using a premium VPN to ensure you can get past internet restrictions and browse freely.

Do I need a VPN in Hong Kong and Taiwan?

You should definitely use a VPN in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. China still controls Taiwan, but internet censorship is far less intense. Popular sites can be accessed without a VPN, but for data security, it’s in your best interest to use one. In Hong Kong, internet regulations are much freer, but after the 2019 protests there is a chance that internet freedom could be restricted in the future. Using a VPN keeps your internet unrestricted.

Top Tip: It’s always worth having a backup VPN in case one doesn’t work. If you’re traveling for a short time, you can use the money-back guarantees many premium VPNs offer to have a back-up VPN. That way, you’re sure to have premium protection and internet freedom.

A VPN in China Keeps You Safe

In a strict surveillance country like China, you’ll want a reliable VPN that has been proven to work.

Don’t risk your data privacy and security with free VPNs. Astrill VPN can ensure your security, unblock global sites, and has fast speeds for streaming. If you’re only in China for a short stay, ExpressVPN has military-grade encryption and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can use this premium VPN for free.

Try ExpressVPN for free now

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Kate Hawkins
Kate Hawkins is a tech-focused writer and web expert with a keen interest in online security and privacy. She enjoys getting stuck into new technology and researching the latest cybersecurity trends to keep readers informed and safe online.