How to Use Facebook in China

Last Updated by Gray Williams on November 11, 2019

If you’ve tried to log onto Facebook from inside China’s borders anytime in the past decade, bad news: It’s going to be a long wait.

In 2009, China pulled the plug on the social media giant and has never restored access. The reason? China’s communist government considers some websites to contain material that would be detrimental to its political stability. Thus, news-based websites like Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, The New York Times, the BBC, and the Wall Street Journal, cannot be reached by conventional methods inside China.

How Does China Block Websites?

If you live in the US, UK or EU, seeing websites getting blocked usually means there’s a security problem with the site. Moreover, individual governments in the West aren’t controlling what individuals in those countries can search for.

But the Internet companies that service China are all owned by the government. That means the government can use Internet Service Providers to its own will at any time and for any reason.

The Chinese government calls this scheme the Golden Shield Project, but it’s more commonly referred to as the Great Firewall of China.

A combination of blocking access to websites, keyword filtering, and bandwidth slowdowns serve to throttle potential Internet misuse by citizens. So how do you use Facebook if you’re an American living, working, or traveling to China? There are only three methods that work with any great consistency while affording the user a modicum of protection for the Chinese government.

Proxy websites

A proxy is a website, usually based in a different country than its users, that lets you access other sites. Some are free while others have a monthly subscription rate. Proxies are considered older technology at this point in time because they don’t offer much in the way of security or privacy. Yes, you’re accessing the Internet through another website in a different country, but there’s no real attempt to cover your trail. Moreover, many proxies are simply fronts for cybercriminals to steal your personal data or for companies to sell your contact information to advertisers. If you have limited funds or are simply desperate to get online, a free proxy might be worth a try, but generally speaking there are much better avenues to accessing Facebook in China.

TOR

TOR is the result of what a lot of amazing people can do when they work in collaboration with one another. TOR is a free, distributed network that was built as freeware. TOR allows you to gain access to the Internet and remain almost completely undetectable by using an enormous amount of relays to bounce your Internet requests and downloads all over the world. You can envision this process the way you would see yourself in a House of Mirrors. Lots of different copies of your reflection exist, but only one is the real you, the rest are merely bouncing your image along a path over and over.

Your No. 1 priority to use TOR successfully in China is to download the app before you enter its borders, as it’s one of many websites that are blocked from the get-go by the government. Alternatively, you can download TOR’s browser bundle and house it on a flash drive to install on your computer after entering China. The downside of TOR is that all those network relays can make for very slow load times.

VPN

The third option for getting on Facebook in China is the use of a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs come in both free and subscription formats and the logical step forward from proxies. VPNs have servers in different countries that can be reached by establishing a network between your computer and that server. The network encrypts the data your are sending to the Internet such as page requests or uploads. This means your data is traveling to the server in a sort of “tunnel” that no outside party can see. Once your information reaches the remote server, it is decoded and sent on to the the Internet under a false IP address, usually one from the country the server is located in. Since Facebook isn’t blocked in that country, you can see everything fine. The data sent back from the Internet is intercepted by your VPN software and re-encrypted before being sent on to you.

Three VPNs that stand out from the pack in getting you access to Facebook in China include:

1PrivateVPN

Has 2048-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to keep prying eyes from seeing what you’re up to.

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2ExpressVPN

Blazingly fast speeds and more than 1,500 servers to pick from, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means if you are in China for a short period of time you can use the 30 days, cancel, and never spent a dime.

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3NordVPN

The industry juggernaut, it has more than 2,600 servers to choose from and the best customer service of any VPN country in the world.

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Gray Williams
Gray Williams is an experienced data and communications engineer and cross-platform copy and content writer and editor with a keen interest in cybersecurity. He has been working with and researching, VPNs and other online privacy tools for many years.