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How to Safely Watch CNN while Visiting China

Ari Denial
Last Updated by Ari Denial on September 30, 2022

When it comes to websites censored by the Chinese government, there are few bigger targets than CNN.com. The US-based 24-hour-a-day news channel has covered events in China since its inception in the 1980s, providing coverage of some of the nation’s biggest black eyes, notably the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

It is therefore not surprising that the Western news organization’s website has been banned in China; the same holds true of other well-regarded standouts of the industry, including the BBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.

This block applies to anyone currently in China, whether you’re a citizen, a tourist, or a visiting businessperson. The only sustainable way to access CNN if you are visiting China — for work or vacation — is to use a virtual private network (VPN). 

Non-government-approved VPNs are illegal in China, but there have been no public cases of tourists being penalized by the Chinese government. My team and I don’t condone illegal behavior and the protection of a VPN does not give you  license to commit illegal acts. Please exercise a basic level of caution when using a VPN in China.

What is the Process of How a VPN Works?

VPNs are used by most businesses in China that have partners or clients located outside of the country’s borders. VPNs allow computers in China to safely access the Internet by connecting their users to a remote server located outside of China. This practice is generally known as using a proxy server, but VPNs take it one step further by creating an encrypted “tunnel”  between your Internet-capable device and the remote server.

Any information sent through this tunnel is hidden from any third parties, such as your Chinese Internet Service Provider (ISP). Once your connected to a remote server, you can begin making request of sites you want to view. Your requests are encrypted, sent to the remote server, and decrypted there. The remote server then sends your requests to the Internet under a new IP address from the country it’s located in.

The data packets sent from the website travel first to the remote server, where they are encrypted and sent to your location. The better quality VPNs carry extra security features to enhance your privacy, such as kill switches that will sever your Internet connection should the VPN fail.

How Do I Use a VPN to Access CNN in China?

  1. Research and choose a VPN client by researching them online and determining which makes the most sense for your particular needs.
  2. Download the VPN client of your choice. If you are traveling to China, it is wise to do this before entering the country, as many VPN apps and sites are blocked by the government’s censorship.
  3. Install the VPN and open a new connection. Select a remote server outside of China in a country that does not have similar censorship laws concerning CNN.
  4. Once the connection is made, begin browsing CNN and any other websites you wish, safe in the knowledge that your connection is private and secure.

What are the Best VPNs for Accessing CNN in China?

There are lots of great VPNs out there, but not all of them are successful when it comes to safely accessing the free internet in China. The following two are examples of those that are proven to work. 

1Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN gets a bad rap for being located in the United States, but its security is impossible to beat. It features a kill switch, DNS leak protection, SOCKS5 compatibility, and some of the highest-level encryption in the industry. Factor in its server count – more than 3,000 at last check, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

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2IPVanish VPN

IPVanish VPN

IPVanish VPN is legendary for its encryption, which is the same used by the US government, and lauded for its merits by privacy experts around the globe. Like Private Internet Access, it’s located in the US, but that doesn’t stop it from offering more than 1,000 servers in some 60 countries. Even better, all IPVanish packages come with unlimited bandwidth as well as unlimited peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic.

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