These Quick Steps Can Get You on Instagram in China

Last Updated by Gray Williams on October 24, 2018

InstagramWhen it comes to strict rules and regulations, Instagram is about as far from the center as can be. The social network service lets users share videos and photos as well as messaging one another and telling “stories” with a combination of photos and videos that are available for 24 hours at a time.

Instagram topped 1 million registered users within its first two months of operation, hit 10 million its first year, and has since exceeded 800 million. It’s a platform based on freedom of information, which has it on China’s list of websites that don’t play well with Chinese doctrine.

Why China Banned Instagram

Instagram was available in China from the time it opened its digital doors until the fall and winter of 2014. It drew unwanted attention from the Chinese government thanks to the Umbrella Movement, a series of street protests in Hong Kong enacted to protest new reforms for the Hong Kong electoral system that made it very restrictive.
China
With students at the forefront of the protests, it comes as no surprise that social media became their main form of communication in rally point. Videos of protests and police clashing violently were taken and shared via Instagram and Facebook, fomenting more and more students to actively join the movement.

Within two days times, the Chinese government was blocking any Internet message post with words such as “umbrella”, “Hong Kong”, “barricades” or “Occupy Central” in them. Portions of the Chinese BBC were blocked for showing videos, and when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram did likewise, they are blocked as well, as early as 28 September 2014.

Since then, attempting to access Instagram in Hong Kong or mainland China results in getting an error message. All Instagram related apps have been removed from China’s App Store as well.

The Chinese government controls all Internet access in-country using the so-called Great Firewall of China, the country’s home-grown censorship project that can also be used to disrupt foreign websites.

The VPN Solution

Since you can’t use a computer inside of China to visit Instagram, the only solution is to make the Chinese stronghold believe that you aren’t in China while browsing. This might sound like James Bond / Mission Impossible level technology, but it’s actually quite simple to grasp and put into practice if you follow these steps in order and completely.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to surf the Internet through an encrypted connection. This means that while your Internet Provider (IP) can see that you’re on the Internet, it cannot see what you’re actually doing there.

This takes VPNs a cut above a traditional proxy, which you could connect your computer to and then use a third-party function to surf the Internet. Proxies don’t have any encryption features, meaning anyone with half a brain can see what you are sending and receiving on your Internet connection. VPNs differ due to the fat that they use encryption to move data and requests from one place to another.

How VPNs Work

Because of China’s strict rules, it’s best to purchase a VPN subscription before entering China. The Chinese have blocked most major VPN sites, so trying to access one and purchase it while in China will likely fail.  If you have one on your machine when you enter China, you won’t have a problem getting it to work.

The first thing to do is to open a new connection on your VPN and select a server that is located outside China or Hong Kong. The closer the server is to your location, the quicker you will be able to access the Internet due to a condition known as latency. Latency is the physical distance a signal has to travel from your computer to the server and then to the Internet site itself. The closer you are to the server you’re using, the quicker your connection will be.

The VPN will encrypt your requests at your end, such as viewing instagram.com, and send that request to the server located outside China in a secure “tunnel”. The server decrypts your request, gives you a new IP address commiserate with one in its country, and sends your request to the Internet. The reverse happens when you access and download information. It is encrypted by the remote server and decrypted by your machine.

A great choice to keep your security paramount is to use:

1Private VPN


PrivateVPN, which has strict no-logs policy, 2,048-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch.

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2ExpressVPN

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If speed is your No. 1 priority, then ExpressVPN is a top choice. It routinely has the best server speeds and offers unlimited bandwidth and server switches.

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3NordVPN

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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.