We all know about the Great Firewall of China and how difficult it is to access many websites. Obviously, using a VPN can help. But, do all VPNs work reliably in China?
Surfshark works in China and the company has put a lot of effort to make sure it can bypass China’s restrictions. It has servers in countries that are close to its borders which will let you have faster speeds while you’re in China and special Shadowsocks protocol designed to bypass the Great Firewall.
As China keeps cracking down the internet freedoms, it’s more important than ever to have a reliable internet connection that enables citizens and visitors to access forbidden websites, social media, and streaming services while keeping safe from prying eyes.
How to connect to Surfshark in China via OpenVPN Protocol
So, now that we know for certain that Surfshark works in China, we need to know how to connect to it and set it up properly. To be honest, Surfshark isn’t the easiest to configure and you’re probably better off using ExpressVPN as it has a more straightforward way of connecting.
Anyway, here are the steps needed to successfully connect to Surfshark VPN in China on an Android phone using the OpenVPN protocol:
1. Signup or login to get credentials
2. Download configuration files
You will need to configure servers with a configuration file that you can get by contacting Surfshark’s customer support via live chat.
3. Download and Install the OpenVPN app
Download the OpenVPN application and open it. Next, follow the prompts and install the app.
4. Set up the connection
- Open the OpenVPN app
- Upload the configuration file from the FILE tab
- It’s the file that you got from Surfshark’s customer support
- It’s probably in your phone’s Download folder
- Find Surfshark’s configuration file and tap Import
- Name the profile and fill in your Surfshark credentials from step 1
- Connect to the new OpenVPN profile
- When you see popups, tap OK and Continue
How to connect to Surfshark in China via Shadowsocks Protocol
To get an even more secure connection that’s designed especially for the Great Firewall, connect to Shadowsocks on your Android phone or device. Here are the required steps:
1. Get your Shadowsocks credentials
2. Select your location
Go to the Locations tab and copy the server address of your desired country and look up the IPs using the OpenDNS CacheCheck website.
3. Download and Install Shadowsocks app
Download and install the Shadowsocks app from the Play Store. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to the Google Play Store, download the .apk directly and install it.
4. Set up the connection
Setting up Shadowsocks connection
Open the Shadowsocks app and tap the paper with a plus icon. Tap Manual Settings button and paste the server domain into the Server field that you copied from step 2. Paste the Password and Port from step 1.
Select AES-256-GCM for Encrypt Method and Select All under Route to route all the internet traffic from the device through Shadowsocks. Now, save the profile by tapping the checkmark.
Next, select the newly created profile and tap on the paper airplane to permit Shadowsocks connection. Press OK when the popup appears. If Shadowsocks is running, there will be a paper-plane icon on the top bar.
5. Check the connection
After you’ve set up your VPN for the first time, you should check if the connection is successful. You can do it by performing an IP leak test and a DNS leak test both available on the Surfshark website.
What Surfshark features will help you stay undetected in China?
Surfshark offers many benefits to people living in China and those that are visiting. Here are the main features that will help you stay safe there, at least online.
Surfshark’s NoBorders mode is a vital part of fighting through the Great Firewall as it allows you to use Surfshark in China and other restrictive countries and regimes.
If the Surfshark app detects any restrictions on your network, it will turn on the NoBorders mode that will present a list of reliable servers that work best when faced with network restrictions.
It will kick in automatically, but you can also enable it manually.
The Camouflage mode is basically obfuscation that makes your internet connection via VPN look just like a regular connection to prying eyes. The mode removes all traces of VPN usage in your connection.
It is especially useful in China that’s actively blocking VPN ports. This way, no one, including governments or ISPs, can detect you’re using a VPN.
Surfshark is using industry-leading AES-256-GCM encryption. It’s so-called military-grade encryption and even the fastest computer would need billions of years to brute force AES-256.
There are four different protocols Surfshark customers can choose from:
- WireGuard – simpler than its predecessors
- IKEv2 – best for mobile
- OpenVPN – open-source classic
- Shadowsocks – for restrictive countries like China
Shadowsocks works on Android and Windows apps and is an encrypted proxy and not a VPN protocol. It was designed precisely to help people overcome the restrictions of the Great Firewall of China.
If you aren’t in China or any other restricted country or territory, you’re better off employing WireGuard, OpenVPN, or IKEv2.
You can find continually updated lists of working Shadowsocks IPs that are working in China and save yourself some time in searching for an active one.
Private DNS and leak protection
Private DNS is important when you’re traveling to China or already living there. And with Surfshark you are provided with them as well as active leak protection.
Surfshark’s Kill Switch
Another important part of the puzzle. The kill switch should always be enabled so that it can automatically kill your internet connection in case your VPN connection breaks. This safety net will prevent the exposure of your private and sensitive data, as well as your online activities.
Strict no-logs policy
When you browse the internet without a VPN, all your data that can help a government to pinpoint your exact information is exposed. Your IP address, browsing history, network traffic, connection timestamps, and much more can get exposed.
A VPN like Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy and doesn’t keep logs of the above-mentioned information and doesn’t keep track of your online locations or activities in any way.
To double down on that, Surfshark’s servers are RAM-only servers and are fully whipped when they are turned off.
Are VPNs illegal in China?
VPNs aren’t illegal in China, although the Communist Party is indeed cracking down on their use and is actively removing VPN apps from app stores. Even Apple caved to the pressure and pulled VPN apps from its App Store in China.
Therefore, if you’re traveling to China. Make sure to download your VPN app beforehand.
There are a couple of interesting things to note as well. You see, China banned domestic VPN providers from operating and offering people VPNs that could bust through the Great Firewall.
Foreign VPNs obviously aren’t under Chinese jurisdiction and have continued offering their services to the Chinese people. In fact, China is a huge market for VPN companies with some estimates saying that 30% of people there are using a VPN and the Chinese VPN market is in the top 10 markets globally.
Foreign companies, but also domestic universities, and students heavily rely on VPNs for their communication inside and outside of the country as they certainly have to have a private connection and have to be able to access foreign websites as part of their day-to-day operations.
Having a secure connection is especially important in China as industrial espionage is a major headache for probably every company that’s doing business in China.
The bottom line
Although the Chinese government is going to great lengths to prevent their people from using VPNs, the truth is, you can still connect to a VPN such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark with ease.