Are VPNs Common In China? (VPN Usage in China)

If you have ever been on a trip to China or are planning to go to China, you have undoubtedly heard that China has some of the most censored internet access in the world. So, you might be thinking of getting a VPN, and this may lead you to wonder, “Are VPNs common in China?” Do many people use VPNs, or have they just accepted their limited access to the internet?

According to various sources, more than 30% of people in China make use of a VPN. Most, if not all, ex-pats in China make use of a VPN. Many companies who do business with other countries require a VPN to communicate with these countries and ensure successful business relations. 

So, suppose you are considering a trip to China and would like to use your email account, Netflix account, or any social media platforms. In that case, you will need to make use of a VPN. We will now discuss if VPNs are legal to use in China, why you need a VPN, which VPN’s work best, and how and when to install a VPN on your device.

are vpns common in china

VPN Usage Landscape in China

It is very unclear what exactly the laws surrounding VPN usage in China are. The VPN technology itself is not illegal, and many companies use VPNs for business and political goals and access international information via the internet. But to legally use a VPN, you would need to have a special license issued by the government. However, very few people have these licenses.

However, what you choose to do with a VPN is another story. Doing illegal things while using a VPN is still illegal, and you could end up in trouble for doing so. A VPN does not give you the liberty to access illegal content or websites. Accessing websites that the Chinese government has banned without the necessary licenses is still illegal.

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While the government has previously sought to block the use of VPNs in China, they have since turned their attention to discouraging VPN users from using the technology. This discouragement is in the form of a $145 fine for anyone caught using a VPN without a license. However, no foreigners in China have been issued fines while many, if not all, make use of a VPN. 

It would seem that the law is thus more focused on Chinese citizens using VPNs to access websites and social media platforms that the government bans. This idea makes sense, as the Chinese government has always tried to limit the potential influence of outside information in China. 

Why Is A VPN Necessary In China?

For years the Chinese authorities have sought to limit its citizens’ access to information from the outside world. They have tried to keep the “Western influence” from influencing the Chinese public as much as possible. 

As technology has changed and become so integral to our daily lives, the Chinese government decided to limit the Chinese people’s access to the internet and social media platforms. Internet access in China has since been named “The Great Firewall.”  

Meaning that if you are in China, you will not be able to access all websites on the internet. You will not be able to use your Gmail account or apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or streaming sites like Netflix or DSTV.

While there are Chinese versions of all these platforms, they are heavily regulated by the government. They are very different from what you might be used to using. For this reason, many people who visit China decide to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network. It allows them access to these sites and platforms, especially those they use to communicate with friends and family outside of China.

Many Chinese people, especially the younger generations, also use VPNs to access these websites and social media platforms. Although in their case, it is illegal and can lead to receiving fines or other punishments. 

Which VPN’s Work Best In China? 

If you choose to use a VPN when visiting China, which is advisable, you might wonder which VPN is best to use. There are a couple of VPNs available and accessible in China from which to choose. Your choice would depend on what you want to do with the VPN and how much you want to spend.

There are many VPNs on the market and many free ones too. But not all VPNs are accessible in China, and in general, the free version doesn’t work as well as the paid ones. Fortunately, VPNs are not very expensive and often have special offers making them even more affordable. Let’s now consider the best VPNs to use in China.

1. Is Express VPN A Good VPN To Use In China?


Express VPN is by far the most recommended VPN to use in China. It has a reliable internet connection. It is easy to use and is available in more than 100 countries. Ex-pats say that it is a good choice for China too. Express VPN stands out in terms of service, pricing, and functions. You can also use it to access and successfully use streaming websites, such as Netflix.

With Express VPN, you can get a free 14-day trial, whereafter you pay $12.95 per month for a  year subscription. As a bonus, Express VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, just in case you find that it doesn’t suit your needs.

2. Is NordVPN A Good VPN To Use In China?


NordVPN comes in a close second as the best VPN to use in China. It is slightly cheaper than Express VPN and also offers and 30-day money-back guarantee. It has a great live support system and a double VPN feature that allows you even more anonymity.  This feature is not available everywhere, but it is available in Taiwan. 

NordVPN is also user-friendly, even for those of us who are not tech-savvy. It has an easy-to-use interface, and again here, the live support comes in handy. NordVPN has more servers than Express VPN, which may mean better coverage in some regions of China.

3. Is Surfshark A Good VPN To Use In China?



Surfshark might be a bit lower on the list of the best VPNs to use, but it still is one of the top 3 recommended VPNs to use in China. Surfshark is the cheapest of the three VPNs, only costing about $2 per month. 

Yet even though it is cheaper, it still offers excellent coverage, an easy-to-use interface, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Surfshark has no connection limits, and one can easily use this VPN for streaming services, such as Netflix.

There are many other VPNs on the market, but these three stand out in terms of their connection speed, coverage, price, and user-friendliness. If you’re unsure which one to use, it is recommended that you test each one to see what works better in your area. Alternatively, you could speak to the ex-pats living around you.

When Should You Install A VPN?

Since you will be unable to access the free internet when you arrive in China, the best time to install your chosen VPN is before your arrival. Be sure to install the VPN on all the devices you want to use, such as your laptop, tablet, and cellphone. 

All the VPNs mentioned before can be installed onto many devices using one account. Just be sure to check the maximum number of devices. I would advise you to install at least two VPNs onto your devices, just if you find that one does not work well in your area. Some VPNs, such as Express VPN, also offer a 14-day free trial, making it ideal for testing the coverage when you arrive in China.


In conclusion, VPNs are common in China, especially among the ex-pats and foreigners who live there. While VPN technology is legal in China, some of the things it is used for are not. Make sure to research before accessing websites that might be suspicious. The three best VPNs to use in China are Express VPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark

You should install the VPN on all your devices before arriving in China, as you will not be able to do so once you have arrived.  It is advisable to test multiple VPNs to find which one works best in your area. 

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