Updated January 2021: As you may know, China has systematically been cracking down on the use of VPNs for the past few years. Almost every virtual private network experiences connection troubles, but do the best VPNs for China still work? As an expat who has spent over a decade living here, I’d like to offer my thoughts and recommendations.
Sadly this website, like many others, has been blocked in China since 2009 under what is affectionately referred to as “The Great Firewall” (i.e. censorship).
Some websites, Like Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram in China, are blocked because the government want to retain control of how ideas (or rather, dissent) is shared online.
Other websites, like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, are blocked because they are labeled “western media”.
I have no idea why FarWestChina was blocked – other than the fact that I’m talking about Xinjiang, one of the most sensitive regions in the country. And there’s nothing I can do to unblock the site.
Trust me, I’ve tried everything short of knocking on a government official’s door.
The only way I’ve been able to work online from in China is through what is known as a VPN, or a Virtual Private Network.
Because I have over
8 years 10 years 15 years of first-hand experience with over 30 different VPN services, I get more than a few emails every month from people asking me what I recommend as the best VPN for China in 2021.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve given you three ways to hear my thoughts:
I’m not trying to hard-sell anybody here…more than anything I just want to provide some helpful information for those people who need to get a new VPN. A few of the links here and in the video are affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you I will be compensated if you purchase the service.
China VPN Video Introduction
Click below to see the software in action and hear my thoughts on the best VPN for China.
And now that you’ve had a chance to see the video, you can scroll down below to see a comparison and review of each of these VPNs.
Comparing the Best China VPNs in 2021
|*Recommended VPN*||Other Excellent Virtual Private Networks|
|Money Back Guarantee?|
*Each VPN listed here offers a standard 30-day money back guarantee.
As I already mentioned in the video above, there are literally hundreds of virtual private networks to choose from on the market and there are quite a few good ones that didn’t make this list.
So with so many to choose from, how am I setting the criteria to list out the “best VPNs”?
Best VPN for China Reviews
For each of these VPNs, they reach a standard I set that includes:
- They are at least 5 years old. This means they have a history of working and serving the China market.
- They’re reliable: All VPNs have had trouble in China, but not all of them work to resolve the issues quickly.
- They offer hundreds of servers across the globe. I like having choices from multiple countries.
- They offer money-back guarantees. Not every VPN works perfectly, so in those cases where it doesn’t work well, I want you to be able to get your money back.
Here is a more comprehensive look at each of the recommended VPNs that meet this criteria.
ExpressVPN in China (Editor’s Choice + 3 Free months)
ExpressVPN is my go-to VPN for China in 2021. I’m a huge fan of their overall design (which is set to be redesigned again this year) – the website, desktop app and mobile app are all beautiful, quick to install and easy to use.
I always recommend ExpressVPN to anybody I know who doesn’t consider themselves tech-savvy for a couple of reasons.
- It’s super easy to set up!
- Their software is some of the best in the industry.
- They offer a no-hassle, 30-day money back guarantee.
For those who desire simplicity and ease, ExpressVPN has been a solid option here for the past few years. You can check out their pricing here:
Use the link above to get 3 months of free service when you purchase an annual subscription!
NordVPN in China (w/ Discount)
NordVPN has been a surprise addition to my VPN arsenal over past few years.
They’ve purposefully entered the China market and are aggressively tackling the blocking issues that plague all the best VPNs.
There are a number of reasons I’ve come to like the NordVPN software and service.
- The software is well-designed, both on computers & mobile devices.
- They allow 6 simultaneous connections (most VPNs give 3-5)
- They also offer a no-nonsense, 30-day money back guarantee.
In many cases, I often tell people to purchase both ExpressVPN and NordVPN (I have both) to figure out which one works best in your specific location.
They’re very competitively priced and run specials throughout the year. I always keep this link up-to-date so click here to learn about the latest deal:
Using the link above, you can get a multi-year discount with significant savings.
VyprVPN in China (up to 80% Discount)
I was turned on to VyprVPN about six years ago and have been incredibly impressed with the transparency of the company (just compare their about page with any other VPN).
Here’s what I love about VyprVPN:
- Proprietary “Chameleon” connection protocol for added security
- Transparency and honesty
- Simple-to-use software
- A 30-day money back guarantee
VyprVPN has been around since 2009 but their parent company, GoldenFrog, has been around for even longer than that providing online services.
I’ve spoken at length with some of their representatives and really like their focus on the China market, which is comforting considering how much the Chinese internet landscape changes.
If all of this sound good to you, they have given me a special link that will allow you to give them a try for 30 days risk-free and then get up to 80% off their 2-year service plan.
Use the link above to get up to 80% off the VyprVPN service!
PureVPN for China Travelers
PureVPN is another popular option here. They boast over 1 million users world-wide and their market share seems to be growing at a rapid pace.
While I wasn’t a big fan of their software at first, thankfully they have since updated the design and it functions much better.
Their speeds are excellent and I found them to be the best in terms of streaming – at least for me out here in Xinjiang.
What you might find useful is their “Server Selection Tool” where you tell the software what you want to do (download, stream US content, stream UK content, etc) and it will tell you which servers best suit you needs.
Considering the price – which is often one of the lowest around – PureVPN is an excellent VPN option for the price conscious buyer.
12VPN in China (10% Discount Code)
I’ve been a 12VPN customer since 2013 and in many ways it’s been my go-to VPN on my phone.
Why? It’s simple and it just works…every time.
The software isn’t flashy and they don’t have a dedicated iPhone or Android app but setup for both was an easy download of one file that took me all of 5 minutes.
One of the things I’ve truly appreciated about 12VPN is their commitment to communication. I get periodic emails informing me of changes in the VPN and changes in the Great Firewall.
For example, two years ago one of the submarine cables that connects Asia with North America was severed. Out of the 10 VPNs I had running at the time, 12VPN was the only one that let me know what was happening and why I should expect slower speeds on the Los Angeles servers.
In addition to VPN services, 12VPN is also one of the few companies that offers SmartDNS as part of their package (ExpressVPN does as well). I won’t go into details about what SmartDNS is (read about Smart DNS here), but suffice to say I use it to watch Netflix on my Apple TV in China and it is so much faster than connecting on a VPN.
Use my 12VPN Discount Code. Just enter FWC10 to get 10% off your order.
VPNs to Avoid (in my opinion)
Here’s the thing about the relationship between China and VPNs – every year the government is making changes that affect the landscape of VPN use within the country.
If the VPN you choose doesn’t devote resources to adapt to these changes, that spells trouble for you.
This rules out most small VPN services such as Buffered or all the free services such as Hotspot Shield. Neither seem to have the manpower or resources to play the constant game of cat and mouse with Chinese internet censors. I’ve had a difficult time connecting to their servers from within China.
Finally, despite its popularity, I personally don’t recommend Astrill VPN.
My biggest problem was their customer support but the deal breaker was that they require users to provide their phone number for authentication.
For me, that kind of connection between my VPN and my phone number is a big no-no.
Conclusion | Best VPN for China 2021
So that about covers it!
Obviously there are plenty of VPN services which have been left out of this list, but I stand by the fact that if you’re coming to Asia, these are the best VPNs for China 2021.
My best advice for those planning to come to China anytime this year is to download and install multiple VPNs that offer a 30-day money back guarantee.
Once you arrive in China, you can see which one works best for your specific situation and then get a refund on the rest.
Best of luck staying connected!