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ExpressVPN in China: It Works, but Check This First (2024)

Last updated: June 24, 2021

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Seeing the Great Wall of China may be an experience of a lifetime, but having your online activity blocked in China by its Great Firewall sounds somewhat less appealing.

To this day, the Chinese government continues to impose strict censorship over media coming in and going out of its country. This includes blocking services that are used readily in everyday life in most other countries around the world: YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and even cloud storage sites like Dropbox. The Chinese government even blocks mainstream news sites, like The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The New York Times.

Website is blocked in China warning

While it seems like it would be futile to take on the Chinese government, it is possible to get around its powerful blocks. All of your websites and media apps will still work in China if you use a reputable VPN, like ExpressVPN, which encrypts your web traffic and sends it through their VPN servers all around the globe. This way, the Chinese government won’t be able to track your digital footprint, and you will be free to access typically blocked sites — even from China.

One small problem: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and other VPN providers are also blocked by China’s Firewall. There is a simple hack, however, to help you get around this problem. If you subscribe to and download your VPN to your devices before you arrive in China, your much-needed internet sites will still work.

Keep reading to find out more about how to use ExpressVPN to break through the Great Firewall of China.

How to Use ExpressVPN in China

Devices compatible with ExpressVPN

Just like you need to pack before you leave for your vacation, you also need to prepare your VPN app before you leave for China.

Just add it to your to-do list:

1️⃣ Stock up on earplugs for your flight.
2️⃣ Learn Chinese.
3️⃣ Download ExpressVPN to your devices.

If you already use ExpressVPN for unblocking content, gaming, torrenting, or online security, then you will likely already have it downloaded to your devices and ready to go.

If you are new to ExpressVPN, all you need to do is follow these three steps:

1️⃣ Subscribe to an ExpressVPN plan. We recommend the 2-year option, as it gives you the best price.
2️⃣ Download ExpressVPN to your device and enter your activation code before you get to China!
3️⃣ In China, connect to one of ExpressVPNs servers in any country you want, and enjoy!

In addition to making sure your ExpressVPN account is set up and ready to go before you arrive in China, we also advise changing your ExpressVPN settings so that you are automatically connected to ExpressVPN whenever you are online.

ExpressVPN app main screen

In your settings, go to options, and check “Launch ExpressVPN on Windows Startup” and “Connect to the last used location.”

ExpressVPN app options screen

If you are using the desktop app for ExpressVPN, make sure to enable the automatic Kill Switch to stop all web traffic if your VPN disconnects; and make sure you have turned on DNS leak protection.

ExpressVPN Kill Switch settings

Once you have finished making sure your settings are the way you want them, simply press the big circular button. This will ensure that you are quickly connected to the best server available. You can also choose your own server location if you are trying to access content in a specific country.

The ExpressVPN customer support team is experienced at working with subscribers in China, so it can help you troubleshoot any of your questions, 24 hrs a day.

If you want to try ExpressVPN before committing, you can sign up and give it a whirl in China with no strings attached with ExpressVPNs 30-day money-back guarantee. If you want a refund, simply contact customer support to cancel.

Why the Chinese Internet Is So Heavily Restricted

The Chinese government claims that its intense regulations are in place in order to protect its citizens from corruption and divisiveness. In reality, it seems to block any information from coming in or going out of China that is not censored by it or approved by its leadership.

There are legislative policies in China regarding internet censorship that appear to allow the government to censor content in any way it pleases. So, streaming services, cloud storage, social media, search engines, and many other internet platforms are just plain blocked.

The government is so worried about certain information being disseminated in China that it takes punitive measures against people who are even mildly critical of the government, and certainly people who stand against injustices or against its leadership.

Why It’s Hard to Bypass the Great Firewall of China

It is so difficult to circumvent Chinese restrictions because these policies are very widely enforced. Its Great Firewall is reinforced by the government, law enforcement, anti-VPN services, internet blocks, and filters. Its internet restrictions are implemented using advanced methods of censoring websites, blocking and blacklisting IP addresses, URL and keyword filtering, packet filtering, and tampering with DNS searches.

Sites that are typically accessed with one click from outside of China — Youtube, Facebook, Whatsapp, Netflix, cloud storage sites — are all completely blocked from public use in China.

These all seriously inhibit users’ internet freedom and the prevalence of VPNs for China that actually work.

How ExpressVPN Bypasses the Great Firewall

While few VPNs work in China, most do not. If you use ExpressVPN in China, you will see that it is consistently able to bypass China’s Firewall.

One of the keys to ExpressVPN’s success is its great internet security. ExpressVPN has an automatic kill switch, Open VPN protocol, and AES 256-bit encryption that masks your online activity so that the government and ISPs cannot detect you. No matter who is trying to intercept your internet traffic, your data will always be encrypted and unintelligible, as will your location and identity.

If your VPN connection ever drops, the Network Lock automatic kill switch will kill your internet connection right away, so no unencrypted activity will never be revealed.

ExpressVPN does not have to follow China’s logging rules since it has no servers in China itself. In fact, ExpressVPN has a strict, verified no-logs policy. If you want to use ExpressVPN in China with a local server, ExpressVPN lets you connect to those in Japan, Singapore, or Hong Kong.

You can test ExpressVPN with its 30-day money-back guarantee, and use its great live-chat customer support for any questions or advice on your trip to China.

What Services Are Blocked in China?

China blocks such a wide array of internet content that it is probably easier to make a list of what is available than what is blocked.

Here are some of the popular sites that are blocked by China’s Firewall:

1️⃣ Streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube.
2️⃣ Popular messenger platforms like Telegram and Whatsapp.
3️⃣ Search engines like Yahoo or Google.
4️⃣ VPN sites like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
6️⃣ Cloud Storage sites like Dropbox or Google Drive.
7️⃣ Online encyclopedias/information sites, like Wikipedia, or Quora.
8️⃣ Reputable international news sites, like NY Times or BBC News.
9️⃣ Social Media sites, like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

and so, so many more.

Users will be able to access all the above sites from within China by connecting to ExpressVPN. (Remember that you will need to install ExpressVPN outside of China in order to use it in China.)

Which Operating Systems ExpressVPN Is Compatible with?

Operating systems compatible with ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN supports multiple platforms, making it really easy to use your VPN on any device.

The ExpressVPN app is compatible with MacOS, Windows, and Linux, and there is also a user-friendly Android app and iOS app. If you want, you can also connect ExpressVPN to your router, which will allow any devices on your wifi to connect to your VPN, with no limit.

Unlike some VPN services, ExpressVPN’s mobile apps offer great functionality, with almost the same features and the same top security as the ExpressVPN desktop Apps.

Does ExpressVPN Offer Good Connection Speeds?

ExpressVPN is actually most widely known for its super-fast connection speeds. When we put ExpressVPN through our expert evaluations, we saw speeds averaging 59 Mbps, so we can verify that you will never have annoying buffering or lag when connecting to the internet using ExpressVPN.

According to Netflix, speeds of 3 Mbps are good for SD streaming; 5 Mbps are good for HD streaming, and 25 Mbps are good for Ultra HD streaming. ExpressVPN’s speeds are more than adequate for streaming in Ultra HD, as well as for torrenting or browsing; making it a great option if you want to watch Netflix in China.

Does ExpressVPN Offer Unlimited Bandwidth?

Yes. ExpressVPN allows users unlimited bandwidth, and your speeds will never be throttled by ExpressVPN. This is good to know if you are using a lot of data binge-watching your Netflix all day, or doing heavy torrenting.

What Other VPN Providers Work in China?

ExpressVPN is always our go-to best VPN when we need to access the internet in China. That being said, there are few others that have been able to consistently get through China’s rock-hard geo-blocks. Like ExpressVPN, each one will need to be downloaded to your device before you enter the country.

At the moment, there are some great free VPNs for China currently working in the country, but some of the best VPNs for China right now are NordVPN, Surfshark, PrivateVPN, and VyprVPN.


Are VPNs allowed in China?
This is a tricky question to answer. While VPNs are technically not banned from China by law, most VPN websites are blocked. So, using a VPN in China is certainly discouraged and frowned upon, but not illegal.

It may feel a little like you are visiting a parallel universe when you try to access your Apple App Store or Play Store in China, only to find that not only is the ExpressVPN app blocked, but most VPN apps have also been blocked from view.

If you are able to see your VPN, you may soon realize that it just won’t work because of server blacklists or the strict VPN detection system used to block your VPN in China.

On top of government strictures, it has been reported that some ISPs in China also block VPNs, so you will be hard-pressed to find a VPN that works from within China if it wasn’t already installed outside the country.

Is it safe to use a VPN in China?
While it is important to access your streaming sites and messaging platforms from China, no one wants to do this if there is a risk of being imprisoned for a crime.

While the Chinese government does its best to make sure users in China are not able to connect to certain websites, using a VPN service is not actually considered illegal. If you need a VPN, the Chinese government actually has an approved list of VPN providers on a local level that it will allow international workers to use.

Does ExpressVPN have servers in Hong Kong?
Yes. Express VPN does have server locations in Hong Kong. Subscribers are able to access 7 servers in 3 locations throughout Hong Kong.

It is important to remember that ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy. This piece of info is particularly vital to note after some changes in Hong Kong/Chinese policy this past summer, making HK subject to China’s National Security Law.

ExpressVPN has top security and privacy features — all server locations have encrypted servers, and all users are completely unidentifiable.

Can I use a free VPN to unblock sites in China?
I would strongly advise against it. While I am really never a strong proponent of free VPNs — even outside China — I would be especially wary of a free VPN for China use.

Paid services, like Express VPN, spend a lot of their resources ensuring your data and identity are secured and private. Free services do not have these resources, potentially leaving you and your traffic vulnerable to hackers and cyberattacks. Because of their lack of adequate encryption, they are likely to be completely unsuccessful at getting past geo-blocks for services like Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer.

In addition, you are very likely to have a poor or unreliable connection or much slower speeds than you would find if you use ExpressVPN and its VPN server network. Free VPNs are unlikely to offer unlimited bandwidth, so your activity is likely to be throttled.

In an ordinary country, a dropped or leaked connection could lead to trouble. In a place with intense government oversight, like China, you could be penalized severely if your connection leaves you vulnerable.

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for users to ensure safety, security, and reliability in China.

Can I use a VPN on my Smartphone in China?
If you find a VPN, like ExpressVPN, that is working in China, it shouldn’t matter if you are accessing the web via the Express VPN Android app or the web app.

Just make sure to download the app and sign up for ExpressVPN before your trip to bypass the Chinese internet restrictions you’ll encounter on Chinese soil.


If you are in need of a VPN for China, ExpressVPN is one of the best out there. It is the best VPN for internet security, speed, privacy, and reliability. All you have to do is make sure to set up ExpressVPN on your device before your trip, and you will be able to sign on and connect to a server so that all your must-see websites work in China.

If you are still unclear about how to choose the right VPN server in China, or which VPN protocol will work best, Express has great live-chat customer service.

Want to try out ExpressVPN for yourself? You can start today, and cancel within 30 days with its money-back guarantee.

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