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Are VPNs Legal in China? Updated to 2024

China has a strict internet censorship policy. The Great Firewall of China blocks access to many websites and services, including popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To bypass these restrictions, many people use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). However, the legality of VPNs in China is a complicated issue. In this article, we'll explore the current state of VPNs in China and recommend some of the best VPNs for use in the country.

The Legal Status of VPNs in China

In 2017, the Chinese government announced a crackdown on unauthorized VPN services. The new regulations required all VPN providers to obtain a license from the government. The deadline for obtaining a license was set for March 31, 2018. However, despite the deadline passing, many VPN services continue to operate in China.

So, are VPNs legal in China? The short answer is no. Technically, using a VPN without a license is illegal in China. However, the reality is more complicated. The government seems to be primarily targeting VPN providers rather than individual users. In other words, you're unlikely to get into trouble for using a VPN in China as long as you're not breaking any other laws.

That being said, it's important to note that the situation in China is constantly changing. The government could crack down on VPNs at any time, so it's important to use caution when using a VPN in China.

Choosing a VPN for Use in China

When it comes to choosing the top VPNs for China, several factors were considered to ensure their effectiveness in bypassing the Great Firewall and providing a secure online experience. The selection process took into account factors such as the VPNs' ability to bypass censorship, server availability in China, connection speeds, security features, customer support, and overall reputation. The chosen VPNs have demonstrated a strong track record in offering reliable access to blocked websites and services in China while maintaining robust security measures to protect user privacy. Whether you're a resident or a traveler in China, these top 5 VPNs provide solutions to help you navigate the online restrictions and enjoy a secure internet experience.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN services in the world, and for good reason. It offers fast speeds, a large server network, and strong security features. ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPN services that still works reliably in China.

One of the key features of ExpressVPN is its "stealth" servers. These servers are specifically designed to bypass the Great Firewall of China. ExpressVPN also offers a kill switch, which will automatically disconnect your internet connection if the VPN connection drops.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is another popular VPN service that is well-suited for use in China. It has a large server network, strong encryption, and a no-logs policy. NordVPN also offers a feature called "Obfuscated Servers," which can help bypass internet censorship.

In addition to its security features, NordVPN is also known for its fast speeds. This is particularly important in China, where internet speeds can be slow.

3. Surfshark

Surfshark is a newer VPN service that has quickly gained popularity thanks to its strong security features and affordable pricing. It offers a large server network, strong encryption, and a no-logs policy.

One of the standout features of Surfshark is its "NoBorders" mode. This mode is specifically designed to bypass internet censorship in countries like China. Surfshark also offers a kill switch and a "Camouflage" mode, which hides the fact that you're using a VPN.

4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is a VPN service that is well-suited for use in China. It offers a large server network, strong security features, and a proprietary protocol called Chameleon, which can help bypass internet censorship.

One of the unique features of VyprVPN is its "VyprDNS" service. This service is designed to prevent DNS leaks and ensure that your internet activity remains private.

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a smaller VPN service that is well-suited for use in China. It offers a small but reliable server network, strong encryption, and a no-logs policy. PrivateVPN also offers a feature called "Stealth VPN," which can help bypass internet censorship.

Despite its smaller size, PrivateVPN is known for its fast speeds and overall reliability.

Why Use a VPN in China?

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in China has specific purposes due to the country's internet censorship and surveillance practices. Here are the main reasons why individuals and businesses use VPNs in China:

Circumventing Internet Censorship: China operates one of the most extensive internet censorship systems, often referred to as the Great Firewall of China. It blocks access to various foreign websites and online services, including social media platforms, search engines, news outlets, and communication apps. By using a VPN, individuals can bypass these restrictions and access blocked content by encrypting their internet traffic and routing it through servers located outside of China.

Privacy and Security: China has strict surveillance measures in place, with extensive monitoring of internet activities. By using a VPN, individuals can encrypt their online connections, making it difficult for government agencies or other entities to monitor their internet traffic, track their online activities, or collect personal data. This enhances privacy and security, particularly when accessing sensitive information or communicating over public Wi-Fi networks.

Accessing International Services: Some online services or websites are geo-restricted and not available within China. With a VPN, users can connect to servers located in other countries, making it appear as though they are accessing the internet from those locations. This allows them to access international services, such as streaming platforms, messaging apps, or gaming servers, that may be blocked or limited in China.

Communication and Collaboration: VPNs enable individuals or businesses in China to securely communicate and collaborate with contacts outside the country. By encrypting their communications, VPNs protect sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access. This is particularly important for companies that need to exchange confidential data, conduct video conferences, or access international business tools.

Expatriate Access: Expatriates living or working in China often use VPNs to maintain access to their home country's online services and content. It allows them to access region-specific websites, stream media, or stay connected with their home country's news, without facing the limitations imposed by the Chinese internet censorship.

While using VPNs in China can provide these benefits, it's important to note that the Chinese government has periodically cracked down on VPN usage and implemented measures to block or disrupt VPN connections. Therefore, individuals should research and select reputable VPN providers that employ advanced techniques to overcome these restrictions.

Features to Consider When Choosing a VPN for China

When choosing a VPN for use in China, there are several important features to consider:

1. Strong Encryption: Look for a VPN that offers strong encryption protocols, such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard. Strong encryption ensures that your internet traffic is securely protected and makes it difficult for third parties to intercept or decipher your data.

2. Stealth and Obfuscation Technology: China actively detects and blocks VPN traffic. To bypass these restrictions, consider a VPN that employs stealth or obfuscation technology. These features disguise VPN traffic as regular internet traffic, making it harder to detect and block.

3. Large Server Network: A VPN with a large server network provides more options for bypassing restrictions and accessing content outside of China. Look for a VPN provider that offers servers in multiple countries, especially those geographically close to China.

4. Reliable Connection: VPNs that provide a stable and reliable connection are crucial, especially in a country like China where internet connectivity can be inconsistent. Look for VPN providers with a good track record of reliable connections and minimal downtime.

5. Speed and Performance: VPNs can sometimes impact internet speeds due to encryption and routing. However, a quality VPN provider will have optimized servers and infrastructure to minimize the impact on speed and provide satisfactory performance.

6. No-Logs Policy: Privacy is essential when using a VPN. Ensure the VPN provider has a strict no-logs policy, meaning they do not store or track any of your online activities. This ensures that your data remains private and cannot be linked back to you.

7. User-Friendly Interface: A user-friendly VPN interface makes it easier to connect and switch servers, especially for those who are less technically inclined. Look for a VPN that offers intuitive apps and a simple interface across various devices.

8. Customer Support: In case you encounter any issues or have questions, reliable customer support is invaluable. Look for a VPN provider that offers responsive customer support channels, such as live chat or email support, to assist you promptly.

9. Reputation and Reviews: Conduct thorough research and read reviews from reliable sources to gauge the reputation and performance of VPN providers in China. Look for feedback specifically related to using VPNs in China to get insights into their effectiveness.

Remember that the Chinese government periodically increases efforts to block VPNs, so no VPN can guarantee 100% effectiveness. It's important to stay updated with the latest developments and choose a VPN provider that actively works to bypass censorship and adapt to changing circumstances.


1. Can all VPNs bypass the Great Firewall of China?

No, not all VPNs can successfully bypass the Great Firewall of China. The Chinese government actively detects and blocks VPN traffic, making it challenging for VPN providers to stay ahead. However, some VPNs employ advanced techniques like obfuscation or stealth technology to disguise VPN traffic and successfully bypass the restrictions imposed by the Great Firewall.

2. Is it necessary to have a VPN before arriving in China?

It is highly recommended to have a VPN installed on your device before arriving in China. The internet censorship measures in China often restrict access to VPN provider websites, making it difficult to download and install a VPN once you are already within the country. It's better to have a VPN set up beforehand to ensure uninterrupted access to blocked content.

3. Are free VPNs suitable for use in China?

While there are free VPN options available, they might not be the most reliable or effective for use in China. Free VPNs often have limitations on data usage, slower speeds, or fewer server locations, which can impact their ability to bypass the Great Firewall. Additionally, free VPNs may not provide the same level of security and privacy as paid options. It's generally recommended to choose a reputable paid VPN service for a more reliable and secure experience in China.


While the legal status of VPNs in China is complicated, many people still use VPNs to bypass internet censorship and access blocked websites. If you're planning on using a VPN in China, it's important to choose a reliable and secure service. The VPNs listed above are some of the best options for use in China. However, it's important to remember that the situation in China is constantly changing, so it's important to use caution when using a VPN in the country.

It's also worth noting that using a VPN in China can sometimes result in slower internet speeds. This is because the VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a server in another country. However, many of the VPNs listed above offer fast speeds and are optimized for use in China, so this shouldn't be a major issue.

Overall, if you're planning on traveling to China or living in the country, using a VPN can be a great way to access the open internet and protect your online privacy. Just remember to choose a reliable and secure service, and use caution when using a VPN in China.

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