China is a must when it comes to researching countries and internet censorship. Though not the most restrictive, China is definitely within the top five political bodies that exert great control over their respective online domains. However, the methods used are by far the most advanced and extensive here. Furthermore, there is also a strong legal background in use for Chinese officials to justify the government’s views. The combination of the two not only results in a very enclosed online space, but also power for the country’s internet police to conduct surveillance down to the level of individuals. It is very hard to access the Chinese internet, and for someone inside China to access the internet outside it. It is not impossible, though; this article intends to shed light on the circumstances and possibilities.
Best VPN Services for China of 2018
Using a Chinese IP
Internet access in China is exclusively supplied by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Furthermore, the country – being the most populous in the world – also has the most internet users on the planet; over 630 million. What is slightly more intriguing is that there are more who use mobile devices than PCs for internet access. In general, China hosts its own solutions for the various internet tools seen worldwide. Though Google and Yahoo are used, they are in the lowest of ranks with limited availability. Baidu is the most prevalent search engine in the country. Connecting to or from China are both risky endeavors, and thus we advise you to stay up to date regarding the country’s happenings. Below is a more general framework of the legal system.
Chinese Online Privacy Laws
In China, it is required by law for all internet traffic to go through its four specific ISPs. Secondly, the entire network is supervised the Ministry of Public Security and regulated by the State Internet Information Office. Self-censorship is often promoted in China. There might be other methods of blocking or restricting outside and outgoing traffic, but here are the confirmed ones that China uses: IP blocking, DNS filtering, URL filtering, packet filtering, the so called man in the middle attack, TCP connection resets, and – the most relevant for this article – VPN blocking.
On 9 September 2015, the Chinese government took a larger step towards regulating VPN traffic. Therefore today, connections using PPTP, L2TP and IPSec security protocols are blocked and denied entry in China. This means that the only reliable method of VPN for China is OpenVPN, preferably with a 256-bit encryption.
Internet Censorship in China
In accordance with the above strict framework, China’s online content is strictly regulated. Local websites are recommended above foreign ones, and thus restrictions are numerous. Search engines’ keywords are also filtered. Words like genocide, evil, terror, despotism and some historically degrading expressions do not return any results, to name a few. Names of Chinese dissidents and some politicians are also not allowed for searching. Similarly, content that displays China in what the government perceives a negative manner is frequently restricted (the Tianmen square protests are a prime example of this). However, keep in mind that these blocks vary from search engine to search engine. Baidu, as the most popular one is the most “lenient” in this matter.
Blogs, online articles and any form of written content that is not ideologically in line with the government’s views are blocked, removed or retaliated. Consequently, China has the most prisoners in the world that were found guilty of online crimes, which is of course the result of the very strict legal system.
Streaming Services in China
The Chinese online market is one of the biggest in the world. However, since free trade is not exactly something employed on an international basis, China hosts few streaming services. These can be understood as counterparts of Netflix, or other popular streamers elsewhere. Alibaba is one such company, along with Lionsgate. Apple is also allowed within the country’s borders, for example. Music, movies and even online books are available. In Hong Kong, Spotify is good to go. NetEase is a more general-purpose company in China, providing many other products next to music streaming.
Free Chinese VPN Trials
Because of the highly restrictive nature of the Chinese internet laws – and because the country is one of the very few that actively fights against VPNs as well – there are only a few providers that offer services in China. This is especially true after the September 2015 changes. However, we would now like to list three that are still suitable choices. Keep in mind that utilizing OpenVPN is essentially the only remaining viable option in the case of China.
First, we would like to recommend PureVPN. This company still operates in China and has OpenVPN based connections with high encryption. Based in Hong Kong, PureVPN has a good legal background to conduct such activities, given the special status of the territory. You can contact them any time for information, as customer service runs 24/7. If you made a purchase and then come across something more serious, you can even enlist help via remote desktop.
Secondly, ExpressVPN is one of the very top companies in VPN today. While they do not offer a free trial (PureVPN offers a 24-hour trial), they do have a very advantageous 30-day refund time policy. Furthermore – as the name suggests – this is one of the fastest services available today – ExpressVPN does live up to their self-imposed title and this is just one of the reasons why they sit on such a distinctive throne.
Lastly, a hope for Chinese users perhaps, VPN.ac is a special case. While they do not offer a connection to China itself, inhabitants could potentially connect outside. For starters, server support in Hong Kong is quite strong, providing one opportunity of connection. Then there is a unique solution for connections, which is making VPN traffic appear as if it was normal internet traffic. Still, at any rate, we advise you to be cautious when dealing VPN and China. Always inform yourself on the latest news and prepare accordingly.