September 8, 2015
One question I get most often from people about living in China is: “How do you use the Internet while in China? Isn’t there a lot of censorship?” Of course it is true, China does have a significant level of censorship that restricts access to alot of web content. Most foreigners frequenting China on business are probably most impacted by the restriction on websites commonly used at home for communication or news. We are talking about social media sites like Facebook and Youtube, news sites like the New York Times, and the most irritating of all, all Google-family web portals including Gmail. If you are surfing the web in China and try to get onto these websites, you will be wholly unable to connect. Talk about a buzzkill.
GET AROUND THE FIREWALL WITH A VPN
The good news is that you can get around the Firewall using what is called a VPN: Virtual Private Network. With VPN software on your computer or mobile device, you will be able to literally jump over the China internet firewall to connect to the Internet using an IP address from a country that does not restrict internet access. Thank God for technology!
VPNs are easy to get and relatively easy to use. One word of advice is to make sure you purchase and download the software BEFORE coming to China as sometimes it is hard to reach the VPN websites within China because (surprise, surprise) those VPN company websites are also blocked here.
There are many choices when it comes to VPNs. Personally, I have been using Astrill for the better part of two years. You can sign up for as low as $5.83 for a month subscription and can add-on a subscription for your smart phone or Ipad. ONE IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE: At the moment, Astrill is getting hit hard by the Chinese government censorship bureau. While the desktop Astrill VPN seems to be working fine, the iOs (Apple Iphone and Ipad) systems are having a very hard time connecting. This may pass in the next few weeks as things change, but for now if you need to get access on your iPhone you may want to get a different VPN. Despite this, I still recommend Astrill as it has the easiest user interface and the iOs blocking will probably pass soon. What can I say, I’m a loyal consumer.
Another good choice is ExpressVPN. I have used it in the past and was happy with it, although again I switched to Astrill when ExpressVPN was previously targeted by the government. At the moment, it appears Express is having less problems than astrill. Express is similiar in pricing to Astrill, and they are also offering a 30 day money-back trial.
Those VPNs are the two most used amongst my friend circle here in China, but you are welcome to shop around as there are many, many choices. Here is a list you can browse from. If you find one that works well, please drop me an email and maybe we will feature it on the blog. Oh, and if you happen to get Astrill, please consider adding my email as the referrer so I can get a free month add-on ;). I’d owe you one!