Top 5 Best VPNs for China (2023)

August 26, 2023

In the internet era, some countries have taken steps to limit the flow of information across their borders. One such country is China. When confronted with strict censorship policies that block our access to online services, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are our friend.

In this article, we will explore the world of VPNs, examine their types and advantages, discuss their legality, and provide a list of the top 5 VPNs for China in 2023.

1. What's a VPN and How Does It Work?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a piece of technology with which we can establish a secure and encrypted connection to other networks over the internet. In doing so, we can access the internet as if we were connecting from a different location.

This has two main benefits: maintaining privacy and bypassing restrictions. When you use a VPN, your internet activity is routed through a remote server, making it seem like you are browsing from that server's location.

2. Types of VPN

There are several types of VPNs: remote access VPNs, site-to-site VPNs, and the focus of this article, consumer VPNs. Consumer VPNs are designed for individual users and are the most common type used to access restricted content.

3. VPN vs Proxy: What's the Difference?

Although both VPNs and proxies can help us bypass restrictions, VPNs are faster and more secure. Proxies act as intermediaries between your device and the website you're trying to access, but they don't encrypt your internet traffic. VPNs are superior because they not only mask your IP address but also encrypt your data, making it more secure.

4. Top 5 VPNs for China

#1: Astrill VPN (starts at $10.00/month)


Astrill is often considered the best VPN for China, because its servers are optimized for China’s internet environment.

● Strong encryption and privacy features
● 3000+ server locations
● Excellent speed

● Relatively higher price
● Limited simultaneous connections

#2: Atlas VPN (starts at $9.99/month


Atlas is also highly recommended for China and has some great privacy and security features.

● 1000+ high-speed servers for seamless browsing
● User-friendly interface
● Free version available with limited features

● Not as many servers available as with other options
● Free version has limitations

#3: ExpressVPN (starts at $12.95/month)


ExpressVPN is one of the most established and well-known VPN services in the business.

● Fast servers with excellent performance
● Trusted for its privacy measures

● Premium pricing compared to other options
● Slightly fewer server locations in China (3000+)

#4: NordVPN (starts at $3.71/month)


NordVPN is another very well-known VPN that provides a good balance between pricing and features.

● 5000+ servers globally, outcompeting other VPNs in this list
● Strong security features, including double VPN
● Excellent customer support

● Inconsistent speeds on some servers
● China-optimized servers don’t always work

#5: Surfshark (starts at $2.49/month)


Founded in 2018, Surfshark is one of the newer additions to the VPN market, but it boasts some fantastic features.

● Unlimited simultaneous connections
● Solid security and privacy features
● Cheap and cheerful

● Smaller server network (3200+) compared to the more expensive options
● Some servers may experience slower speeds

Bonus - Shadowsocks (free)

Shadowsocks is a proxy. As explained earlier, proxies can act as an alternative to VPNs for bypassing internet restrictions. Shadowsocks is known for its speed, but it lacks the encryption and security features of a VPN. If you value speed over security, Shadowsocks might be the way forward for you.

5. Tips for Choosing the Best VPN for China

When selecting a VPN for use in China, bear the following points in mind:

● Make sure it has a kill switch to prevent data leaks.
● Go for a VPN with fast and reliable servers.
● Look for multi-device support and compatibility across various operating systems, if necessary.
● Try out the VPN before committing to a long-term plan.

6. How Many VPNs Do I Need?

While one reliable VPN should suffice, having a backup VPN in case of connectivity issues can be a smart move.

7. Are There Any Free VPNs for China?

Yes indeed, there are free VPNs available, but they should be treated with caution. Free VPNs often have slow speeds, limited server locations, and can compromise your privacy by logging your data. Nothing ever comes free in life, unfortunately!

8. Do You Always Need a VPN When Living in China?

In China, the Great Firewall blocks access to many international websites and apps. This includes services that are very useful for learning Chinese, such as Netflix and YouTube. Although China has its own news, social media, and streaming service alternatives, a VPN is required in order to access global content, maintain your online privacy, and keep in touch with friends and family outside the country.

9. Do VPNs Affect Internet Speed?

Unfortunately, it’s true that VPNs can sometimes affect your internet speed. However, the top 5 VPNs for China mentioned in this article are generally successful in minimizing this impact, consistently providing good speeds for browsing, streaming, and downloading.

10. Are VPNs Safe?

It's important to choose a reputable VPN provider to ensure your online security. The five VPNs mentioned in this article are safe. Beware of free VPNs and do your research before making a final decision.

11. Is Using a VPN in China Illegal?

VPNs exist in a kind of legal grey area. Chinese authorities often make attempts to clamp down on VPN companies, and even the best and most expensive VPNs can sometimes be affected by short-term blackouts.

However, many international companies use VPNs to conduct their daily business and, until now, there has never been a reported case of a foreigner being punished for using a VPN in China.

12. Which Blocked Apps and Websites Require a VPN in China?

Some of the most notable targets for internet censorship in China include Google services, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Netflix, YouTube, and international news websites.


Knowing the best ways to navigate the internet environment in China can be challenging for many expats. VPNs provide a secure and effective way of bypassing internet restrictions and maintaining online privacy. As of 2023, our top 5 VPNs for China offer fast speeds, robust security, and reliable performance.

One final piece of advice: It’s critically important to install your VPN of choice, as well as any blocked apps, BEFORE arriving in China - many of the VPN sign-up pages are blocked, so you’ll be unable to access them from within China. Good luck with your choice of VPN and happy browsing!

About the Author

David Lee is a Mandarin enthusiast and hotpot fiend hailing from Ireland.