If you plan to travel to China, one of the greatest inconveniences you can expect is internet censorship. The government there practices high censorship levels through the Great Firewall of China (GFW), which filters out any websites, apps, and content that does not support the communist party’s policies.
This means that if you need to visit the country, you need to take some measures to ensure that you can still enjoy the internet as you know it.
What is the Great Firewall of China?
The GFW was created as a subset of the Golden Shield Project. This was a collective name for a series of projects that were started after penetration of the internet in China, with fears that connectivity would bring outside influence to China’s growing economy.
The Chinese government created the Great Firewall to control the flow of information into the country. It serves as a tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to reinforce government narratives, silence dissenting voices, and boost the Chinese economy by blocking outside companies.
Which websites and services are blocked in China?
Some of the high-profile websites banned in China are Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, Wikipedia, Netflix, and Instagram. Also included in this group are news websites from outside China, Torrent sites, VPN sites, and other websites and apps that do not conform to China’s authoritarian policies.
Services such as social media sites and Netflix are blocked to promote Chinese-owned services. Some of the popular services we know have been imitated to produce a Chinese version. For example, there’s Weibo, which looks similar to Twitter, WeChat for Facebook, and Didi for Uber.
You can check if a particular website is blocked in China using this tool.
How to bypass the Chinese Firewall
You can take some measures to ensure that you continue using the internet with freedom while you are still in China. Some of these measures, such as Tor, have however been targeted by the Chinese government, making them ineffective in bypassing the Great Firewall.
The most reliable method of bypassing the censorship put in place is using a VPN.
Using a VPN to bypass censorship
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) works by encrypting user traffic and then securely tunneling it to a server of the user’s choice. By doing this, the VPN hides what you are accessing, and it bypasses your ISP’s server to connect you to the internet through a private one.
This private server changes your public IP address and your DNS to ensure that you are no longer subject to the government’s censorship measures.
To connect to a VPN:
- Create an account with the VPN provider
- Download the VPN app for your various devices
- Sign in and connect to a server outside the country.
However, due to the GFW (again), you need to do more than have a VPN in China.
China’s VPN blocking
To combat the use of VPN’s, the Chinese government blocks VPN traffic in the country. It does this through deep packet inspection (dpi), which analyses all packets passing through the network. If it detects OpenVPN traffic, the connection is blocked.
This has rendered most VPNs ineffective in China, and so you need to choose yours carefully. For a VPN to work in the country, it needs to have obfuscation capabilities. This technology disguises VPN traffic to appear as HTTPS traffic, hence bypassing the GFW. Further, the VPN service provider needs to keep monitoring the GFW policy updates to ensure the VPN is always working.
Most VPNs can’t afford to do this, and the most recommended VPN for China is ExpressVPN. The VPN service has been working in China for several years now, and the company usually have proxy websites that are not blocked in the country. You can always ask for these from the VPN’s live chat support.
Sign up before you go
When you land in China, you won’t be able to access the app store or the VPN’s website. It is therefore highly recommended that you ensure everything is set up before you go. Make sure you test the VPN on all your devices to ensure everything is working well.
After that, you will be all set to enjoy uncensored internet in China!