Heavy censorship on internet usage is imposed by the Chinese government throughout the country. Otherwise known as China’s Great Firewall, this can be a problem for expats or travelers who are either staying or presently living in the country. However, this firewall can be bypassed using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. ExpressVPN is one such example. Chinese internet censorship will be explained in this article in further detail, along with how ExpressVPN can safely be used in China.
Internet censorship has been around for a long time. Many countries have blocked access to websites that contain illegal content. However, China’s internet censorship is more far-reaching and extensive than that of other countries. Staying in touch with family and friends is challenging, as popular social media sites like WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are blocked. Additionally, unorthodox views are also blocked, along with most western news sites, making it difficult to find information that’s fair and unbiased about the rest of the world.
The good news is that there is a workaround for all of this by signing up for a VPN prior to traveling. This will allow a user to access blocked websites while they are visiting China. VPNs encrypt a user’s website traffic and routes it through worldwide servers. VPNs offer users two benefits: access to sites that cannot be viewed in China, and activities that an ISP or the government won’t be able to monitor very easily.
How ExpressVPN Breaks Through China’s Great Firewall and Works in China
For the most part, most VPNs don’t work in China. ExpressVPN is one of the few that still does because for one thing, they don’t have any servers in the country, meaning that it doesn’t have to comply with Chinese law regarding data-retention or monitoring the activities of its users. Government operatives will not be able to spy on ExpressVPN’s hardware. It’s not a fringe conspiracy, though. It’s happened to Amazon and Apple servers before.
Why ExpressVPN Can Be Used in China
ExpressVPN is one of the best services to use in China for a number of reasons. It’s lightning-fast and includes access to over 2,000 servers in more than 94 countries around the world. Their multi-platform support is second to none and comes with customized firmware for a seamless installation process.
ExpressVPN takes a user’s security very seriously, as it uses WebRTC, IPv6, protection against DNS, accurate forward secrecy, and a 256-bit AES encryption to always keep activities private. If a user’s connection suddenly drops, there is a kill switch for desktop computers. There is no identifying information logged through ExpressVPN and it offers increased anonymity if a user pays with Bitcoin.
Get ExpressVPN: While most VPNs require users to commit to a year or longer to get a lower price, ExpressVPN does not. If a user needs coverage for a short period of time, ExpressVPN offers a money-back guarantee if they cancel within 30 days. This requires payment up-front but can be canceled at any time, which allows users to give it a free test drive.
One positive thing about ExpressVPN is that there aren’t any required steps that need to be taken to connect to the internet in China. A user needs to select their server of choice and that’s it – they can freely browse the entire web. The only catch is that ExpressVPN must be installed before a user travels to China, as it is currently blocked in the country.
China monitors their citizens’ online access very closely, which is why there are several steps that must be taken prior to connecting for the very first time. Users need to make sure that ExpressVPN connects their devices automatically to the VPN whenever it’s on. On the main page, users will click on the Menu icon (which will show up as 3 lines) in the top left and then select Options.
Users will allow the first two options under the General tab which will ensure that they aren’t browsing without protection accidentally. If users are using a desktop computer version of the application, they should cease all internet traffic should the VPN unexpectedly disconnect.
From there, users will access the Advanced tab to ensure that the DNS options and the IPv6 leak protection boxes are checked, and click OK when finished.
Users will now be free to connect to the internet normally. By returning to the Home page and clicking a large button in the middle of the screen, users will be able to connect to one of the best servers available in their current location. Users can also choose specific countries to connect to by clicking on the Choose Location button and selecting one from a list located on the right-hand corner of the page.
Why Internet Usage Is Heavily Restricted in China
The reason China has so many internet restrictions is because they want to protect their citizens from content that could incite hatred, mislead, divide, or corrupt. Ideas can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, which is why China’s government decides what content should be blocked. Their firewall is also used to silence people with opposing viewpoints or political opponents.
To make matters worse, relevant legislation passed in 1997 (Online Security, Computer Information Network, and Management Protocols) is vaguely worded and appears to give the government numerous ways to censor many websites. If a citizen posts content that criticizes the Chinese government in any way, shape, or form, they can be found guilty of provoking division, willingly insulting other citizens, damaging the country’s reputation, or activities that go against the constitution. Celebrity news discussions can even be considered criminal.
Political content isn’t the only thing China forbids their citizens to access. There are around 10,000 domains blocked from the country’s mainland including the following:
Information sources including Quora, Archive, and Wikipedia
Cloud storage services including Dropbox, Mega, Google Docs, and Google Drive
Proxy or VPN-related sites including configuration guides and tutorials
Search engines including DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and Google
News sites including The New York Times, BBC, and The Guardian
Social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Messaging services including Telegram, Slack, Gmail, and WhatsApp
Other Reliable VPNs That Work in China
Most VPNs have been blocked in China, thus not allowing users to find ways around their online restrictions. Local Internet Service Providers are also blocking some VPN services. There are only a few reliable VPNs in China that still work, including VyprVPN, StrongVPN, Ivacy, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN. The home pages for each of these services are blocked, which means users will need to find a mirror site to use when they are in China. It is still recommended that users register before they visit the country, as most of the mirror sites are becoming inaccessible.
Can users check to see if specific sites are blocked?
ExpressVPN currently has a Great Firewall tool of their own, which can enable users to see whether certain sites are blocked in China. China updates their restrictions often, which means that even if some websites might be available currently, they may not be after the user arrives.
What should a user do if their VPN’s site is blocked unexpectedly?
If a user is visiting China and they’re unable to access their provider’s website or connect to their VPN, they will need to wait until the service comes online again. There are several other steps that can also be taken prior to arriving in China that could reduce a user’s chances of becoming stranded.
ExpressVPN and the other services that were mentioned earlier are mostly dependable in China, but users should keep a log of their VPN’s manual configuration directions, support e-mail addresses, and mirror sites for their device, to be on the safe side. Anything that’s stored in a cloud will not be accessible while a user is visiting China, which is why a copy of the information should be kept on a device that’s password-protected.
How safe is it to use a VPN in China?
While China heavily restricts access to VPNs, the technology is technically not illegal. For example, China allows businesses to select from pre-approved local VPNs in order for them to work with global employees.
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