- Blocked websites in China: highlights and latest news
- List of blocked websites in China
- List of websites and apps that AREN’T blocked in China
- What about Chinese websites?
- How to know if a website is blocked in China
- How to access blocked websites in China
- Is it legal to use a VPN?
- Is it true that all VPN access has been blocked?
- Other frequently asked questions
- What are the best VPNs for China?
You probably already know that websites such as Facebook, YouTube or Google are blocked in China and that the best way to access them is with a VPN.
But what about the other hundreds of websites or apps that we use every day?
Can you be sure that they’ll work in China?
One of the most common questions we get is whether a given website or app, such as Dropbox or Google Play, is blocked in China.
In this article, we list all of the popular websites and apps which currently don’t work behind the Great Firewall of China, which is the system developed by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to control access to online services considered “dangerous” for Chinese citizens.
Blocked websites in China: highlights and latest news
VPNs continue to provide access to websites blocked in China
VPNs continue to be the best way to get around the Great Firewall of China. Nonetheless, last year, many VPNs stopped working or their services were affected substantially.
In this article, which is updated monthly, you can see which VPNs continue to work in China.
Zoom is partially blocked in China
In August 2020, Zoom released a local version for users in China. The international version is blocked. Individual users can join meetings but cannot organize them. Premium users have to subscribe through the local partner to be able to create meetings.
WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps don’t work in China
Since September 2017, WhatsApp has been almost completely blocked in China. Currently, without using a VPN, you can’t send or receive voice messages, videos, images or any other type of files.
Text messages can sometimes get around the restrictions, but they can arrive hours late.
Other popular messaging apps, like Messenger, Telegram, Snapchat and Line, are also blocked.
Skype continues to work in China
In December 2017, the Skype app disappeared from the App Store and other app markets in China. Even so, Skype has never stopped working in China.
VPN apps for Apple are not blocked in China
Apps have not been blocked, but the App Store has blocked users located in China from downloading these apps, which means that you will not be able to download VPN apps or update them unless you have a VPN active on your phone (manually configured or by downloading the app in advance).
TikTok is blocked in China
Despite being owned by a Chinese company, TikTok is blocked in China, like other popular social media platforms. China has a local version of TikTok called Douyin.
Google maps is still blocked in China
Some news pointed to the possibility that China would ease up on the blocking of Google Maps for users in Mainland China. However, at the present moment, Google Maps is unavailable in China without a VPN.
Clubhouse has been blocked in China
Clubhouse, a rapidly growing social networking app based on voice chat, has been blocked in China since February 2021, only a few months after its release (May 2020).
List of blocked websites in China
Here’s a list of the most popular websites and apps which are currently blocked in China:
- Google Hangouts
- Google (Google.com and all local versions)
- Duck Duck Go
- Various foreign versions of Baidu
- The New York Times
- The Financial Times
- The Wall Street Journal
- The Economist
- The Washington Post
- The South China Morning Post
- The Independent
- The Daily Mail
- Google News
- Many Wikipedia pages
- Netflix (no service, website accessible)
- Amazon Prime Video
- Hulu (no service, website accessible)
- BBC iPlayer
- Pandora Radio
- Some local versions of HBO, Fox and Syfy
Email Providers and Work Tools
- Google Drive
- Google Docs
- Google Calendar
- Generally speaking, all Google services
- Zoom (local version)
- Most VPN websites
Adult websites are almost all blocked; I don’t know of any exceptions.
List of websites and apps that AREN’T blocked in China
Below is a non-exhaustive list of websites and apps that are popular in the West that haven’t yet been blocked in China:
Calls and Video Calls
- Skype (not very reliable)
- HBO Asia (sometimes it has been blocked temporarily)
Email Providers and Work Tools
- Yahoo Mail
What about Chinese websites?
In general, all Chinese websites work and are extremely fast. Note that if you’re using a VPN, some Chinese websites will not work properly (for example, many of the videos on Youku won’t be available). This is because some websites work only in China and by turning on a VPN, you are “masking” your Chinese IP address with that of another country.
How to know if a website is blocked in China
The list published in this article is not exhaustive. Keep in mind that the situation is constantly changing: a website that’s blocked today could work tomorrow and vice versa – a website that works today could stop working in twenty minutes.
Besides, some websites are partially blocked, some go on and off and others, despite not being blocked, are so slow that they are practically unusable. The classic example is video calls on Skype: the connection is often so slow that you’ll want to skip the call.
How to access blocked websites in China
The easiest and most popular solution is to subscribe to a VPN service (here you can find the services we currently recommend).
However, note that especially after 8 PM (Beijing time), websites hosted by servers outside of China (basically all Western sites) are often so slow that they are unusable. I’m not sure why, but my theory is that this is the hour of peak traffic between China and the West (since it’s the morning in the USA and the afternoon in Europe).
As a result, the data lines are maxed out, so say goodbye to your connection! I don’t even know if the problem is a result of the Great Firewall or simply a physical limit between China and the rest of the planet.
Is it legal to use a VPN?
Disclaimer: here at SDC we are not qualified to give any legal advice; therefore, if you choose to use a VPN, you do so at your own risk.
That being said, our interpretation is that using a VPN (an acronym for a Virtual Private Network) is not an illegal act in and of itself, since it uses a technology developed to extend the benefits of private networks to connections that browse the Internet (or for use on a public network).
Therefore, a VPN is software designed to improve the security of your connection (click here to learn the technical details). Specifically, many universities and presumably Chinese government offices use a VPN system to isolate their internal network from the public.
So, the problem isn’t so much using a VPN as much as the fact that you’re accessing websites that aren’t permitted in China. Is that a crime? The reality is that we have no idea and therefore can’t offer any advice.
On a practical level, our opinion is that the Chinese government couldn’t care less if you use a VPN to log on to your Facebook profile or your Dropbox.
Of course, if you intend to use the Internet fraudulently, VPN or not, be aware that you’re taking a risk both in China and abroad.
Is it true that all VPN access has been blocked?
This information, published by Bloomberg in 2017 and originating from an unknown source, was quite doubtful at the time and was quickly debunked by the Chinese Ministry of Industry.
China indeed started a campaign to limit VPN use in 2017, which reached its peak in 2018, but it was mainly focused on companies with headquarters in China, such as GreenVPN. Despite one-time attacks, this campaign was not extended to all VPNs, probably for two main reasons: technically speaking, it’s difficult to be able to block access to the global network, and because this could severely affect the Chinese economy (many small businesses and individuals depend on this type of service for their business activities).
In 2017 and 2018, many VPNs stopped working or their performance was seriously affected. During the following years, periodic campaigns of increased restrictions have taken place, reducing the functionality of many VPNs. However, some well-known VPN services (such as those we recommend in this article) continue to work well, and it’s unlikely that they will stop working. These types of campaigns have become common over the years, especially around important political or social events (the Olympic Games, party congresses, etc.).
Other frequently asked questions
In China, there are multiple local social media platforms. The most popular one is currently WeChat.
Other instant messaging apps, such as FB Messenger, Line, Telegram, or Viber, are also blocked in China. The only exceptions are the Chinese apps WeChat or Weixin.
While the Yahoo website and Yahoo Mail are still accessible, Yahoo’s search engine (search.yahoo.com) has not been accessible in China since September 2018.
The reason for the blocking is probably a business reason, so that preference is given to local cloud storage systems.
Not all other similar question-answer services are blocked in China. While Yahoo Answers and Stack Exchange are still accessible, AskReddit and Answers.com are blocked.
What are the best VPNs for China?
|Features||What’s the Best?|
|Main Advantage||Fastest and Easiest to Use||Cheapest|
(among the best)
|Server Count||Extra Options||It depends on your needs!|
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days||30 days||30 days||30 days|
|Monthly Plan||12.95 USD||9.95 USD||11.95 USD||12.95 USD|
|Yearly Plan||6.67 USD/month|
(exclusive offer: 3 months free)
|3.33 USD/month||6.99 USD/month||6.49 USD/month|
(Best service in our experience)
|Countries with Servers||94||56||59||65|
|Payment Methods||Credit Card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Alipay, Union Pay and others||Credit Card, Paypal, Bitpay, Alipay, Perfect Money||Credit Card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Union Pay, Bitcoin||Credit Card, Paypal, Amazon Pay, Bitcoin, Sofort|
|Desktop Apps||Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook||Windows, Mac||Windows, Mac, Linux||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Browser Extension||Chrome, Firefox, Safari||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome, Firefox|
|Mobile Apps||Android, iOS, Windows Phone||Android, iOS, Windows Phone||Android, iOS, Windows Phone||Android, iOS, Windows Phone|
|Simultaneous Connections||Yes (until 5)||Yes (until 5)||Yes (until 6)||Unlimited|
|Encryption Protocols||Lightway, OpenVPN, L2TP-IPsec, IPsec, IKEv2, PPTP||OpenVPN, IKEV, L2TP||OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard®||IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks, WireGuard®|
|Try ExpressVPN➤||Try Ivacy➤||Try NordVPN➤||Try Surfshark➤|
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons CC0): Pixabay.com]