On this website, we have talked about the best way to get around the Great Firewall of China on many occasions as well as how to access the internet without restrictions in China.
However, what happens when we want to access the network that exists within the Great Firewall? This article is intended for people who for whatever reason want to access websites located in China without any type of restrictions.
Summary of the article
Below is a summary of what this article talks about and the conclusions we reach. If you want more information, just read the section you are interested in.
- Problem: Browsing Chinese websites outside of the country is extremely slow and some content is restricted (for examples videos on Youku, Tudou, Sohu and LeTV)
- Reason: The Great Firewall and geographic restrictions (copyright laws)
- The best way to resolve this: A VPN with a server in China
- What VPN do we recommend: TorGuard VPN and Hide My Ass are to date the best VPNs that we have found for accessing the Chinanet. You can click here to try out TorGuard VPN or here to try out Hide My Ass.
- Who do we recommend use a VPN with a server in China?: People of Chinese origin who live outside of the country, Mandarin students and people who due to their job or for other reasons need to do research on China.
Accessing Chinese websites from outside of China
Before moving to China, I would hear my Chinese friends complain about how slow the internet was in Spain, and as naive as I was, I though that while there were a few websites blocked in China, the internet was very fast. When I got to China and it took me 10 minutes to open my email, I was truly deceived. But why does this happen?
One of my preferred explanations for this subject is given by the famous Chinese blogger Michael Anti (Zhao Jing) in a TED Talk:
“The Internet has two internets: one is the internet and the other is the Chinanet.”
Basically, what Michael is referring to is that the Great Firewall of China has isolated the Chinese internet in such a way that any connection from one side to the other becomes complicated and as a result, extremely slow. On a practical level, this means that when my Chinese friend who lived in Spain tried to read his email on 163.com (Chinese Gmail), he would grow desperate when it took him ten minutes to access every email, just like what happened to me when I tried to access my email from within China.
For whatever reason, if you normally visit Chinese websites, you will already know that the enormous exercise of patience is added to yet another problem: geographic restrictions. Just like when you try to watch your favorite Netflix or television series online outside of your country, there is a lot of content restricted outside of China. The most prominent examples of this content are videos on Youku, Tudou, Sohu, LeTV and other websites or music on Baidu Yinyue.
How to browse the Chinese web and unblock websites such as Youku, Tudou, Sohu or LeTV
To avoid geographic restrictions or to simply save yourself from eternal loading time and errors when visiting websites hosted on Chinese servers, there are several solutions. The most popular ones are proxies, Tor or VPNs. However, I always recommend using VPNs, especially if you’re not an internet expert (click on the previous link to find out why).
Wait! Before you start looking for a VPN, you should know that it is not as easy as it looks. Not just any VPN will work! If finding a good VPN to get past the Great Firewall when you are in China is difficult, finding a VPN that lets you enter the Great Firewall is even harder.
The main problem is that the majority of the best VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN or VyprVPN, don’t have servers in mainland China. While a solution may be to connect to the servers they have in Hong Kong, which substantially improves speed, servers in Hong Kong don’t allow you to get around geographic restrictions, as Hong Kong is outside of the “Chinanet.”
But all is not lost….
The best VPN with a server in China
Over the past years, I have been looking for and testing numerous VPNs with servers in China, and for the moment, I have only been able to find two VPN providers that offers guarantees of service and its servers in China work adequately. I’m talking about TorGuardVPN and Hide My Ass.
Below, you will find a table that goes over the features of the suggested VPNs:
|Guaranteed money back||30 days||30 days|
|Monthly plan||9.99 USD||11.52 USD|
|Yearly plan||5 USD (per month)||6.55 USD (per month)|
|Countries with servers||50||210|
|Desktop applications||Windows, Mac, Linux||Windows, Mac|
|Mobile applications||Android, iOS, Windows Phone||Android, iOS, Windows Phone|
|Simultaneous connections||Yes (up to 5)||Yes (up to 2)|
|Encryption protocols||PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, iKEV2||PPTP, OpenVPN|
|Changes in VPN location||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Try TorGuard VPN||Try Hide My Ass|
Suggestions for use
- Before using the VPN, close your browser and when the VPN is completely connected, open it again: this is important if you want to use Youku, Tudou, Sohu and other streaming websites
- If you are using TorGuard VPN, in my experience, what works best for servers in China is OpenConnect with UDP (browsing is quicker and the connection doesn’t tend to cut out).
- If you are using Hide My Ass, some IP addresses are blocked, so if you are on Youku or whatever website you are using and you still get the message that you have to be in China, close the browser and click on Change IP.
- Hide My Ass VPN’s Chinese servers only work using the PPTP protocol.
- Avoid the time period between 9:00 pm and 12:00 am in China, as servers tend to go very slow due to the high volume of users active in China.
- If you only need to browse Chinese websites and it’s “peak hours” in China, you can use servers located in Hong Kong, as you will likely be able to browse faster.
Who would be interested in a VPN with a server in China?
- People of Chinese origin
- Mandarin students: Browsing the web in China is an invaluable source of study materials, especially audiovisual materials, series, films and audio tracks that are hard to find in other places.
- People who want to watch films and series: In China, famous video aggregators contain an incredible library of films and series that are both Chinese and international, which can be watched for free. Just look for what interests you on baidu.com (better with its Chinese name) and it will show you the websites that offer it (normally YouKu, Tudou, Sohu, iQIYI and LeTV).
- People who for work or other reasons need information on China: I would include myself among these people, as to write many of the article on this website when I am not in China, I need to consult information sources which are normally located on Chinese servers. Without a VPN, my search would become torture at times, as web pages take centuries to load.