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How To Use a VPN in China

by Tracy Knauer •

Chinese Internet censors have become more proactive in recent years about blocking VPN usage through the Great Firewall. But it’s still possible to use a VPN in China. Here are tips on how to work around VPN blocking.

This isn’t an article about how to use a VPN in general. We assume you already have VPN software configured on your PC, phone or tablet.

With VPN software installed, follow these tips to maximize your chances of having your VPN connection work in China:

  • Use a VPN provider that actively supports users in China. (We have recommendations here.) While in theory the Chinese government could block any VPN service, companies that focus on China are constantly taking steps to make sure they are not blocked.
  • Use the SSTP VPN protocol, when possible. This protocol is hard for censors to block. Unfortunately, not all VPN apps and providers support SSTP.
  • If you can’t use SSTP, try the L2TP protocol if it is available. L2TP is also not as widely supported as other protocols.
  • If you can’t use SSTP or L2TP, try using OpenVPN — a protocol that virtually every VPN app and provider supports — over an SSL connection. Normally OpenVPN is easy to block but tunneling it through SSL makes it much more resilient to censorship. The easiest way to use OpenVPN over SSL is to choose a VPN provider that supports the configuration out-of-the-box, like AirVPN.
  • Make sure you are using a DNS server that is not based in China since Chinese censors thwart DNS requests to sites they don’t want you to visit. In most cases, when you log into a VPN, your DNS settings should automatically be reconfigured to use the VPN company’s DNS. If not, you can manually configure a third-party DNS.

Comments 1

  1. May be travelling to China early in the new year. Would love a post that summarises all the steps one should take to ensure their tech is safe, while still being able to access those apps, services and websites that we all take for granted in the west.

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