As you surely know, there are countries that have banned the use of VPNs. Even though China is often found among those countries, things aren’t that simple. While some people say that VPNs are illegal in this country, others say that you can use VPNs without any limitations. As always, the correct answer is somewhere in the middle of these statements. So, let’s talk about how to use VPNs in China without breaking the law.
Throughout this article, we will explain the current state of VPNs according to the currently active Chinese laws. As you’re about to see, there are ways to browse the Web anonymously and even to unblock censored websites. So, let’s start at the beginning by explaining the current situation.
How to Use VPNs in China Without Breaking the Law?
In case you’ve been following the situation surrounding VPNs in China, you have probably heard about China’s authorities blocking VPNs. This has created quite a commotion, especially when it comes to large corporations. Even the USA has warned against this action as a way to protect companies that originate from this country but operate in China.
To give you an answer on the safety of VPN use in China, we need to take a look at the newest development. So, keep on reading to learn more.
Is it Illegal to Use a VPN in China?
The first thing we have to get out of the way is that VPNs have not received a blanket ban in China. Plenty of media outlets have essentially said as much, but this is false information. VPN technology itself is not illegal within China. It’s just that the Chinese government has now explicitly described who may use VPNs as well as for which purposes they are allowed to use them for.
So, what’s being banned are foreign VPN services and other VPN implementations that don’t comply with government policies and regulation. To this end, several things have already happened. Apple has pulled a number of VPN apps from the Chinese app store. After all, they can’t afford to be kicked out of China. Chinese telecoms have been told to block all VPN traffic from March 31st, 2018. Some Chinese VPN providers seem to have been shut down as well.
The new law didn’t make VPNs illegal in this country – as you might have read online. Instead, the Chinese government has decided to ban VPNs that operate without a license. This means that you still have a whole range of Virtual Private Network apps at your disposal, and you can still use them to go beyond the Great Firewall of China. Still, this doesn’t mean that there’s no reason for concern. We don’t know the exact relationship between licensed VPNs and the Chinese government. Do those VPNs keep logs and have they developed backdoor access? Only time will tell.
VPNs Vs The Great Firewall of China
You need to understand that China is tightly controlled by its government – and this applies to the flow of information as well. That is why the Great Firewall of China has been built, in the first place. Thanks to this ‘invention’, the officials are able of filtering outgoing and incoming Web data. For example, numerous websites can be blocked or censored – and these changes and decisions can happen overnight.
This all started as a way to control political groups that were deemed dangerous by the Chinese officials. Here, we’re talking mostly about Taiwanese and Tibetan separatist groups. As a way to control their reach, websites and forums have been blocked. However, these groups have started using other means to spread information, mostly over social media. Therefore, services and websites like Facebook and Google were forced to back out of this country or to remove certain features.
Finally, China understands that it’s impossible to ban VPNs altogether – and this especially applies to business organizations. After all, VPNs come with numerous legitimate uses and we’re sure that the Chinese government is using this technology to encrypt its own data. So, instead of banning this technology, China has decided to regulate VPNs and create a list of licensing options.
Can I Use a VPN in China?
Despite many frightening messages coming from this country, it’s not impossible to use a VPN. So, let’s set the record straight.
Using a VPN in China is indeed a grey-area thing. Numerous websites are blocked in this country, and there’s no way of accessing them via regular Internet connections. However, it’s not true that the Chinese government is tracking down every VPN user. As long as you use it for your personal purposes and avoiding any risky situations, you are good to go. In case you download a huge amount of data on a daily basis, or if you get in contact with people who might be suspected, this is when the authorities might be interested in your online whereabouts. What’s interesting to note is that this situation doesn’t only apply to China but to the entire world.
Finally, you need to keep in mind that China has very strong anti-pornography and anti-prostitution laws, which need to be taken seriously. Just because you’re using a VPN doesn’t mean that you should go against this country’s laws.
Can Foreigners Use VPNs in China?
Let’s say that you plan on traveling to China and that you want to use your own VPN. In theory, any VPN should work since the Great Firewall of China isn’t that difficult to go through after all. So, what would happen if you’re caught using a foreign VPN?
To look for an answer, we’ll take a look at what Josh Summers explained in his blog post. Back in 2015, his smartphone stopped working while he was in Xinjiang. He wasn’t able to make phone calls or send messages, and his Web connection dropped as well. Josh pointed out that his cell service provider told him to go to the police. This is where his phone was taken away from him, where all but ‘legal’ apps were deleted including Skype and his VPN application. Then, he received his phone back – and that’s about it. This means that he wasn’t forced to pay a fine nor did he go to jail.
The truth is that Josh’s story happened in 2015, and China has decided to become more aggressive since then. So, our advice would be not to try your luck and to use certified VPNs only.
Can You Use Corporate VPNs in China?
It is a common practice for large business organizations to use VPNs for the purposes of securing their communication. A country that completely blocks this practice doesn’t exist. That is because China is interested in foreign investments and it doesn’t want to block them – even though firm laws do exist in practice.
In general, corporate VPNs use the public Internet to create secure communication channels. Even though there were reports saying that China is disrupting corporate VPNs, there weren’t any widespread reports. It is believed that companies are free to use their custom VPNs – but they need to know their limitations.
The biggest limitation of using a corporate VPN is that all data generated in China needs to remain within the country’s borders. We are talking about personal data like ID cards, passport information, and bank accounts – and this is China’s effort to protect its citizens.
What Are the Punishments for Using a VPN in China?
Many experts agree that the Great Firewall of China is built to discourage regular Web users from accessing censored websites. After all, bypassing the firewall is actually quite easy and all you need is a reliable VPN. Therefore, the main goal of this action isn’t to catch those using a VPN but to prevent those from ‘leaving China’ who don’t use these applications.
Using VPNs within legal limits (avoiding the dark Web or any kind of criminal activities) will not get you in trouble. However, selling VPNs is a tricky business. There were reports of a man sentenced to 9 months in jail for selling VPNs. However, we haven’t seen any other reports of the authorities punishing individuals for using VPNs.
So, How Can You Get a Legal VPN in China?
The only way to use a VPN in China without getting into legal trouble is with the government approval. If a VPN is government approved, it means it’s of no use if you want to hide your activity from the government itself. That’s because they need to agree to government oversight.
Whatever you use the VPN for, it has to be an approved use case. This means you can’t use it to circumvent censorship without breaking the law. So, here are the essential points of using a VPN in China without breaking the law:
- Use a VPN with explicit authorization from the Chinese government.
- Only use it for sanctioned purposes, such as data security or letting your field workers access Intranet features.
What Else to Know About Using a VPN in China? (FAQs)
Before we conclude this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions related to the main question of this article – how to use VPNs in China without breaking the law. So, keep on reading.
Can You Watch Netflix in China?
Even though Netflix is available pretty much in the entire world, China is not on the list of supported countries. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t access this video streaming service. Just make sure to pick a VPN that works in China and that is licensed by the government.
Can You Download VPN Apps on iOS?
Since Apple has removed a bunch of highly popular VPNs from its Chinese app store, it can be hard to install and natively run a VPN app. The most popular solution to this problem is to create a new iTunes account using an address from the USA. This also includes using a VPN, so that your IP address points to a location in the US.
Can You Pay for a VPN Using a Chinese Payment Service?
Well, this depends on a chosen VPN. While the majority of popular services support PayPal, which is a way to keep your subscription alive, only a handful support payment options like Chinese bank cards, Union Pay, and AliPay. One of the VPNs that stands out in this manner is ExpressVPN.
How to Access Facebook in China – VPN, Proxy, or SSH?
You might be surprised to know that Facebook is indeed blocked in China. Even though Mark Zuckerberg has visited China numerous times and even met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the website remains blocked. Instead of using Facebook, Chinese Web users rely on social media networks like WeChat, Sina Weibo, Youku, Douban, and others. All of these are Chinese creations.
It’s interesting to note that VPNs can easily overcome this obstacle and open Facebook to Chinese users. By using a VPN, you get a new IP address outside of China, and Facebook becomes fully available. Also, you should know that Proxies or SSH aren’t as secure as VPNs, which is why we recommend you not use these methods of unblocking websites.
How Do Foreigners Check Gmail in China?
You might already know that Google is still banned in China, even though this might change in the near future. So, how do foreigners check Gmail? The easy answer is – they can’t since Google services are not available in this country. The long answer is – there are still ways to make Gmail work.
Of course, the best and easiest method is to use a VPN. This includes running a VPN application on your phone or computer. It’s convenient since you don’t have to change your workflow. You can keep the Gmail app on your phone and use it whenever you want.
When speaking about alternative methods, you can forward Gmail messages to another account. This means using a provider available in China, like Yahoo for example, and having all your Gmail messages come to your Yahoo account.
Can We Use WhatsApp in China?
WhatsApp is not banned in China, and it’s actually one of the few international messaging services available in this country. However, what’s worrying is that WhatsApp was briefly blocked back in July 2017. Even though you can still use this app, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add another layer of protection. So, read our following segment to see which VPN to pick.
Which VPN Should You Use in China?
As per our reviews and extensive testing, we highly recommend using ExpressVPN. This is a licensed VPN that works in China without any problems. On top of that, this application allows you to access a bunch of popular foreign services, including media streaming services. And finally, ExpressVPN brings incredible speeds with close to non-existing throttling.
Dear readers, what would be all on how to use VPNs in China without breaking the law. We hope that you managed to find answers to all your questions. If not, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below.