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4 Ways To Access Sites in China If You're Already There in 2023

Kate Veale Updated on 20th October 2023 Senior Editor

While the Great Wall of China attracts over 10 million sightseers per year, the Great Firewall blocks Chinese citizens and visitors from seeing over 10,000 websites.

Whether you’re living in China or just visiting, your online freedom is at risk. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google are among the censored websites, which makes it nearly impossible to stay in touch with family and friends back home or overseas. With tools like Gmail and Dropbox blocked, too, you might even be missing out on important emails from your workplace, or be unable to work at all. Click here to check if your favorite sites are blocked in China.

Don’t worry - we are here to help! A VPN is the best and most secure solution that makes it possible to bypass China’s censorship and regain access to all of your favorite websites and online tools and regain access to all of your favorite websites and online tools. Our easy-to-understand guide will tell you everything you need to know.

Important! While VPNs are definitely the most reliable option for accessing your favorite sites in China, many fail to work within the country. Due to this, it's important you choose a VPN that's proven to reliably work in China, such as ExpressVPN. However, please be aware that even the best VPNs may experience temporary outages from time to time due to China's always-changing restrictions. 

4 Ways to Unblock Sites in China

1. Use a VPN

Above all else, we recommend installing a VPN before you travel to China.

Unlike proxies and browser extensions, a good VPN will encrypt your data so that it is virtually unreadable to hackers and government surveillance programs. You’ll also have your choice of virtual locations across the globe so you can easily bypass geoblocking.

Although there have been strict government crackdowns on VPNs, there are still a select few providers that will work in China. Keep in mind that these VPNs are non-government-approved VPNs and using them is prohibited in China. However, there haven't been any incidents of tourists being fined by the Chinese government.

If you‘re looking for a great VPN to use in China and across the globe, we recommend ExpressVPN. It has agents who constantly test and update its servers to make sure they can bypass The Great Firewall, and with its high speeds and servers in neighboring countries, you can access any content you like and stream video from around the globe.

ExpressVPN provides military-grade encryption and advanced security features, so you can rest assured that the Chinese government and other third parties will never be able to know your true identity or location.

The best part is that ExpressVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not sure if it’s the right VPN for you, you can try it out risk-free.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Now!

2. Use Tor for Browsing

Tor is a secure browser that anonymizes your identity and browsing activity by bouncing it through different relays in its network.

Although you can’t access Tor’s website to download it from within China, you can contact its developers to obtain a link to download it from a cloud service. You’ll need to email gettor@torproject.org with your operating system stated in the body of your message.

The Chinese government has been working to block Tor with some success. To ensure that your connection goes undetected by censors, you’ll need to run Obfsproxy in tandem with your Tor browser. Obfsproxy is a tool that alters your traffic to make it look like regular network traffic under deep packet inspection, instead of traffic that‘s passing through Tor.

For a powerful security solution, combine Tor with your VPN. There are two ways to do this: Tor over VPN, and VPN over Tor.

Tor over VPN provides an extra layer of security because your VPN will encrypt your data before it enters the Tor network, preventing the entry node from seeing your IP address. It also means that your ISP cannot see that you are using Tor. To achieve this, you’ll need to connect your VPN before you start Tor.

When you open Tor before connecting to your VPN, you’re using VPN over Tor. Your data is encrypted both when entering and exiting the Tor network. When using this method, your VPN provider can’t see your real IP, and your ISP can’t tell that you’re using a VPN.

3. Ultrasurf

Ultrasurf is one of the most popular anti-censorship freeware programs available, enabling its users to bypass firewalls using an HTTP proxy server.

This proxy method works similarly to a VPN, by creating a tunnel between your computer and a pool of servers in a remote location.

Unlike a VPN, a proxy will only secure traffic from your web browser. It won’t protect any data sent from other programs, like your email client or Skype. This means that the majority of your internet traffic is left vulnerable to hackers and attackers.

A VPN will encrypt all of your data, ensuring that you are protected at all times.

Ultrasurf does offer encryption between your computer and its servers, but your data is not encrypted for its entire journey unless you’re accessing a secured website.

Ultrasurf changes its servers' IP addresses up to 10,000 times per hour to avoid detection and ensure its users are able to freely access the internet. And, once you uninstall it, it won’t leave a trace. Even if someone searches your computer, they won’t be able to tell that you ever used it.

4. Shadowsocks

Shadowsocks is another open source proxy that promises users freedom from online censorship. When you use Shadowsocks, it creates an encrypted connection between your computer and a proxy server using the SOCKS5 protocol. But, unlike a VPN, Shadowsocks isn’t designed to protect your privacy - it’s only meant to bypass censorship.

Shadowsocks only encrypts the data sent from your device to the proxy server, without hiding your IP address.

Although Shadowsocks’ dynamic protocols are harder for censors to detect, a VPN provides far better privacy and anonymity. Take into account that it’s illegal to use non-governmental approved VPNs in China. Luckily, no tourist has even been charged for using one.

China’s Strict VPN Ban Poses Challenges

Censorship is an ever-present force in China, and its regressive online access laws combined with all-seeing government surveillance programs threaten the online freedom of anyone who accesses the internet from within its borders.

These laws were first put in place to prevent and punish cybercrimes, but they tend to miss the mark. While hackers and cybercriminals run rampant, the firewall blocks websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google. You can check which of the sites that you rely on are blocked in China using our free firewall testing tool.

In fact, China even blocks its homegrown websites, particularly news sources and blogs that post political opinions that don‘t support the ruling party. This goes even further than threatening online access, to endangering citizens’ personal freedoms and safety.

In the absence of access to well-rounded news sources, it becomes exceedingly difficult to remain informed and hold your government accountable—a situation that authoritarian powers specifically favor.

Can you use a VPN to bypass the Great Firewall? Well, the answer is both yes and no.

The Chinese government has now banned the operation of VPNs that aren’t pre-approved by, well, themselves. These approved VPN services are likely to provide users’ information to the government, or even install backdoor access for easier surveillance. It‘s also highly unlikely that these VPNs will be able to bypass the firewall.

This undermines all the privacy features that VPNs offer, making them more like trackers than online security tools.

Most foreign VPN websites have already been blocked by the firewall itself, leaving users no way to set up an account from within the country. So, if you’re already in China and you didn’t set a VPN up before you arrived, you can use the tips above to restore your internet access.

If you’re still preparing for your trip, don’t forget to pack one of our recommended VPNs for China – they have all been tested to make sure they work smoothly in the country and bypass the Great Firewall with ease. In addition, although China has banned the use of non-government-approved VPNs, no tourist has ever been charged for using one. The common practice is that China fights VPNs by technologically blocking them, and not by chasing after the people who use them. This means you shouldn’t have to worry about your safety.


Censorship and government surveillance threaten the online freedom of anyone who accesses the internet in China. While the Chinese government is busy blocking websites that it deems to challenge traditional values its political power, freedom fighters across the globe are working hard to build workarounds that restore citizens' and traveler’s privacy.

While programs like Tor and Ultrasurf can offer a means to bypass the Great Firewall, it is always advisable to install a VPN before traveling as the superior choice.

Get 49% Off ExpressVPN Now!

Further Reading:

The Best VPNs for China
Test the Great Firewall of China
How to Access Facebook in China
How to Use WhatsApp in China
The Complete List of Blocked Websites in China

Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

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The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.

VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 49% off.

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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.

About the Author

Kate has been writing and editing for vpnMentor since 2018. She is driven by her passion for helping people to protect themselves from online threats.

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