We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
Advertising Disclosure

vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

Does Proton VPN Work in China? Paid & Free Plan Tested 2024

Husain Parvez Updated on 6th February 2024 Cybersecurity Researcher

Proton VPN stands out due to its reputation for privacy, security, and its ability to bypass geo-blocks. But can it be used in one of the world’s most restricted online environments? My team and I tested both the free and paid plans of Proton VPN to see if it works in China.

TL;DR, the answer is no, Proton VPN doesn’t work in China — which is why my top choice for China is ExpressVPN. It protects your private data with military-grade encryption and an audited no-logs policy. Plus, you can use the fast server network to access your Google, Twitter, and YouTube accounts without restrictions. You can try ExpressVPN risk-free, as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. Getting a refund is easy if you’re not satisfied.

Try ExpressVPN for China >>

Important! VPN use in China is heavily restricted, with only government-approved services being technically legal within the country. That being said, there are no publicly-reported cases of tourists being penalized by the Chinese government for using a non-approved VPN. Still, we advise you to check the relevant laws before your trip and to have a clear understanding of China's stance on this issue.

Does Proton VPN Work in China?

No, the Chinese government banned Proton VPN on September 18, 2019. The authorities in China use several advanced tools to detect and block VPNs, like Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) or URL/DNS/keyword filtering. I reached out to Proton VPN support and got a list of 33 servers that you can try in China. However, the service can’t guarantee that any of them work. Plus, you can’t use Proton VPN in other restrictive locations like Russia, Turkey, or the UAE.

Screenshot of Proton VPN's announcement stating that the VPN doesn't work in ChinaThe VPN’s support team couldn’t guarantee any of their servers would work behind the Great Firewall

Despite the country’s harsh internet restrictions, some VPNs still work in China though. My team and I tested 60+ China VPNs to find  reliable services for the country. These VPNs can give you access to the thousands of domains currently blocked in China — like Google services, Zoom, Netflix, Twitch, Instagram, and more.

Short on Time? Here Are the Best VPNs That Work in China in 2024

  1. Editor's Choice
    ExpressVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Ideal for China: obfuscated servers, military-grade encryption, 30-day guarantee.
    70% of our readers choose ExpressVPN
  2. Astrill VPN
    AstrillVPN
    Specialized servers for China, easily bypasses blocks; expensive, no money-back guarantee.
  3. PrivateVPN
    PrivateVPN
    Reliable security and privacy for data protection, but has a smaller network.
Important: Before your trip to China, it's advisable to download a VPN on your device first. It’s also a good idea to ask your VPN provider for a list of functioning servers for China and an email address to contact support directly. This is because most VPN websites are currently blocked in the country, so you can’t download the VPN there or access customer support.

Best VPNs for China — Full Analysis (Updated in 2024)

1. ExpressVPN — Vast Obfuscated Server Network to Access All Your Accounts in China

Best Feature Automatically obfuscated servers to bypass the toughest geo-blocks in China
Server Network 3,000 servers in 105 countries to reliably unblock all your platforms
Security Military-grade encryption and an audited no-logs policy to protect your online traffic in China
Simultaneous connections 8
Can Access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Max (HBO), Disney+, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Omegle, Google, Facebook, and more

ExpressVPN offers an obfuscated server network that is highly effective in unblocking services in China. Obfuscation masks VPN traffic as a regular connection, allowing you to bypass VPN blocks imposed by the Chinese government. As everything is automatically enabled, I was always protected from ISP tracking in China without having to do any complicated setup.

The service also scrambles your traffic with military-grade encryption, making it unreadable to both hackers and snoops. During my ExpressVPN tests, I didn't encounter any IP/DNS leaks in China, meaning my real IP address was never revealed. Plus, it follows a strict no-logs policy audited by KPMG and PwC, meaning your information isn’t stored or shared with third parties or authorities.

You can reliably access global platforms from China thanks to the huge network. I had no trouble unblocking my Google account and streaming videos on YouTube with the US servers. Plus, ExpressVPN offers servers nearby China if you want to access Asian content while traveling abroad. The network covers Macau, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar, and more. All the servers are P2P-friendly for easy torrenting.

The VPN is beginner-friendly too. I easily set up ExpressVPN on my phone while traveling to China. It has a.onion site to help you download the VPN from China in case you forget before you go. Plus, there’s a responsive 24/7 email — support@expressvpn.zendesk.com — if you need assistance with the installation process while in the country.

The only drawback is the cost, particularly if you choose the short-term plans. However, ExpressVPN offers deals to reduce the price. I got the 12-month subscription and received a discount of 49% — with a final cost of just $6.67/month. All plans support unlimited bandwidth, so you won’t hit any data caps during your sessions.

Useful Features

  • Fast speeds. ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol gave me the fastest speeds of all the VPNs I tested. So you get streaming-ready connections even when using a server that’s far away from China. As well as Lightway, the VPN also supports the industry-standard secure OpenVPN.
  • Split tunneling. Choose which apps use the VPN and which don’t. For example, you can use the Netflix US app on your phone with ExpressVPN but access local search results with your browser app.
  • Dedicated kill switch. Network Lock protects you from data exposure in China by instantly disconnecting your connection if the VPN tunnel drops unexpectedly.
  • Device compatibility. The VPN supports all major platforms including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, routers, and even Amazon Fire TV.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied, you can cancel your subscription within the first 30 days to get a full refund. I tested it and received my money back in just 2 days.
ExpressVPN Offer February 2024: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

2. AstrillVPN — Optimized China Servers for Bypassing Strict Geo-Restrictions

Best Feature Specialized China servers with StealthVPN and OpenWeb protocols to bypass VPN blocks in the country
Server Network 120 servers in 58 countries, including the UK, Canada, and Australia, to bypass restrictions and access your favorite platforms
Security Based in Seychelles and has private DNS servers to prevent any third party from logging your data
Simultaneous connections 5
Can Access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Max (HBO), Disney+, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Omegle, Google, Facebook, and more

AstrillVPN operates servers that are precisely adjusted to bypass VPN restrictions in China. These servers are situated in five areas - the US, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Therefore, you can dependably access sites such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube without any limitations.

While it's slightly more inconsistent than ExpressVPN, I got mostly good speeds when testing AstrillVPN. The US servers helped me stream YouTube videos in 4K, and AstrillVPN also offers Supercharged servers for a speed boost in China.

StealthVPN and OpenWeb protocols help to bypass firewalls used by the Chinese government. Similar to ExpressVPN’s obfuscation technology, StealthVPN is a protocol that makes VPN traffic look like regular traffic — so you can’t get detected and blocked. There's also a Site Filter feature (split tunneling) that allows you to use your Chinese IP while routing other restricted sites through the VPN tunnel.

One downside is that the VPN does keep some connection logs, including your IP address. This information is deleted as soon as you disconnect but I’d prefer it not to be logged at all. That said, there are other good privacy features like leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and AES 256-bit encryption. To further enhance privacy, AstrillVPN channels all connections through its private DNS servers. This prevents third parties from tracking the sites you visit.

Unfortunately, AstrillVPN also comes with a hefty price tag — its most affordable rate is $12.50/month, nearly twice the price of ExpressVPN. Plus, it doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee so all payments are non-refundable. However, you can access AstrillVPN free for a month if you refer a friend who subscribes to a paid plan.

Useful Features

  • App Guard. You can enable the App Guard feature to set some apps to always use the VPN. This automatically protects your online activity in China.
  • Smart Mode. This feature simulates DNS and HTTPS traffic using a standard Chinese IP, so you can unblock global websites and services while in China.
  • Reliable customer support. While the website is inaccessible from China, you can reach out to email support at support@astrill.com to get a mirror URL for downloading the VPN within the country.

3. PrivateVPN — Robust Security Features to Access Your Favorite Services Safely From China

Best Feature StealthVPN mode and data leak protection to protect your online activity
Server Network 200 servers in 63 countries to easily unblock your social media accounts
Security Has a strict no-logs policy and robust encryption to keep your data safe while using public WiFi networks in China
Simultaneous connections 10
Can Access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Max (HBO), Disney+, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Omegle, Google, Facebook, and more

PrivateVPN scrambles your traffic with AES 256-bit encryption to keep your online activity secured in China. You also get DNS/IP leak protection and a dedicated kill switch, so your sensitive data isn’t revealed accidentally — even if the VPN connection drops for a second.

Like ExpressVPN’s and Astrill’s obfuscation tech, PrivateVPN’s StealthVPN mode also helps you bypass geo-restrictions and unblock your favorite social media services while you visit China. During my PrivateVPN tests, the StealthVPN mode helped me unblock my banking app and Google account without triggering alerts. However, you do need to manually turn on this obfuscation feature as it's not automatically enabled like with ExpressVPN.

The apps are beginner-friendly and offer a simple interface. I installed PrivateVPN on my Chromebook in minutes. Plus, you can also use the email (support@privatevpn.com) to contact customer support if you get stuck using the VPN in China. All queries are answered by actual VPN developers.

One downside is the smaller server network. However, with servers across 63 countries, I unblocked my global platforms without restrictions (such as Netflix, Facebook, and WhatsApp). The network also covers plenty of countries near China like Hong Kong and Japan.

Useful Features

  • Independently audited no-logs policy. Private VPN is based in the not-so-privacy-friendly Sweden. However, it follows a strict zero-logs policy, meaning your information isn’t recorded or shared with government authorities anywhere.
  • Unrestricted bandwidth. With unlimited bandwidth and fast speeds, you don’t have to worry about slowdowns, even with 4K streaming or large downloads.
  • Multiple simultaneous connections. You can connect 10 devices at once to protect your devices in China.

Tips on How to Choose the Best VPN for China

Given the formidable internet censorship and sophisticated VPN detection tools employed in China, discovering VPNs that function reliably within the country can be quite daunting. Here are some key factors to take into account when selecting a VPN for use in China:

  • Ability to bypass the firewall. Choose a service that can overcome the strict restrictions and VPN blocks used by the Chinese government. Look for features like obfuscation and a large global server network, which help hide your VPN use and unblock your chosen sites.
  • Strong security and privacy features. Ensure your VPN has top-tier encryption, a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, and DNS/IP leak protection. This helps you secure your sensitive information against monitoring on sites like WeChat, Weibo, QQ, or Douyin.
  • Fast and reliable speeds. Congestion and slow speeds are quite common as your traffic is passed through many gateways in China. It's essential to use a VPN that offers impressive performance and doesn’t reduce your overall speeds by more than 35%.
  • User-friendly apps. Ensure your VPN isn’t complex to set up and that it supports all your devices. That way you can start browsing in China without too much complicated configuration.
  • Dependable customer support. A service that has responsive support (preferably with 24/7 live chat) is essential for prompt assistance when needed while using the VPN in China.
  • Reputable money-back guarantee. Only consider a VPN with a tested money-back guarantee. That way, you know you can get a refund if the VPN doesn't meet your requirements.

Quick Guide: How to Safely Use a VPN in China in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN as it's the most reliable VPN for China. It also has fast speeds and obfuscated servers to bypass geo-restrictions and use your streaming accounts without buffering.
  2. Connect to a server. Choose a location that helps you access your apps and services. For example, a US server lets you use your Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter accounts.
  3. Start using your apps. You can now reliably access your home country’s sites and services right from China.

Note: If you have issues unblocking sites in China, try a different VPN server or clear your browser’s cache and app data to get rid of any lingering location info. If that doesn’t work, make sure your VPN’s obfuscation is enabled, or contact customer support to ask for tips.

FAQs on Proton VPN and VPNs for China

Who owns Proton VPN?

Proton VPN is owned by Proton Technologies AG, the same company that owns and operates ProtonMail — a secure email service. The VPN is secure but doesn’t work in restrictive countries like China or Russia. If you need a VPN that reliably works in China, there are some options that work.

Why is Proton VPN so slow?

Several factors could potentially slow down Proton VPN — server distance, ISP throttling, and the VPN protocol are all possible reasons for the slow performance. However, using a better VPN with quick servers can help you get fast and reliable speeds.

Proton VPN’s free plan can deliberately throttle your connection too. The limited 3 servers you get with a free subscription can also quickly become overcrowded, similarly limiting your speeds.

Are VPNs illegal in China?

There are some government-approved VPNs but the Chinese authorities have cracked down on the use of unlicensed services, making it harder to access them. There have also been instances where individuals in China have been penalized for using unauthorized VPNs. However, there are a few VPN services that reliably work in China and help keep your information protected.

How do I get my VPN to work in China?

Getting your VPN to work in China might require some preparation before you arrive because many VPN websites are blocked in China. However, once you have a VPN downloaded, it’s easy to get started in China. If you forget to download your chosen service before you go, choose a VPN with a.onion mirror site so you can access it from behind the Great Firewall.

Do free VPNs work in China?

No, most free VPNs don’t work in China. The government has many restrictions set in place to block VPN services. Even if you do find a free VPN that’s working, it may fall short in terms of speeds, restricted server locations, and limited security features. So, a premium VPN with a money-back guarantee is your best bet for using a VPN in China without issues.

Many free VPNs also resort to tracking and selling your metadata themselves or allowing other customers to use your IP address (like HolaVPN). Plus, some services may contain malware or spyware that can infect your device and leak your data (like GoVPN or OKVPN). So using a free VPN puts you at even more risk while in China.

The Tor browser can sometimes work behind the Great Firewall but is often far too slow for anything more than casual browsing. Some users have recommended the unblocking software Lantern or SOCKS5/Shadowsocks for China too. However, these proxies don’t have the same privacy protections as a VPN — which can leave you vulnerable to fines from the Guangdong police.

Get the Best VPN for China

Finding a reliable VPN that works in China can be challenging, given that the country has multiple restrictions on VPNs. The Chinese government only allows specific VPNs that are approved by the authorities and subjected to surveillance. However, every VPN mentioned in my list works in China while protecting your personal data and online privacy.

My top China VPN is ExpressVPN. It offers obfuscation on all servers and military-grade encryption to protect you online. It also follows a strict no-logs policy to keep your data safe from the Chinese government or any third parties. You can try ExpressVPN risk-free, as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. Plus, getting a refund is easy if you’re not 100% happy.

To summarize, these are the best VPNs that work in China…

Rank
Provider
Our Score
Discount
Visit Website
1
medal
9.9 /10
9.9 Our Score
Save 49%!
2
9.7 /10
9.7 Our Score
Save 59%!
3
9.5 /10
9.5 Our Score
Save 85%!
Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

Your Internet Provider:

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.

Visit ExpressVPN

We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

About the Author

Husain Parvez is a Cybersecurity Researcher and News Writer at vpnMentor, focusing on VPN reviews, detailed how-to guides, and hands-on tutorials. Husain is also a part of the vpnMentor Cybersecurity News bulletin and loves covering the latest events in cyberspace and data privacy.

Did you like this article? Rate it!
I hated it! I don't really like it It was ok Pretty good! Loved it!
out of 10 - Voted by users
Thank you for your feedback