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 to review VPN services and cover 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 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 to review VPN services and cover 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 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

Andjela Nikolic Updated on 18th April 2024 Fact-checked by Eric Raue Cybersecurity Researcher

While Proton VPN does work in China, it can't connect reliably. If you're committed to using Proton VPN in China, I've listed several troubleshooting tips you can try. If that doesn't work, I suggest a reliable VPN alternative.

The Great Firewall blocks most VPNs, so finding a reliable provider for China is difficult. After testing over 40 VPNs with my team, I've found only a select few that dependably work in China, most notably due to their ability to hide VPN traffic.

ExpressVPN is the best Proton VPN alternative for China because of its many nearby servers, mirror site to download it within the country, speed, and strong focus on privacy. It's easy to use and requires no specific configuration for China. You can also try ExpressVPN risk-free, as it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Editors' Note: Expressvpn and this site are in the same ownership group.

Try ExpressVPN for China >>

Important. China has strict VPN regulations, permitting only those with government approval. Despite this, there aren’t publicly available reports of tourists being penalized for using unauthorized VPNs. However, make sure you familiarize yourself with China's VPN rules (and using restricted sites) to avoid potential issues. vpnMentor advocates for the lawful use of VPNs and firmly opposes using them for illicit activities, like accessing censored content.

Can Proton VPN Be Used in China?

When I asked Proton VPN's support, they couldn't guarantee its effectiveness in China. They did confirm that the free option won't work. The Chinese government has implemented advanced tools like deep packet inspection (DPI) and URL, DNS, and keyword filtering, which effectively block VPNs such as Proton VPN. Also, you can’t download Proton VPN from China, as its website is blocked there, and app stores like Google Play won’t work.

Screenshots showing how to activate Proton VPN's Stealth protocol on AndroidThis gives you the best chances of connecting, but slows you down

Some Proton VPN users report that they can still connect from China. If you’ve already bought a subscription, you can try my tips below and try to fix Proton VPN not working in the country. However, if you’re looking for a reliable VPN for China, I recommend choosing another provider with a higher success rate.

Proton VPN Not Working in China? Try This

If your Proton VPN connection is getting blocked by the Great Firewall, here are a couple of tricks you can try:

  • Enable Stealth protocol. You can find Stealth mode under protocol settings. This obfuscation feature disguises your VPN traffic as normal HTTPS, making it difficult to detect and block. Currently, Stealth mode is only available for Android, iOS, and Mac, but Proton is working on implementing it for Windows.
  • Switch protocols. I recommend Proton VPN's Smart Protocol (default) option if you're using a Windows or Linux device. It automatically identifies and switches to your location's best available VPN tunnel. You can also try OpenVPN TCP.
  • Try a different server. Try the Quick Connect option to let Proton choose the best server for you. Before connecting, remember to refresh the server list.
    Screenshot showing Proton VPN's Smart Routing servers on WindowsThese Smart Routing servers are physically located in other countries
  • Update the VPN app. Ensure your ProtonVPN app is up-to-date. Developers regularly release updates to enhance security features and resolve connectivity issues.
  • Clear your cache. Clearing your VPN app's cache can reset its state and potentially resolve connection problems. Additionally, try clearing your browser cache.
  • Reset your DNS settings. Incorrect DNS settings might cause connection problems. Resetting these to default or using Proton VPN's DNS can help maintain your privacy and improve access.
  • Contact customer service. If you're facing persistent issues, contacting ProtonVPN's customer service can provide personalized troubleshooting steps. The support team is knowledgeable about the specific challenges faced in China. Use their email (support@protonvpn.zendesk.com) since live chat won't be helpful in China as the website is blocked.
    Screenshot of a conversation with Proton VPN's support regarding the VPN use in ChinaThe support agent couldn't recommend any specific server for China
  • Check your internet connection. A poor or unstable internet connection can disrupt VPN services. Verify your local internet connection is stable without the VPN enabled.
  • Get a dedicated IP address. A dedicated IP address is unique to you, making your VPN traffic less obvious to automated blocking systems. However, Proton VPN requires you to reach out to support to set this up, and it costs extra.
  • Get a new VPN. If all else fails, consider switching to a different VPN provider. A few highly reliable VPNs for China still work.

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

  • Editor's Choice
    ExpressVPN
    ExpressVPN
    The best option for China regarding reliability, privacy, speed, and ease of use.
    70% of our readers choose ExpressVPN
  • PrivateVPN
    PrivateVPN
    Robust security and good performance in China, with Stealth mode turned on.
  • Astrill VPN
    Astrill VPN
    Reliably works in China with various configuration options.

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

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

Best Feature Default settings are powerful enough for use in China
Server Network 3,000 servers in 105 countries, including Mongolia, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Hong Kong
Security & Privacy No data is stored on hard drives with its TrustedServer technology (RAM-only)
Works With YouTube, TikTok, X, Skype, Omegle, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and more
Editors' Note: Expressvpn and this site are in the same ownership group.

All ExpressVPN servers automatically conceal your VPN traffic, so you don't need to manually configure anything for it to work in China, unlike Proton VPN. This feature is complemented by AES 256-bit encryption, the same encryption standard governments use to protect classified data. I tested 10 ExpressVPN servers for data leaks and detected none, thanks to its kill switch (Network Lock) and IP/DNS leak protection.

The VPN continuously tests its servers to identify which ones work in China. I recommend using ExpressVPN's Pick for Me option for the best results. This automatically finds the best server for your location and network settings, so it will tell ExpressVPN to connect to China's best option. You can find it by typing "Pick for Me" in the server search bar.

 Screenshot of ExpressVPN's Windows app and a live chat conversation regarding recommended servers for ChinaI got answers to my China-related questions within 1 minute using ExpressVPN live chat

Your online activity is kept private with ExpressVPN's strict no-logs policy, which has been verified by multiple audit firms like KPMG and PwC. It’s also headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, so it’s not required by law to store any user information.

Compared to Proton VPN, ExpressVPN's pricing seems steep, starting at $6.67/month. However, long-term options come with discounts of up to 49% and you can get 3 months of service for free. And since there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, there’s no financial risk in trying ExpressVPN for China. To get my refund, I contacted support via 24/7 live chat. Someone replied in under 1 minute, and the money was back in my bank account in 3 days.

Useful Features

  • Mirror link. Due to government restrictions, most VPN websites are blocked in China. ExpressVPN offers alternative website addresses (like rtvvdqc.com) to download the VPN from within the country.
  • Rotating IPs. ExpressVPN’s dynamic IP addresses change each time you connect. This makes it harder to track your internet activities and can help you avoid being blocklisted by sites. They’re available in nearby countries like Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.
  • Lightway protocol. ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol runs on minimal code, allowing for faster speeds without compromising security. I also noticed it connects faster than other protocols I tested, reducing my average download rate by only 3% on nearby servers.
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy. This encrypts each of your sessions with a unique key. In the very unlikely event that a previous session was somehow compromised, it wouldn’t affect your current or future sessions.
ExpressVPN Offer June 2024: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

2. PrivateVPN — Advanced Security to Protect Your Online Privacy in China

Best Feature Choice of encryption level to balance speed and security
Server Network 200 servers in 63 countries, including Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan
Security & Privacy A strict no-logs policy keeps your data hidden from prying eyes
Works With YouTube, TikTok, X, Skype, Omegle, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and more

PrivateVPN keeps your data safe with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption. Like ExpressVPN's obfuscation technology, PrivateVPN’s StealthVPN mode hides your VPN use in China. I recommend activating the DNS and IPv6 leak protection, as well as the kill switch to protect your data from accidental exposure. I tested multiple PrivateVPN servers for leaks, and my real location was never exposed.

Screenshot of PrivateVPN's Simple and Advanced modes on WindowsYou can turn on Stealth VPN in the Advanced View settings

The VPN is suitable for beginners and experienced users with its Simple and Advanced display modes, which allow you to show or hide technical settings. During my tests PrivateVPN was easy to install on various devices, including Chromebooks. I turned on its Application Guard, which let me choose certain applications only to work when I had the VPN connected. This prevented me from using sensitive apps if I had forgotten to turn on VPN protection.

One drawback is its smaller server network. However, all PrivateVPN servers were fast during my tests. Nearby servers reduced my speed by only 8%, from 125.36Mbps to 115.33Mbps, which didn’t affect my browsing experience.

You can get PrivateVPN for only $2/month. Additionally, thanks to its money-back guarantee, you can test it for free for 30 days when visiting China​​. However, if you have trouble, it has a unique support offering that lets an agent remotely control your device to solve your problem. This feature uses TeamViewer, which works in China. There's also a 24/7 live chat option.

Useful Features

  • Developer support. While most VPN’s support teams don’t have in-depth knowledge, PrivateVPN’s email support option puts you in direct contact with the VPN’s developers.
  • Chinese language options. This makes the VPN easy to use if you’re a Chinese native.

3. Astrill VPN — Optimized Servers for a Reliable Connection in China

Best Feature All servers work in China, although some are more reliable
Server Network 118 servers in 58 countries, with ones nearby in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea
Security & Privacy AES 256-bit encryption makes your data unreadable
Works With YouTube, TikTok, X, Skype, Omegle, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and more

AstrillVPN’s specialized Supercharged servers provide US IP addresses, allowing you to use most international services, including Instagram and Bing. In my tests, the Supercharged options were also faster than Astrill VPN's regular servers and had lower average ping, which means they're a great option for gaming without lag.

Smart Protocol is on by default, automatically adjusting settings to find the right setup for restricted networks. If it doesn't work, support recommends the StealthVPN protocol if you're using an Android or desktop device in China. This disguises VPN traffic as regular HTTPS. While Astrill's OpenWeb protocol is faster and works in countries with deep packet inspection, StealthVPN is more reliable and secure.

Screenshot of a conversation with Astrill VPN's live chat support regarding the VPN use ChinaI talked to an agent right away without dealing with a bot first

Like ExpressVPN, Astrill also offers alternative download URLs that work in China. To download the VPN or contact customer support from China, you can visit getastr.com. I also like that you can switch protocols directly from the app’s home screen without clicking through lots of settings menus.

Unfortunately, Astrill VPN doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee and is significantly more expensive than its competitors. However, you can get a month of free service for every new subscriber you refer who signs up.

Useful Features

  • Site Filter. This is known on most VPNs as split tunneling, and it lets you select which URLs you want to route through the VPN and which will use your regular internet connection. It can improve your speeds by only encrypting parts of your traffic.
  • 24/7 chat help. Astrill has support around the clock if you need help, and an agent replied to my question in under 1 minute when I tested it.

Quick Guide: How to Set Up a VPN for China in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download a VPN. For straightforward setup and automatic obfuscation, I recommend ExpressVPN. You can download it within China, and it has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Connect to a server. Check if your VPN offers servers optimized for China. To minimize speed loss, try to find a nearby option, such as in Hong Kong or Japan.
  3. Start browsing. You can now browse the internet safely without restrictions.

Pro tip: Even though some VPNs, like ExpresVPN, offer a mirror site to download from China, your best bet is to install it before traveling to the country.

Tips on Choosing 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:

  • Tested for China. There are very few VPNs that still work in the country. Choose a service that’s tested and proven to work in China. Look for obfuscation and a large global server network.
  • Strong security features. Check your VPN’s website to determine if it has top-tier encryption, a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, and DNS/IP leak protection. This helps secure your data from online surveillance.
  • 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 doesn’t reduce your overall speeds by more than 35%, like the ones on this list.
  • User-friendly apps. Review the VPN website to check that it isn't complex to set up and that it supports all your devices. That way you can start browsing safely in China without complicated configuration. To find setup guides for China, check the VPN’s support pages.
  • Dependable customer support. A VPN with responsive support can get you prompt help while you’re using the VPN in China. Contact support before you buy it to test its helpfulness and response times.
  • Reputable money-back guarantee. Look for a VPN with a tested money-back guarantee and read the details on the VPN’s refund policy online. That way, you know you can get a refund if the VPN doesn't meet your requirements.

FAQs on Proton VPN in China

Are VPNs illegal in China?

VPN use is heavily restricted. It’s a legal gray area, but only a few VPNs still work in the country. The Chinese government has removed access to VPN apps along with others like Twitter, GitHub, Flickr, Tinder, Instagram, Soundcloud, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Vimeo, and all Google services like Gmail and YouTube, among others.

China also blocks unauthorized VPN traffic. Despite these restrictions, no foreigners have been publicly reported as being punished for using a VPN.

Can I use Proton VPN’s free app in China?

No, Proton VPN's free app doesn’t work in China. Even the paid version is very unreliable in the country. The safest option is to use a premium VPN with obfuscation and a money-back guarantee. Not only are free VPNs unlikely to work in China, but they can also put your data at risk​​. They have slow and limited server networks, so you might not be able to access your essential online accounts.

Is Proton Mail blocked in China?

Yes, Proton Mail is blocked by the Great Firewall. However, a working VPN lets you connect to a server outside of China to use Proton Mail safely. While many VPNs are technically blocked, there are still a few you can use to access your international accounts from China safely and without being spied on.

Are Proton’s free VPN apps safe to use in China?

Proton VPN’s free version is secure and private, but it doesn’t work in China. Even with the paid app, you may need to customize Proton VPN to make it work in China. Using any VPN in China isn’t 100% safe.

While most VPNs are blocked by the Great Firewall, there aren’t any public reports of tourists being penalized for using them in the country. In other censorship-heavy countries like Iran, Russia, Egypt, and Turkey, Proton VPN isn’t blocked.

Which VPN works in China?

Only a few VPNs like ExpressVPN and Astrill work reliably in China in 2024. These services use obfuscation and other advanced features to hide VPN traffic, making them more reliable in China. Here’s what to look for in a VPN for China to use your apps from home when visiting the country.

Get the Best VPN for China

Most VPNs are blocked in China, and only a few can be used there. While Proton VPN does occasionally work, getting a reliable connection can be quite frustrating. That’s why I recommend checking out other VPNs for China.

My top choice for China is ExpressVPN, with its automatic obfuscation and user-friendly apps. This makes it reliable in China and does not require changing any settings. Additionally, you can connect to servers in 105 countries to safely use your essential online accounts while visiting China. Plus, it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s risk-free to try.

To summarize, these are the best VPNs for China...

Rank
Provider
Our Score
Discount
Visit Website
1
medal
9.9 /10
9.9 Our Score
Save 49%!
2
9.2 /10
9.2 Our Score
Save 85%!
3
5.3 /10
5.3 Our Score
Save 59%!
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 to review VPN services and cover 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 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

Andjela is a technology and cybersecurity writer for vpnMentor, dedicated to helping readers protect their privacy online with detailed VPN reviews, testing all features, and providing the facts.

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