Does ExpressVPN Work in China in 2024? Yes, But Do This!
Not many VPNs work in China, but ExpressVPN is one of the few that do. Thanks to its advanced features and technologies, you can use your social media accounts and essential online services from anywhere in the world, even in China.
ExpressVPN offers automatic obfuscation on all its servers, which hides the fact that you're using a VPN. It even offers workarounds so you can download the app when you’re already in China.
While you shouldn’t need to configure it to get it to work there, there might be times when you find ExpressVPN isn’t working in China as expected. That doesn’t mean all is lost though — I'll share some recommended configurations, just in case you run into issues.
Plus, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try ExpressVPN out risk-free. If you’re not satisfied with the service, it’s easy to get a full refund.
Important. My team and I don’t condone using a VPN with illegal intentions, including breaking copyright laws or streaming platforms' T&Cs. China has banned the use of non-government-approved VPNs. However, there are no publicly-reported cases of tourists being charged for using one. Use a VPN at your own risk and adhere to the laws of the country you are in. Also, VPNs in China may occasionally be unstable because of changing rules and regulations. While any VPN could encounter brief service disruptions, the VPNs we've carefully chosen demonstrated superior reliability.
Quick Guide: How to Use ExpressVPN in China in 3 Easy Steps
- Get ExpressVPN. It’s best to sign up and download ExpressVPN before you arrive in China since its website is blocked by the Great Firewall. The setup process is simple for major OS's, like Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone.
- Connect to a server. I recommend selecting a nearby server for speedy connections.
- Start browsing. Enjoy unrestricted and secure access to the internet from China.
How to Set Up ExpressVPN to Work in China (+ Other Troubleshooting Tips)
ExpressVPN’s website is blocked in China, so it’s best to download it before you arrive there. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can get ExpressVPN risk-free prior to your travels. If you’re already in China, you can email its support team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask for a mirror link — this is another version of the ExpressVPN site that hasn’t been blocked by the Great Firewall. Using this link allows you to sign up, download the app to whatever device you need, or update the software.
Once you’ve installed the app, a few quick configurations will ensure ExpressVPN works in China without hassle.
1. Set the protocol to “Automatic”
When you set your security protocol to “Automatic,” ExpressVPN will choose the one that is best for your network automatically. It offers a variety of protocols, each designed to cater to different needs. Some give you a more secure connection (like OpenVPN), and some prioritize speeds (like Lightway). However, ExpressVPN recommends selecting the “Automatic” protocol for obfuscation to work properly.
Here’s how to set your protocol to “Automatic” in 2 easy steps:
- Go to the “Protocol” settings, which can be found in the “Options” menu on the VPN app.
- Set the protocol to “Automatic.” This lets ExpressVPN find the best protocol for connecting from China.
For added convenience, you can also set ExpressVPN to connect to your last used location automatically whenever you start up your device: this can be toggled on under "General Options".
2. Enable the kill switch and leak protection
When using a VPN in China, you should keep the kill switch on at all times. This protects your data if you lose connection to the VPN. You can activate the kill switch in 2 steps:
- Open "General Settings". You’ll find this under “Options” when you click in the top left corner of the VPN.
- Activate the kill switch. Underneath Network Lock, check the box next to “Stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly.”
IP and DNS leaks can expose your real IP to the firewall. If the VPN fails or the browser sends WebRTC requests, your online access will be restricted. When you connect to ExpressVPN, DNS leak protection is enabled automatically. However, you need to manually enable IPv6 leak protection. You can do this in 2 easy steps:
- Open "Advanced Settings". This is located in the “Options” area under the cog icon.
- Enable IP leak prevention. Check the boxes next to “Prevent IPv6 address detection while connected.”
3. Clear your browser’s cache and cookies
Websites can block VPN IP addresses, but they can also use your cookies and cache history to see your true location. If your VPN IP doesn't match the location data in your browser's cache, you might face issues accessing certain sites. All you have to do is go into your browser’s settings and delete your cache and cookies. This option can usually be found under privacy and security settings.
Instead of erasing everything, you have the option to only remove the caches from the websites that are restricting your access. This simple action could potentially assist you in bypassing these blocks, thus enabling you to visit the desired sites.
4. Re-connect the VPN or try another server
A poor internet connection or a technical glitch could cause the VPN to stop working. It may take up to 30 seconds to connect to the server if your internet isn't fast enough, or it might not work at all. Wait until ExpressVPN’s connection status shows “failed” before trying to reconnect. If the connection fails, close the app, restart your device, then try to connect again. Also, make sure to wait for the app to show the “connected” status before you start browsing.
In case the VPN application indicates it's connected but fails to work, consider reestablishing the connection to the server. Doing so will provide you with a new IP address and potentially resolve the problem.
You can also try connecting to a different server. I contacted ExpressVPN’s chat support to find the best servers for China. The representative was extremely helpful and redirected me to a web page with troubleshooting tips for connecting in China. ExpressVPN recommends the following servers: Japan (Yokohama), USA (Los Angeles - 5 and Santa Monica), UK (Wembley), Singapore - (Marina Bay), and France - (Alsace).
5. Reinstall or update the app
If connection problems persist, consider reinstallation of the app. At times, file corruption or altered settings can lead to difficulties. However, prior to uninstalling the app, ensure you possess a copy of the installer file. This precaution is necessary as re-downloading it can present challenges if you're located in China.
Also, check if your app is up to date. An older version might not work as smoothly, especially if ExpressVPN has released updates to improve performance or fix bugs. So, update your app to the latest version before you head to China. If you're already there and need to update, use ExpressVPN’s website mirror link.
6. Get in touch with customer support
You can also contact ExpressVPN’s customer support and ask for guidance. Since the website is blocked in China, you can email email@example.com (Yahoo and Hotmail are both accessible in China). The support team is prompt and usually sends a response within 24 hours. If you already know the most current mirror site link, you can use it to contact ExpressVPN’s 24/7 chat support, too.
How ExpressVPN Works in China
Tested February 2024 Try Risk-Free for 30 Days
|Automatic obfuscation on all its servers help it access international sites from China
|Fastest VPN we’ve tested; ideal for gaming and torrenting without delays
|Simultaneous Device Connections
|Facebook, Netflix, WhatsApp, Gmail, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, BBC, and more
The main reason ExpressVPN works in China is due to its advanced obfuscation. This masks VPN use by scrambling your metadata and disguising your VPN traffic as normal traffic, letting you bypass tough VPN blocks. The obfuscation kicks in automatically when the app detects deep packet inspection (DPI) or other restrictions, so you don’t have to enable it manually.
It’s also the fastest VPN I tested. When I connected to its Yokohoma and Marina Bay servers from Beijing, I experienced a speed drop of only 11%. This is impressive, considering obfuscation can slow down your connection. There were no slowdowns as I streamed YouTube videos in HD.
To uphold its privacy promises to users, ExpressVPN doesn’t host any of its servers in Mainland China. The government requires all online movements to be tracked and stored, so not having servers there means ExpressVPN doesn’t have to comply with this.
Moreover, it follows a strict no-logs policy, a claim verified in 2017 when Turkish authorities seized ExpressVPN's servers. The authorities found no data because ExpressVPN doesn't store any.
While ExpressVPN isn’t the cheapest (plans start at $6.67/month), it’s one of the very few VPNs that still work reliably in China. You can pay via credit cards, Bitcoin, PayPal, Union Pay, and more. It’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try ExpressVPN risk-free. If it doesn’t meet your expectations, you can get a full refund.
- Works with international sites. With its global server network, ExpressVPN can easily access your online services, like banking apps, while visiting China.
- Servers in Hong Kong. ExpressVPN doesn’t have servers in Mainland China, but it does offer some in Hong Kong. This means you’ll get speedy nearby connections, and can access region-locked Chinese sites safely.
- Mirror site. Although ExpressVPN’s main website is blocked in China, it offers a mirror link so you can download the VPN while you’re there. To keep this mirror link working, it’s frequently updated, so it’s best to reach out to customer support (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get the most current URL.
- Strong security. All your data is protected with military-grade encryption, IP/DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Our tests showed no leaks when using ExpressVPN's servers from China.
FAQs on Using ExpressVPN in China
Can I use ExpressVPN on my Android or iOS phone in China?
Yes. ExpressVPN has native apps for all major platforms, including iOS and Android. All of ExpressVPN’s servers use automatic obfuscation, so your VPN use is hidden in China, allowing you to overcome network restrictions on whichever device you need. Its Lightway protocol has been integrated into its mobile apps as well. So, the special obfuscation tech needed won’t slow down your internet speeds like it can with other VPNs. Just set the protocol to automatic for the obfuscation to work properly.
That being said, it’s best to download ExpressVPN before you arrive in China. The app isn’t available in China’s Apple App Store and Google Play is blocked completely in the country. So, you can’t download the app easily from within China. However, you can create a new App Store account and set it to a different region where VPNs aren’t blocked (like the US, for example).
Is ExpressVPN illegal in China?
It’s complicated. ExpressVPN is not approved by the Chinese government, and any VPN that doesn’t have an official license approved by Chinese authorities is technically banned in the country. But it’s usually the VPN providers (not individual users) that face legal action.
However, it's worth noting that in 2019, a resident of Guangdong province was fined 1000 Yuan ($140 USD) for using a VPN. This was a rare case, and there are no publicly-reported cases of tourists facing legal consequences for using a VPN there. But it does highlight the need for caution when using non-approved VPNs in the country.
If you’re traveling to China, it’s best to download ExpressVPN before you arrive. This way, you can use the VPN without hassle.
Does ExpressVPN have servers in China?
ExpressVPN doesn’t have servers in mainland China, but it has some in Hong Kong and Macau. This means it doesn’t have to conform to China’s strict data-logging policies. The Hong Kong and Macau servers mean you have some nearby locations for speedy connections. And since Hong Kong and Macau don’t censor the internet heavily like mainland China, you’ll have access to a more open internet using them as well.
Does ExpressVPN’s site have a link that works in China?
Yes, it does. It’s one of the very few VPNs with a working mirror site for China. To get the most up-to-date link to its mirror site for China, you should contact its customer support via its support email address: email@example.com.
Can I download ExpressVPN if I’m already in China?
Yes, you can download ExpressVPN even if you're already in China. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Contact ExpressVPN's support team. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. They can provide you with a mirror link to ExpressVPN’s website, where you can download the app. This link is updated regularly to ensure it works in China.
- Change App Store region. If you're using an iOS device, you can change your App Store region to a country where ExpressVPN is available. Then, you can download the app from the App Store.
- Use your home country SIM card. If you have access to your home country's SIM card, you can use it to subscribe to ExpressVPN. Using your home SIM card can sometimes allow for less restricted internet access. This is likely due to international agreements between telecom providers. However, this can vary depending on your specific telecom provider and the country of origin of your SIM card.
Is ExpressVPN owned by a Chinese company?
No, it’s not. ExpressVPN is owned by Kape Technologies, headquartered in the UK, which also owns other top VPNs like CyberGhost and Private Internet Access. However, ExpressVPN itself is headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands. There are no data retention laws there, so ExpressVPN doesn't have to keep any identifiable information about you. This allows the company to honor its strict no-logs policy without any outside interference.
Why is the internet censored in China, and which websites are blocked?
The Great Firewall of China was established to control and restrict the information that Chinese residents can access for political reasons. ExpressVPN is one of only a few VPNs that work in the country. Basically, the government doesn’t want its people to be exposed to any content that is critical of its power. It also doesn’t want people to have access to foreign ideas or beliefs contrary to their own. This includes things like suggestive content, differing political views or beliefs, and even things like gambling sites.
The following sites are blocked by the Great Firewall:
- Social media sites and apps: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- International news outlets: BBC, NY Times, The Guardian, The Wallstreet Journal, Bloomberg, NBC, etc.
- Search engines: Yahoo, Google, Bing, etc.
- Messaging services: Gmail, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Slack, etc.
If you want to see if a specific site is blocked in China, try our Great Firewall Tool. However, it's important to remember that China's restrictions are constantly changing. A website that is accessible now might not be available when you arrive in the country.
ExpressVPN Works Reliably in China
ExpressVPN is a solid choice if you’re looking for a VPN for China. It scrambles your metadata using obfuscation to get past the firewall and keeps your online activity private with DNS/IP leak protection and other top security measures. And since it doesn’t have servers in mainland China, you can use ExpressVPN, knowing it doesn’t have to conform to the country’s strict data retention laws.
You can also try ExpressVPN out for yourself risk-free since it offers a money-back guarantee on all plans. You can get a full refund within 30 days if you're not completely satisfied.
The best VPNs that work in China in 2024 are…
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