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How to Watch and Use YouTube in China in 2023 (Fast Access)

The Chinese government has censored many popular Western streaming and social media platforms, so you can’t access them if you’re traveling there. When you try opening YouTube (or any site owned by Google) from China, the Great Firewall automatically blocks your connection.

VPNs are reliable tools designed to bypass China’s Firewall. They achieve this by hiding your traffic with encryption. Although this may sound very complicated, for the end user it actually isn’t — you just need to install a VPN and turn it on.

We have a dedicated team of researchers that continuously test over 30 VPNs in China. Based on our research, I recommend ExpressVPN because it’s the fastest VPN in China, and it continues to work after every new update on the Firewall. It also comes with a money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free for 30 days. If you’re not satisfied, you can get a full refund.

Important! Only government-approved VPNs are permitted in China. However, China’s current policy is to not go after tourists but instead block the VPN technology. By using a non-government-approved VPN in China, you probably won’t get into any trouble, but you should still proceed with caution.

Watch YouTube With ExpressVPN

Quick Guide: How to Watch YouTube in China in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Download a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN because it has obfuscated servers that unblock YouTube in China and superfast speeds.
  2. Connect to a server outside of China. Choose a server located close to China, such as Japan, Singapore, or Korea to get the fastest connection speeds.
  3. Start watching YouTube. Open YouTube’s website and enjoy watching your favorite channels in China.

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Why You Need a VPN to Watch YouTube in China

China's Great Firewall blocks YouTube and many other popular Western sites. Due to the internet restrictions imposed, you can't access any of those platforms there. That’s where VPNs can come in handy.

VPNs are simple apps that unblock YouTube in China by using strong encryption. It hides your traffic and sends it through one of its private servers of your choice, making it hard for the Great Firewall to detect. However, the Firewall is advanced enough to detect and block most VPNs. Only a few of them work there, and I’ve covered the best ones below.

However, you can’t access their websites while you’re in China, so you’ll need to install the VPN before traveling. ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs that can be installed while in China — you just need to contact its support team before coming to the country to get the link to its mirror website.

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Best VPNs to Watch YouTube From China in 2023

1. ExpressVPN — Ultra-Fast Speeds for Watching YouTube in HD From China

  • Blazing-fast speeds
  • 3,000 obfuscated servers
  • AES 256-bit encryption, kill switch, IP/DNS leak protection, and a no-logs policy
  • Can unblock: YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Apple TV, and more
ExpressVPN Offer February 2023: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

ExpressVPN has the fastest download speeds of all the VPNs I tested, which lets you watch YouTube in HD quality. My base speed was 38.8 Mbps, and with ExpressVPN turned on, it changed to an average of 34.4 Mbps (loss of 11%). For context, you need just 5 Mbps to watch YouTube in HD. Usually, VPNs slow down your speeds by at least 20%, so ExpressVPN’s result is very impressive.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN connection speed results from various nearby servers (Spain, Portugal, Italy, France)You can watch YouTube in crystal-clear quality from all servers near your location

All of ExpressVPN’s 3,000 servers are obfuscated, which means that they’re optimized for bypassing the Great Firewall of China. Our teammates in China tested its Japan — Yokohama, Singapore — Marina Bay, and USA — Santa Monica servers, and they could access YouTube from all of them.

ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs that have a mirror website accessible from China. This means that you can sign up and download it when you’re already in China. To get the link to the mirror website, contact its 24/7 support team (either through email or live chat) before traveling to China and ask for the URL. I did this via email and I got a response within 20 minutes.

The only issue with ExpressVPN is that you can’t pay for it with Google Pay or Amazon Pay. However, it accepts all other major payment methods, such as PayPal, credit cards, and WebMoney, which are all accessible from China.

You can get ExpressVPN starting from $6.67/month. Sometimes it also offers exclusive deals, making it even more affordable. For example, right now you can get 49% off of your subscription.

ExpressVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its subscription plans, which means you can try it risk-free. I contacted its support through the 24/7 live chat to request a refund, and they quickly issued a full one. I received the money in my bank account after just 3 days.

Watch YouTube With ExpressVPN

2. Astrill VPN — Strong Obfuscation Features That Unblock YouTube in China

  • StealthVPN, OpenWeb, and Smart Mode
  • 113 servers, including China-optimized ones
  • 5 simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, and more

Astrill VPN offers 2 unique protocols called StealthVPN and OpenWeb, designed to bypass China's Firewall. They do this by obfuscating your VPN traffic to make it look like regular browsing, which makes it very hard to detect. Our testers in China said that by using either one of these protocols, they could easily access YouTube, although they got slightly better results with StealthVPN.

Screenshot of Astrill VPN's Windows app interface showcasing its features for bypassing the Great Firewall of China (StealthVPN, OpenWeb, and China-optimized servers)With Astrill VPN’s many China-optimized features, you can easily watch YouTube from China

It also has fast speeds, so you can watch YouTube without buffering and in HD quality. I watched 5 videos back-to-back and didn’t experience any interruptions. During my tests on a couple of its servers I got an average of 31.3 Mbps, which was an acceptable 19% drop. Another thing that improves its speeds in China is its Smart Mode feature. Connecting outside of China (in this case, to a foreign VPN server) takes much longer to do. Smart Mode automatically connects you to Astrill VPN’s Chinese servers when you load local uncensored sites, which speeds up the loading times significantly.

Astrill VPN offers 113 servers in 57 countries, out of which a few US servers are optimized for use in China. These servers encrypt and hide your traffic so that it can't be detected. I contacted its support, and they told me that in China, it’s best to use either its servers labeled “Supercharged” or “China Optimized”, or ones close to China, such as Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.

You can get Astrill VPN starting at $12.50/month. Its subscription plans are really expensive — almost double the ExpressVPN’s prices. However, sometimes you can purchase Astrill VPN at a discount, which makes it a bit more affordable if you plan on using it for a long period. Currently, you can get 59% off of Astrill VPN’s subscription.

Unfortunately, Astrill VPN doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. However, you can get 1 month free if you refer a friend and they buy a subscription. After signing up, I tried its referral system with a second account, and 1 free month was credited to my first account.

Watch YouTube With Astrill VPN

3. PrivateVPN — Beginner-Friendly Apps for Watching YouTube in China

  • Simple and easy-to-use apps
  • 200 servers
  • AES 256-bit encryption, no-logs policy, and located in a private jurisdiction (Sweden)
  • Can unblock: YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, and more

PrivateVPN comes with apps that are very easy to use no matter your experience level with VPNs. To get it working in China, you need to click on “Advanced View”, turn on Stealth VPN, and connect to a server on its “Simple View”. Finding a server is quick and easy since you can just write the country/city name in the search bar after sorting them by country or proximity. During testing, it took me just 2 seconds to find some servers that are close to China.

Screenshot that shows PrivateVPN Windows user interface, showcasing how simple its apps are and how to turn on Stealth VPN for watching YouTube in China.To watch YouTube in China with PrivateVPN, you need to turn on Stealth VPN

Similar to Astrill VPN, PrivateVPN’s Stealth VPN setting is designed to bypass the Great Firewall of China. It essentially makes your VPN traffic look like regular traffic, so it’s harder to detect. Our testers in China said that during times of high censorship (for example, when there are ongoing protests), Stealth VPN does a really good job at getting around restrictions.

The only downside to PrivateVPN is that it doesn’t have a very large server network. However, it offers more than enough servers near China — in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand. Connecting to a server close to China will offer the fastest speeds because of a shorter connection distance.

You can get PrivateVPN for just $2/month when you choose its longest subscription plan. Its 1-month and 3-month plans are a good choice if you just want to try it out for a shorter period.

It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means that you can test PrivateVPN without any risks. You just need to contact its support through live chat or email to get a refund. I asked for one through live chat — they responded in 30 seconds, and I got my money back after just 4 days.

Watch YouTube With PrivateVPN

FAQs on Watching YouTube in China With a VPN

Is YouTube banned in China?

YouTube, YouTube TV, and its apps are banned in mainland China. When you try opening either one of them, your connection is interrupted by the Great Firewall. So, if you’re traveling to China, you’ll need a VPN to change your virtual location and access YouTube. Only some VPNs can bypass the Firewall and the ones on this list fall in that category.

Is it legal to watch YouTube in China with a VPN?

YouTube and some VPNs are banned in China, but you aren't likely to get into legal trouble for using either of them. Only government-approved VPNs are permitted there. However, government-blocked sites (like YouTube) aren’t accessible from them and they’re heavily monitored, so most people opt for other VPNs instead.

The good news is that no tourist has been fined for using any VPN. Instead, China usually goes after the VPN technology, which is why only a few of them work there. Our team in China tested all of the VPNs on this list, and they all worked reliably.

What is the alternative to YouTube in China?

The main YouTube alternatives in China are Youku, Tudou, iQiyi, and Tencent Video. Another popular alternative is using the video search feature on Baidu, which often is even better for finding specific Chinese content. However, China is heavily censoring these platforms, so if you want to watch YouTube instead, you’ll need a VPN. VPNs are designed to bypass internet restrictions and to gain access to uncensored content on sites like YouTube. They do this by implementing strong security features and changing your virtual location to one from another country.

Can I watch YouTube in China without a VPN?

There are a few other tools with which you could watch YouTube in China, but they aren’t as reliable or safe as VPNs. These include Smart DNS proxies, proxy-based plugins, proxy websites, and the Tor Browser.

Proxy-based tools don’t encrypt your data, so they aren’t as secure, and they also lack obfuscation features, which means they’re much more likely to be blocked by the Great Firewall.

The Tor Browser can only be used in combination with a proxy or a private Tor bridge, and it needs to be downloaded before arriving in China. It’s also very slow, which means you can only watch YouTube in low definition. VPNs are by far the most reliable, secure, and easiest option to use. However, not all of them work there. Only a few VPNs are designed to bypass China’s tough restrictions since they come with advanced security features.

Is it possible to watch YouTube in China with a free VPN?

It’s possible, but it’s not recommended since free VPNs are slow, not secure enough, and quite limited for streaming. Instead, I recommend getting a premium VPN with a money-back guarantee. In addition to being much slower, usually, free VPNs have limited data plans of 1 to 10GB per month, which doesn’t work well with YouTube because it uses 3GB of data per hour when watching in 1080p. Free VPNs also aren’t reliable — even if you find one that’s working, chances are that it might stop working the next day.

Another concern about free VPNs is their lack of privacy and security. Some keep logs of your browsing data and sell it to advertisers. Usually, they also don’t have obfuscation features, which are the most important ones for a VPN to work in China because they’re designed to bypass the Great Firewall.

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Start Watching YouTube in China Now

Most Western sites, like YouTube, are blocked by the Great Firewall of China, and only reliable VPNs can get past these restrictions. Some VPNs are designed to bypass it and gain access to blocked content. However, only good VPNs are up for the task because new security updates to the Chinese Firewall often make many of them unusable.

Our research team in China continuously tests all major VPNs, and ExpressVPN constantly takes first place on our lists. It’s super fast for watching YouTube in HD, all of its servers are obfuscated, and it’s one of the only VPNs that you can install while you’re in China. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means that you can buy it risk-free and get a refund if you decide it’s not for you.

To summarize, the best VPNs for watching YouTube in China are…

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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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About the Author

Oscar is a writer who's passionate about tech and cybersecurity. He's an advocate against censorship and believes everyone should be able to stay anonymous while browsing the web.

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