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NordVPN Works in China, But Only If You Do This First

If you’re reading this, you probably know about China’s complicated relationship with the internet.

Heavy censorship, hundreds of blocked websites, and severely limited access to Western online services. This is what you can expect during your stay in a country with one of the worst internet freedom scores in the world.

A VPN (virtual private network) can help you get past the blocks and filters. But not all VPNs work in China.

Fortunately, some VPN providers are committed to helping their users in censorship-heavy regions. While NordVPN is a good option, other great VPNs for China are ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and PrivateVPN. 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.

Why Don’t All VPNs Work in China?

China’s strict censorship is no secret. The Great Firewall of China is notorious for blocking popular websites like Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

NOTE: You can see other sites currently blocked in China by using our special tool.

One of the most efficient ways to bypass the Great Firewall is with a VPN. Two years ago, however, that became a whole lot harder.

In June 2017, China’s new cybersecurity law came into effect. It required internet companies (including VPN providers) to register with the Chinese government in order to continue operating and to comply with data requests during investigations.

Today, China has a list of government-approved VPNs. However, these services are compromised, and as you might expect, fail to access restricted content. VPN providers who refuse to comply with the new regulations are targeted by elaborate detection – like deep packet inspection.

The bottom line? More and more VPNs struggle to keep their services available in the region and able to provide security and privacy. The main difficultly they face is the Great Firewall’s ability to detect and block OpenVPN traffic, the industry-standard VPN protocol.

Fortunately, there are a few top VPNs that are dependable for getting around the Great Firewall. In addition, there have been no cases of tourists being penalized for using a non-approved VPN since the Chinese government is fighting VPN technology and not the users.

So How Does NordVPN Work in China?

NordVPN works hard to stay off the Chinese government’s radar. If you look at its 5,190+ available servers, you’ll notice that not a single one is actually in China.

This doesn’t mean NordVPN doesn’t work well in China. On the contrary – it means NordVPN isn’t one of the officially approved VPNs and maintains its distance so it can keep users safe and hidden. In addition, although China has banned the use of non-government-approved VPNs, no tourist has ever been charged for using one. This means you shouldn’t have to worry about your safety.

Sometimes, the logic of this can be hard to follow. But remember this – to access blocked content, you need to connect to a server OUTSIDE of China. Your VPN’s servers in China don’t help you bypass the filters. Even worse, they may indicate that the provider complies with the country’s invasive cybersecurity laws.

When it comes to hiding OpenVPN traffic, NordVPN implements its Obfuscated Servers. These servers camouflage your OpenVPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic (what other VPNs sometimes refer to as Stealth Mode).

The result? NordVPN can bypass the Great Firewall of China.

Getting NordVPN to work with Obfuscated Servers can be a bit tricky. Other VPNs like ExpressVPN work better in China. It has a dedicated team of people who upgrade and test certain servers in China to make sure they work at all times, so you won’t have to follow as many steps as shown here with NordVPN. But don’t worry – we’ll show you how to set it up in just a few simple steps below!

How to Use NordVPN in China

IMPORTANT: NordVPN provides Obfuscated Servers only for its OpenVPN apps on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. Currently, this feature is not available on the iOS app for your iPhone or iPad – you’ll need to manually configure the OpenVPN or L2TP protocol with specific settings.

For this tutorial, we used NordVPN’s Windows app (version 6.20.12.0), but the process is identical for all other platforms with support for Obfuscated Servers.

Before we get started, a word of advice – download NordVPN BEFORE you arrive in China. While NordVPN does have an accessible website in the country, there’s no telling what may happen with China’s ongoing VPN crackdown. Keep in mind that the common practice is that China is fighting VPNs by technologically blocking them, and not by chasing after the people who use them.

Already done? Here’s how to set up NordVPN with Obfuscated Servers:

1. Launch the NordVPN app.

Note the Specialty servers tab on the left – we’ll be going back to it shortly:

NordVPN quick connect

Nord VPN offers you easy access to specialized servers

2. Open the advanced settings.

To do that, open the Settings menu from the top ribbon and scroll down until you find the Show advanced settings option:

NordVPN settings

You can follow the easy interface to access advanced settings

If this is your first time accessing NordVPN’s advanced settings, a warning prompt will appear. Select I know what I’m doing! and you’re ready for the next step.

3. Enable the Obfuscated Servers option.

You’ll find it towards the end of the Settings:

NordVPN advanced settings interface

When the slider turns blue, you’ll know you’ve selected obfuscated servers

The slider will turn blue to indicate the change.

4. Click on Servers to go back to the main interface.

The Servers menu is in the top ribbon. Take a look at the Specialty servers tab again. If the only category you see is Obfuscated Servers, you’ve successfully enabled the feature:

Obfuscated server list and map of available servers

Your selection now shows under “Specialty Servers”

You may also notice the available countries have changed. This is because you’re now running the VPN in its “stealth mode,” and only have access to the locations with Obfuscated Servers.

5. Connect to one of the 450+ Obfuscated Servers.

You can either: Click on the Obfuscated Servers tab and choose a country from the list, or pick one of the pinned locations on the server map.

If you’re successful, the NordVPN app will update with info on your selected Obfuscated Server:

US Obfuscated server

NordVPN will automatically update your server to match your selection!

And that’s it! If you want to turn off the obfuscated mode and access NordVPN’s 5,190+ other servers, simply disable the feature from the Advanced Settings menu. The app will do the rest.

What Makes NordVPN a Good Option for China?

NordVPN’s Obfuscated Servers are its biggest advantage for heavily censored regions like China.

With servers in nearby Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, NordVPN also provides excellent speeds for users in China.

The 450+ Obfuscated Servers can be found in 11 other locations – Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, the UAE, United States, and United Kingdom. This global coverage makes NordVPN a great choice for other censored areas, such as Russia, Iran, Qatar, and the UAE.

Something you should keep in mind is that NordVPN no longer unblocks Netflix. The platform is continuously working on ways to block VPN services from accessing it, and this time, NordVPN was left out. I got in contact with a support agent and he told me that NordVPN is working on fixing this issue, but has no idea when it will access Netflix again.

screenshot of NordVPN's support answer

You won’t be able to access any Netflix library with NordVPN

In the meantime, you should check out some alternatives that work in China and unblock hundreds of platforms and websites.”

That said, obfuscation is not always bulletproof. You may run into issues now and then. If you’re experiencing problems, you can rely on NordVPN’s impressive 24/7 customer support for assistance or an update. You can start a live chat session in just a few seconds – with a friendly expert, not a robot.

Last but not least, you can always rely on NordVPN’s full-satisfaction, 30-day money-back guarantee.

Other VPNs that Work in China

The following VPNs have proven to be reliable picks for China:

ExpressVPN — A seriously fast service with robust protections and a verified no-logs policy. More importantly, it provides special stealth servers for China, which make it one of the regular favorites for fast, smooth access to Google services and social media.

VyprVPN — Another great option because of its proprietary Chameleon protocol (sadly unavailable for iOS). Designed to handle deep packet inspection, it makes a dependable choice for China.

PrivateVPN — This VPN supports L2TP connections. Even though it’s dated a protocol, it can be very useful for bypassing the Great Firewall if OpenVPN is giving you trouble. This VPN also comes with a Stealth Mode for extra obfuscation.

For more services you can trust to fight censorship, check out our full list of VPNs that still work in China.

Other top VPNs that also work in China in 2021

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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About the Author

Sarit is an experienced internet security writer who believes everyone has the right to online privacy.

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