China’s Great Firewall is infamous for blocking access to major websites and services like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia. Many travelers to China try using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass the firewall and access restricted content. VPNs are often called 翻墙VPN (VPN to bypass the firewall) in Chinese for this purpose. Unfortunately, most consumer VPNs fail to work in China due to the government’s sophisticated censorship and surveillance technology.
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How China’s Firewall Blocks VPNs
The Great Firewall uses a variety of techniques to detect and block VPN traffic:
Deep Packet Inspection
DPI examines data packets for content or communication patterns that suggest VPN usage. This allows the firewall to terminate connections.
China actively maintains a blacklist of IP addresses linked to VPN services and blocks traffic to/from them.
The firewall probes connections to see if they exhibit VPN-like properties before allowing data to pass through.
VPNs encrypt data, but the firewall uses metadata like packet timing and size to detect VPN traffic patterns and terminate suspicious connections.
VPN Protocol Blocking
Protocols commonly used by VPN services like OpenVPN and IPSec are blocked by default, forcing providers to use less secure protocols.
Why Consumer VPNs Get Blocked
Most consumer VPN services fail to cope with China’s crackdown due to:
Limited IP Diversity
Consumer VPNs have a small pool of gateway IP addresses. Once China identifies and blocks them, the service becomes unusable.
Weak Encryption Standards
Many providers use dated encryption and tunneling protocols that are easier for the firewall to analyze and block.
No Obfuscation Features
Basic VPN services do not take steps to mask their traffic as regular HTTPS internet traffic, making it simple to detect and block.
Slow Server Switching
When IP addresses get blocked, providers can be slow to provision new ones, resulting in prolonged service outages.
No Dedicated Support
Most VPNs lack China-specific configurations. Without dedicated 24/7 support and quick bug fixing, downtimes persist.
What Does Work in China?
The only reliable way to bypass the Great Firewall is using a commercial VPN designed specifically for China. Features like multi-hop connections, obfuscation protocols, and thousands of frequently changing IPs allow services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN to successfully operate in China despite the firewall’s strict blocking mechanisms.
Consumer VPNs work inconsistently due to their simplistic nature. For uninterrupted access in China, a commercial VPN designed to counter the firewall’s advanced censorship capabilities is essential. Services need to be sophisticated enough to avoid detection, offer multiple connection options, and have sufficient operational scale and resources to tackle firewall interference.
Best VPNs for China
Based on extensive testing and user reviews, these VPN services are the best working VPNs for China and consistently provide the most reliable access in China:
ExpressVPN tops the list with its wide selection of stealth connection protocols like Lightway and Shadowsocks that fully mask VPN traffic. Fast connection speeds and excellent customer support also make it the top choice.
NordVPN offers specialty obfuscated servers and the ability to connect to thousands of IP addresses. Reliable speeds and performance make it a strong VPN option in China.
For a budget-friendly option, SurfsharkVPN combines strong encryption with obfuscation tools like Cloak and multi-hop connections that bypass the firewall’s blocking.
The combination of strong encryption, obfuscation protocols, dedicated apps, and extensive server networks allow these VPNs to consistently bypass Chinese internet censorship and deliver reliable performance.
The Great Firewall of China presents a formidable challenge for VPN services through its use of deep packet inspection, active probing, IP blocking and more. Basic consumer VPNs often fail to circumvent these advanced censorship mechanisms. Those looking to access blocked content in China need a commercial VPN service specifically engineered to counter the firewall’s detection efforts. ExpressVPN, NordVPN and SurfsharkVPN currently lead the way in providing reliable and uninterrupted VPN access within China. By combining strong encryption, obfuscation protocols, large server networks and dedicated apps, they are able to consistently bypass restrictions and deliver good speeds with minimal downtime. For bypassing the Great Firewall of China, these top providers offer the best solution.
Read more: Top List of Free And Paid VPN Services