Ensuring reliable, secure, and fast internet connection is difficult with China’s Great Firewall. With a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that’s easy to use, you can enjoy a better online experience.
Internet Freedom in China
Internet freedom in China is regarded as the most limited and least free in the world. It consistently ranks at the bottom of internet freedom surveys, thanks to strict government policies.
Different obstacles to access certain websites and content, strict censorship policies, and significant reports of user rights all contribute to restricted internet use. Many travelers going to China prepare in advance for these strict internet use policies.
The Great Firewall in China is a sophisticated system that heavily blocks and filters a lot of internal and external content. This mainly includes controversial and breaking news in health and safety, news that can damage the reputation of officials, foreign affairs, and civil society activism. Posts discussing taboos like the Cultural Revolution, Taiwanese independence, and minority rights are also quickly filtered out.
Aside from blocking and filtering content, China also blocks access to many websites and apps. Alternative international news sources like the British Broadcasting Corporation are blocked off. Apps which are popular everywhere else in the world, such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Soundcloud, and even Pinterest, can’t be accessed in China without a VPN.
As of 2018, tourists can’t even download Google Maps and Google Translate if they don’t have a VPN installed.
If you want to post anything on social media, you’ll have to be very careful about what you say. Social media accounts and political/social opinions that can count as digital activism are quickly deleted. China also encourages websites to delete posts proactively.
At the request of censorship authorities, your account can be deleted. Heavy dissidents can face heavy penalties. Bloggers have also been arrested in the past.
The crackdown and filtering become even stricter during more political months, such as near elections or important commemorations. There is a spike in propaganda and censorship to protect the image of the government.
In 2017, the country passed a cybersecurity law, which further increased censorship requirements, mandated data localization, and increased the operational costs of having an internet company. You’ll be giving up more of your personal data every time you use the internet in China.
Thanks to this law, anything that may look like a “subversion” or “separatist” can face life prison. In order to protect public order and state interests, China also increased the pressure on misinformation and online activism.
Foreign tech companies are not safe from China’s strict policies.
There may be many circumvention tools that can bypass the Great Firewall. However, if you have not downloaded them before, you will have a hard time downloading a VPN. China also asked many VPN services to be removed from Apple’s online app store.
As of 2017, circumvention tools are really only allowed for corporate clients for “internal office use only.” Despite these restrictions, millions of people are still relying on VPN services to access uncensored social media and news websites.
On the upside, China has a government strategy called “Broadband China.” The long-term plan aims to boost internet penetration and increase connection speeds.
China is known for many things aside from its strict internet policies and user rights violations. With over 1.39 billion residents, China is one of the biggest countries in the world in terms of population.
China also occupies 9.5 million square km, making it one of the biggest countries by land mass as well. It is only a little smaller than the USA, which is 9.8 million square km.
This big and densely populated country is known for being an economic powerhouse. It has many of the world’s biggest companies.
In terms of culture, you would know China as the birthplace of popular martial arts, Feng Shui, and the actual Great Wall. Tourists flock every year to see the giant panda and Chinese alligator, and to try some authentic Chinese food.
Meanwhile, the people of China is a growing internet population.
As of January 2019, there were 772 million internet users across the country. This signifies a 56% internet penetration, which is still many millions away from the country’s goals. China aims to have at least 70% penetration by 2020.
Of the growing internet population, 97.5% of them use their mobile phones and gadgets to go online. Also, 73% of internet users are from cities. Internet penetration ranges significantly among the different provinces.
The millions of Chinese people using the internet experience slow download and upload speeds. The average internet speed in 2018 was 2.4 Mbps, which was below the global average.
However, local sources report a much faster average broadband speed of 19 Mbps in the last quarter of 2017. In this report by the China Broadband Development Alliance, the recorded fastest speed in 2018 was 20.52 Mbps in Shanghai. One of the slowest speeds recorded in the country was 16.77 Mbps in Xinjiang.
The main internet service providers (ISPs) in the country are China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom. All three ISPs are owned by the state.
Through the years, there have been many concerns over the telco monopoly. The top internet service providers can still control some level of licensing for basic telecom services.
China’s top companies are the biggest not only in the country but also in the world. A big part of its revenue is its large user base, with millions of customers. China is also known for being the biggest player in the software revolution.
At the top of the pack is China Mobile, one of the major internet service providers and telco companies in the country. With more than 800 million subscribers, it is definitely a giant. It has customers as far as Pakistan and Hong Kong.
Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings is another top tech company in China. It has become a social networking behemoth, thanks to its incredibly popular app WeChat.
You might be familiar with Alibaba, which is the world’s largest e-commerce retailer. In fact, Alibaba is so big that its volume sales are bigger than Amazon and eBay combined.
A company that you might not be familiar with is Baidu. However, this top tech company is very popular in China, as it serves as the top online search engine. If you would remember, Google is not allowed in China.
Finally, Xiaomi is another well-known China-based tech company. Xiaomi is an innovative manufacturer of handsets and mobile devices, though it is positioning itself as an internet company.
Like the millions of internet and digital users in China, it’s hard to appreciate innovations in tech without true and free access. You need a VPN.
Why You Need a VPN in China
In the following years, China’s Great Firewall is going to become even less permeable to controversial content, and more restrictive censorship policies. As the laws become tighter, millions of internet users need a freer alternative.
Using a Virtual Private Network service is the only option. With a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through the VPN server located in a different country. You’ll have the same internet freedom as the country the VPN server is located in.
Getting a VPN for travel to China works best if you have set-up your laptop or mobile device before coming into the country.
There are several reasons why you need a VPN in China.
1. Circumvent Geo-Blocking
First, it helps circumvent geo-blocking. As mentioned, China blocks off a lot of content and websites. As long as you browse the internet using VPN, you will be able to visit these blocked websites.
2. Stay Connected with Friends and Family Using Your Favorite Apps
Second, if you want to stay connected with your friends and family, you also need a VPN. Most of the social networking sites that dominate the rest of the world are blocked in China. You need a VPN to video call and message your loved ones through Facebook and WhatsApp.
Plus, if you want to update your travel feed on Instagram, it’s better to access the app through a VPN.
3. Streaming Websites and TV Shows
Third, you also need VPN to stay updated not only with your friends and family but also with your favorite websites and TV shows. You wouldn’t want to miss the latest episode of your must-see series. Unfortunately, China puts a block on a lot of foreign media sites.
A VPN is also vital if you want to safely and quickly download your favorite movies. With the surveillance system of China, it’s impossible to download (legally owned) copyrighted content without getting flagged.
4. Current Events
Foreign media sites that provide access to news articles, opinions, and editorials are also filtered out by China. If you want to read the latest international news, especially those that give an outsider perspective on Chinese events, you need a VPN server.
5. Diverse Political Viewpoints
Fifth, if you want to read hard-hitting political blogs on different liberal and conservative topics, you should get a VPN. There is no way around reading about the different taboo topics in China without a VPN. If you want access to impactful political and social essays, you can only visit these websites through VPN.
6. Avoid Censorship
Another reason why you need a VPN is to get to contribute to these blogs and social networking sites without fearing censorship. You don’t have to be excessively careful about the opinions you write.
Seventh, you need a VPN to protect your privacy when using public networks, such as free Wi-Fi in cafes or public parks. This is one of the most common reasons why people use a VPN, no matter the country. With this added level of privacy protection, it would be harder for data localization software to keep track of your personal activity.
8. Secure Remote Access
One final reason you might need a VPN is to get secure remote access to the company network. People visiting or staying in China for work need to access their company’s files and other websites for different reasons. To circumvent China’s strict policies, you need to get a VPN.