China is a country that is very protective of what information their citizens have access to. That said, the Chinese government is also open the possibility of foreigners having access to the websites that they want because they want to keep the high level of foreign direct investment into their country. This is why the VPN issue is a unique one that has a different approach for the Chinese government between their citizens and expats that are residing there. If you are contemplating moving or visiting China as a foreigner, consider my observations below about why a VPN is essential for your stay in China:
What Kinds of Limitations Do You Have Using the Internet in China?
Within Mainland China, VPNs have become important to access websites that are blocked by the “Great Firewall of China.” For example, popular websites such as: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, Word Press, BBC, and many more are blocked within China. Upon attempting to access these pages in China, there will be a blank page there, meaning that the VPN is absolutely necessary to obtain access to those sites. The sooner that you invest in a VPN, the more pleasant that your stay will be within Mainland China.
Why Are VPN’s Becoming So Important in China?
Regardless of how long you are planning on staying in China, having a VPN is very important for both business and personal use. If you need to access your foreign bank accounts or need to wire money both to and from China. Having a VPN will help to make your transaction more secure. Additionally, for your business correspondence that occurs through Gmail, having a VPN will help you to keep in touch with your home office. Furthermore, if you need to have a more efficient search engine than Chinese ones such as Bing, then you will also need a VPN to return the best possible results.
VPNs are getting more efficient as time goes on and are particularly important for web developers who need to access popular website construction sites such as Word Press for their startup companies within Mainland China.
My Personal Experience
Upon relocating to China in 2015, I had never heard about what a VPN was and why it was so essential to living as an expat in China. Luckily, I received advice to download before I arrived from Thailand. Investing in the yearly subscription is the best way to have continuous access to the websites that you are accustomed to from the West and is not extraordinarily expensive as well. In my particular case, I own three companies that all operate online and without a VPN, I would not have been able to maintain my businesses while residing in China. Having a VPN made me able to regularly engage with my followers and continue to grow my business while residing in Mainland China.
For expats that need consistent and regular access to Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for both personal and business use, having a VPN is the best course of action. From what I have seen in China, there are several competing VPN companies; however, some of them have government interference. The only one I have had consistent success with is Vypr VPN (which was also selected as the overall winner of best rated VPN providers). A typical annual subscription costs around $80 USD and allows you to have the VPN on many different devices from one account.
Within Vypr VPN you have access to over 50 different countries and their frequencies to gain access to the blocked sites within Mainland China. You can also choose the fastest server recommended by Vypr VPN that day for the best fast Internet search results for streaming movies and television programs. If you are looking for a reliable VPN, this is the company that has had the best results for myself and colleagues that have lived in China for an extended period of time.
Note: if you think about that a VPN will prevent anyone from logging what you do, think again. A VPN is nothing more or nothing less of a proxy to browse the internet through.
If you are contemplating visiting or relocating to Mainland China, it is important to not let the Internet censorship greatly concern you. In my experience, investing in a VPN allowed me to still main connection with my family, colleagues, and friends. Investing in a VPN is the best strategic move while residing in China to continue your business while residing in Mainland China.
Additionally, the Chinese government tends to turn a blind eye to VPNs for foreigners in their country given that they don’t want the foreigners to leave due to the opportunities that they bring to their country through having investment or bringing branches of their multinational company to do business and stimulate the Chinese economy. Thus, before visiting Mainland China or relocating there, be sure to add getting a VPN to your pre-departure checklist. Doing so will serve you well as you dive into China’s unique culture while still maintaining relationships with your contacts and colleagues in your home country.