ExpressVPN is one of our top choices of VPN providers as it works even in getting past one of the sternest (if not the sternest) censorship in the world, the Great Firewall of China. Several VPN providers have been blocked, but ExpressVPN still works and we have proof.
Before we go into the prerequisites to make ExpressVPN work in China, here are some of ExpressVPN’s strong features which make the provider a great choice both inside and outside of China:
- No usage limitations: You can stream and download anything from anywhere.
- Wide network of servers: Making it easier to bypass geographic restrictions set by governments, copyright owners, and entertainment websites.
- Government-level encryption: All data connections are secure and undecipherable to unintended parties.
- IP leak prevention features: Such as the network lock, IPv6 leak protection, and DNS leak protection.
- No logging policy: That has been proven true.
This is just a brief summary of what makes ExpressVPN a top-tier provider. We have tested the provider extensively too, and can personally vouch for these features. You can check the test results in our extensive ExpressVPN review:
[affilioProvider max=”1″ top=”n” cat=’china’]
Is it true that ExpressVPN doesn’t work in China?
A number of VPN users have reported that ExpressVPN is not effective in bypassing China’s Internet censorship. We did our own investigation on the matter to find out if this is true, and here’s what we found out:
There are several VPN blockers, but the most noticeable one that China is employing is website blocking. When you are in China and you visit ExpressVPN’s website, you won’t be able to access it, the same way you can’t access hundreds of other domains.
Popular Websites blocked in China.
The New York Times
— Tech Facts (@CoolTechFacts) February 20, 2019
You also can’t download the ExpressVPN app on Google Play Store and Apple App store because Google Play is blocked in China, and Apple has pulled out 25,000 apps in its app store in compliance with China’s recommendation. ExpressVPN, and other VPN apps, were included in the pullout.
This is why some people who are saying that ExpressVPN doesn’t work, because they can’t download it while in China.
Download before going to China
The solution then is to download and sign up with ExpressVPN before going to China. This may sound too simple, but it actually works. If you already have ExpressVPN on your device, all you need to do is to connect to it when you reach mainland China. Here are some testimonials from people who have actually used it while in the most censored country:
I used ExpressVPN when I went to China recently. It costs around £10/month (a third less if you buy a year up front) but is very reliable and easy to use. I know there are free versions out there but don’t have experience with those.
— Leigh Caldwell (@leighblue) March 15, 2019
I have used expressVPN across all platforms as well. Great if you visit China.
— Fulla (@Crypto_Fulla) March 15, 2019
Express VPN still works in China! 😉
— Katie Raath (@KR_NYC) December 30, 2018
This is not to say that ExpressVPN doesn’t get affected by China’s censorship. The VPN provider is not immune, but it just gets back up every time.
#两会进行时 ExpressVPN was out of service for a week. @expressvpn But now the connection is back, good work! The conferences are definetly annoying for anyone wishing to conduct academic works living in Mainland China. ExpressVPN continues to be my choice of VPN in China.
— Diego Ge (@DiegoGe11) March 8, 2019
Why does ExpressVPN still work in China?
Simple grit and timely action are mainly the reasons why ExpressVPN is still working in China. The provider was one of the many VPNs that got affected when China launched a massive attack against VPNs in October 2018.
If you’re in #China and reading this I guess you’re not having big problems with your VPN but many others are. Big assault on VPNs in recent days by Chinese authorities. Not quite sure why now. These days you need a series of VPNs available on your device to stay afloat here.
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) October 31, 2018
While other VPN providers simply gave up, ExpressVPN updated their software and communicated to their users to let them know about the updates.
Another reason why ExpressVPN is still working is that the provider does not have any server within mainland China. This means that it’s not subject to China’s data retention laws and is therefore difficult to detect and block.
ExpressVPN in China: Other tips
Make sure that your Internet connection automatically drops when the VPN connection is cut to avoid an IP leak, called a kill switch. For ExpressVPN, the kill switch is named Network Lock, and it’s turned on by default. Here’s how to make sure that it’s switched on:
- Make sure that you are disconnected from the VPN since you cannot change the setting if you’re connected.
- Click on the ‘hamburger’ menu and go to Options.
- Go to the General tab and look for the Network Lock section.
- Make sure that the “Stop all Internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly” checkbox is marked.
If you want to turn off the feature, simply unmark the checkbox. However, turning off the network lock is not recommended because VPN disconnection might cause your IP to get leaked.
Speed up connection
To experience a faster connection, the general rule is to connect to a VPN server nearest you. Since you’re in China, the following server locations are ideal:
- Hong Kong
- UK – East London
- USA – Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle
Location matters even when you’re not in China. The nearer you physically are to the server, the faster the connection will be.
Troubleshooting Express VPN in China
If you encounter problems while using ExpressVPN in China, you can switch to another server or server location, change protocol, or connect to a different port. These are the basic troubleshooting steps to do, but when nothing works, you can always contact the ExpressVPN customer support.
Very sorry to hear you're still experiencing issues connecting. We're continuing to work around the clock to improve connection reliability. Please check your ExpressVPN app or our China status page for the latest troubleshooting guidance.
— ExpressVPN (@expressvpn) October 31, 2018
If it is an isolated problem, they can walk you through getting it fixed. If it’s a common problem experienced by all ExpressVPN users, then chances are their development team is already working on it.
Other VPN providers that work in China
You may also check out these VPN providers that also work in China based on our assessment and tests. These are great VPNs to use even outside China, and like ExpressVPN, you need to download and sign up with these services before you enter mainland China since their websites are likely blocked.
Several people have observed that the country becomes more rigid with VPNs when there are big political and economic events, like party meetings and conventions coming up, which was what happened back in October 2018.
— khushboo khanna (@KhannaKhushboo) October 29, 2018
If you find out that your visit to China coincides with major events, then you better be prepared with more than one of the VPN providers we recommend for China. This can be a bit pricey, but if you absolutely must access any Google product, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SoundCloud, Twitter, or any of the other hundreds of blocked sites in China, it could be worth the expense to have a backup plan.