- China’s government has tight reins over internet use, and WhatsApp doesn’t work there.
- With a VPN, you can bypass China’s Great Firewall, and access blocked websites, including WhatsApp.
- ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN for unblocking WhatsApp in China because of its collection of servers close to China and strong encryption features.
- NordVPN is a cheaper but less reliable option for unblocking WhatsApp in China. If you want a free VPN, check out Windscribe.
Chances are, if you’re traveling to China, you’re asking yourself, Does WhatsApp work in China? Well, the Chinese government has blocked WhatsApp since 2017. This means you can’t send texts, share images and make voice or video calls using the app in China.
However, there’s good news. With a VPN, you can get around a geoblock and access WhatsApp. Although there are several VPNs on the market, you need one with fast speeds and robust encryption features that can bypass China’s Great Firewall and deep packet inspection, which lets authorities differentiate between regular traffic and VPN traffic (VPNs are banned in China, too).
In this post, we’ll show you the finest VPNs for unblocking WhatsApp in China. We’ll also give you a step-by-step guide on how to use a VPN to unblock WhatsApp. Ready? Let’s dive in.
Updated the article to reflect ExpressVPN’s expansion of server presence from 94 to 105 countries.
Does WhatsApp Work in China?
Chinese authorities blocked WhatsApp in 2017, just before a Chinese Communist Party meeting, and the restriction is yet to be lifted. While there have been sporadic bans in the past, none have lasted this long, and there’s no indication from the communist-led government that the current ban will be lifted anytime soon.
Why Is WhatsApp Banned in China?
To understand why WhatsApp and several other social media platforms are a no-no in China, you’ll have to know a thing or two about the country’s political climate. China has been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1949. This authoritarian regime holds tight reins over everything in the country, including internet usage.
In 1998, in a bid to censor and monitor internet use, the Chinese government created the famed Great Firewall — a notorious filtering system that monitors the internet and blocks any service the government sees as detrimental to their cause. Read our article to learn more about China’s internet censorship.
WhatsApp’s China ban is part of a government-led crackdown on social media messaging apps that began in earnest in 2009. In fact, WhatsApp was the last of Meta-owned (formerly Facebook) apps to be blocked. Facebook was banned in 2009, while Instagram met the same fate in 2014.
WhatsApp may have been shut down mainly because of its end-to-end encryption feature, which prevents authorities from accessing user data. Governments the world over want the app to implement encryption backdoors, which would help them monitor texts and calls under the guise of national security.
However, it’s clear that authorities want control over the kind of information that’s disseminated. Besides, access to WhatsApp data helps them clamp down on anyone they deem an opponent.
Further, the Chinese government is hell-bent on promoting its homegrown apps over foreign ones, which is often the case in countries that ban WhatsApp. That’s why the government promotes WeChat, the Chinese alternative to WhatsApp.
What Social Media Platforms Are Banned in China?
The Chinese government has banned and continues to ban any app that doesn’t meet its demands. Here are some of the most popular apps and services that don’t work in China.
It’s worth noting that the Chinese government offers homegrown alternatives to most of these apps. For example, China has Youku Tudou in place of YouTube, Weibo for Twitter, QQ for Facebook Messenger and Xiaohongshu for Instagram.
How to Unblock WhatsApp in China With a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Unblocking WhatsApp in China is not as difficult as it seems. All you need to do is install a good VPN service, connect to a server and start using the app. We’ll show you how to do just that in the example below.
However, note that you need to download and install your VPN before heading to China because some VPN websites don’t work there.
- Download and Install a VPN
For this example, we’ll use ExpressVPN. To install, go to your Google Play Store on Android (or Apple app store if you’re using an iPhone) and search for the VPN. Click the “install” button, and your VPN should download and install in a few minutes.
- Choose a Server
Next, open the VPN you just installed and select a server. Always choose a server in a country that has not banned WhatsApp and is close to China so that you can get fast speeds. We’ve connected to a server in Hong Kong, as you can see below.
- Connect to WhatsApp
Once you’ve installed the VPN and chosen a server, you can install WhatsApp (if you don’t already have it) and start texting or making calls.
The Best VPN Apps to Unblock WhatsApp in China
Finding the right VPN service to unblock WhatsApp in China can be tricky, particularly because the government monitors and cuts off VPNs. For instance, IPVanish recently reported that China has started blocking its IP addresses, so their service might not work properly there.
Luckily, there are robust VPN services that are great at bypassing the Great Firewall, ensuring that your traffic can’t be read by the government or your internet service provider (ISP). Although no foreigner has been prosecuted for using VPNs in China, you’re better off using them anonymously.
That’s why strong encryption, anti-censorship features and obfuscation should be a priority when shopping for a VPN. Further, you need a VPN with servers in countries close to China so you can get the best speeds. While a server in any country in the Asia-Pacific region is a plus, look for VPNs with servers in countries that border China.
From our experience and testing, ExpressVPN, NordVPN and Windscribe are the most effective VPNs for unblocking WhatsApp in China. Let’s examine each in a bit more detail.
ExpressVPN is our top pick to unblock WhatsApp in China. Of its more than 3,000 servers in 105 countries, ExpressVPN has a few in countries close to China, including Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. This impressive server collection means that you’re likely to get fast connection speeds when using ExpressVPN in China.
Further, ExpressVPN’s servers support obfuscation, meaning that your internet traffic will be hidden from rigorous Chinese government surveillance, and no one will know that you’re using a VPN service, much less WhatsApp. Backed by the industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption and leak protection (DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC), ExpressVPN is great at outsmarting the tough Great Firewall.
ExpressVPN’s most significant downside is that it’s pricier than most competitors, but when it comes to value for money, it stands tall. Read our ExpressVPN review to learn more.
Although its server locations (63 countries) are not as widespread as ExpressVPN’s, NordVPN has servers in countries bordering China, including Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong. NordVPN is also a bit cheaper than ExpressVPN and is an excellent alternative if you can’t fit an ExpressVPN subscription into your budget.
NordVPN comes decked with all the key features you’d expect, including AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, DNS leak protection and OpenVPN protocol support. NordLynx, NordVPN’s take on the WireGuard protocol, is faster and more secure than the more popular OpenVPN, though. The good news is that it’s now the default protocol on NordVPN.
Another standout feature of NordVPN is that it supports multi-hop connections, a feature it calls double VPN. In essence, double VPN routes your connection through two servers, meaning that your data is encrypted twice. Many VPNs only use one server, so this is significant. Further, NordVPN’s servers support obfuscation, ensuring that your internet traffic appears to Chinese authorities as normal traffic.
Some websites report that NordVPN is owned by a Chinese firm. However, there’s no evidence to back that claim. What we know for sure is that the VPN is owned by Nord Security and it is registered in Panama. Check out our NordVPN review for more information.
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
If you’re looking for a free VPN to access WhatsApp in China, Windscribe is your best bet. True, it doesn’t have the server fleet that ExpressVPN and NordVPN boast of, but it has some in China’s neighbors, including Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Russia.
As features go, Windscribe comes with the basic ones you’d expect from a VPN, including a kill switch (which Windscribe calls “Firewall”), split tunneling and AES-256 encryption. However, one notable feature of this VPN is that it sports two OpenVPN protocols, named “wstunnel” and “stealth.” These encapsulated protocols hide the fact that you’re using a VPN, keeping your WhatsApp use away from prying government servers.
Windscribe is not the fastest VPN out there, with ExpressVPN and NordVPN much better in that regard, but it’s not a dealbreaker. You can read our Windscribe vs NordVPN article for more insight on how they stack up in terms of speed and other features. Thankfully, the VPN is free to use for up to 10GB of data.
- Up to 15 GB free with email confirmation and Tweet
- Unlimited GB
If you’re heading to China, you’ll need a VPN to access WhatsApp. Clearly, ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN to help you get past China’s Great Firewall. It’s also a great alternative to bypass the WhatsApp ban in Dubai and other countries where it’s restricted. For cheaper alternatives, go for NordVPN or Windscribe.
Have you ever tried unblocking WhatsApp in China? Which VPN services gave the best results? Share your experience with us in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading.
Zoom is blocked to an extent in China. In August 2020, the company announced that it was shifting to a partner-only model, meaning purchases can only be made through a local third-party company.
Yes, Discord has been banned in mainland China since 2018. You’ll need a VPN to get around the ban. However, those living in Hong Kong and Macau can still use the app.
Yes, Instagram has been banned in China since 2014 because of the Chinese government’s desire to control and monitor information flow. The government urges its citizens to use Xiaohongshu (it’s Instagram alternative) instead.