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Does ExpressVPN Work in China

Does ExpressVPN Work in China in 2024? Our Expert Explains

ExpressVPN has an impressive track record of reliability, but no country puts that to the test more than China. Though ExpressVPN may have worked there in the past, the latest developments show that it’s struggling to work in China due to censorship. Let’s see why that’s the case and what you can do instead.

Arthur SabayiSamuel ChapmanIgor Kurtz

Written by Arthur Sabayi (Writer)

Reviewed by Samuel Chapman (Writer, Editor)

Facts checked by Igor Kurtz (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-02-24T13:07:38+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: Key Takeaways: Does ExpressVPN Work in China?
  • ExpressVPN doesn’t work in China due to increased government censorship.
  • The automatic obfuscation feature may offer users some respite, but it also doesn’t work for long.
  • Astrill VPN is the most reliable VPN for China, but Mullvad, TorGuard and a few others also work.

It may be one of the most reliable VPNs around, but does ExpressVPN work in China? Right now, the answer is no. The Chinese government is continuously improving its VPN-blocking capabilities, closing loopholes the moment it finds them. This has made ExpressVPN extremely hard to use in China, despite it topping our best VPN provider list this year.

We set out to test ExpressVPN again and update you on whether this virtual private network can bypass China’s internet restrictions. We’ve put together a troubleshooting guide of tips that may help if you experience issues with the ExpressVPN app and a list of alternatives you can turn to. Read on to learn more.

  • 02/02/2024 Facts checked

    We rewrote this guide to reflect ExpressVPN’s current capability in China and added troubleshooting guides and VPN alternatives.

ExpressVPN China: Does It Work? Detailed Answer

ExpressVPN doesn’t reliably work in China these days, and many users have expressed disappointment with the service. If you’re lucky, ExpressVPN may work for a few minutes before being blocked, and getting it to work again is a significant hassle. 

What’s the Situation With VPNs in China? 

China has stepped up its censorship capabilities so much that it’s closing up loopholes that used to serve as a workaround. Fang Binxing started the Golden Shield Project, popularly known as the Great Firewall, in 1996. It has since grown so much that even ExpressVPN, which is known for being efficient in almost every aspect, struggles in China.

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Notable censorship techniques China uses to block ExpressVPN and other services include the following:

  • Deep packet inspection (DPI): This technique distinguishes VPNs from regular internet traffic. Chinese internet service providers can analyze traffic for any trace of encoded information and block it immediately. An effective countermeasure is using obfuscation to mask VPN use for as long as possible.
  • DNS poisoning: The Great Firewall causes a user’s DNS server to return degenerate locations, which makes blocked sites unreachable.
  • IP blocking: The Great Firewall forces routers to drop all packets that go to or come from blocked IPs. This is how China blocks Western sites like Netflix, Google and CNN, among many others. It’s the easiest method of censorship but also the easiest to bypass, as switching to a VPN server outside China means that none of your IPs are blocked.
  • Port blocking: VPNs use specific ports that the Chinese authorities can easily recognize. For example, OpenVPN utilizes port 1194, so all it takes to block the VPN is obstructing the port.

Would It Help to Download Multiple VPNs? 

Downloading multiple VPNs will help increase your chances of unblocking restricted content in China. However, they have to be the right VPNs. For example, using a free VPN is not a good idea because most of them are powerless against Chinese censorship. They lack important features like obfuscation.

If ExpressVPN doesn’t work, consider an alternative that offers obfuscation and features like double VPN that make it harder for a Chinese internet service provider to conduct surveillance and censorship. We will cover specific ExpressVPN alternatives shortly, but first, here’s how you can troubleshoot ExpressVPN in China.

ExpressVPN Not Working in China: Things That May Help

If you have an ExpressVPN subscription and it isn’t working in China, here are some tips you can try. Remember, they’re not guaranteed to work, but you can attempt these methods before switching to another VPN.

  • Contact ExpressVPN’s customer support: Before traveling to China, customer support might be able to give you more accurate information about whether ExpressVPN is working in China at the moment.
  • Update ExpressVPN: If you’re using ExpressVPN apps on Android, iOS, macOS or Windows, make sure that they’re the latest versions. When you download ExpressVPN updates, there’s a high chance they could come with a fix that makes the service work in China, such as new servers or ports that are harder to block.
  • Switch to automatic protocol: Setting the VPN protocol to “automatic” makes it easy for the VPN to switch to the most appropriate one. All ExpressVPN protocols have obfuscation, but some may work better than others in certain situations.
  • Use the OpenVPN TCP protocol: If setting the protocol to “automatic” doesn’t work, switch to the OpenVPN TCP protocol, which uses TCP port 443. This port routes all HTTPS traffic, so the Chinese government is unlikely to block it without cutting off the internet for the entire country.
  • Disconnect and connect: Due to the efficiency of the Great Firewall, it can take a while for a secure VPN connection to get around it and reach an outside server. Before switching to another server, disconnect and connect to the same server and check whether it works. This is highly advisable if that ExpressVPN server has worked for you before.
  • Use multiple VPNs: It pays to have a backup when all the tips we’ve provided fail to work. The list of VPN services that may work in China isn’t long. Some of the ones you can try include Astrill, Mullvad and TorGuard, though reports indicate that Proton VPN and Windscribe also work.

ExpressVPN Alternatives for China 

Getting a VPN that works in China is challenging. It may work one minute and fail the next. There are a few alternatives you can use in place of ExpressVPN. 

1. Astrill VPN

astrill vpn
Astrill VPN is one of the most reliable VPNs in China.

There are servers in 120 cities across 58 countries with Astrill VPN and that should help you unblock restricted sites like Netflix from China. It comes with a proprietary protocol called StealthVPN that obfuscates your encrypted traffic to make it undetectable to the Great Firewall.

StealthVPN is a stable protocol that works with TCP and UDP modes without IP or DNS leaks. However, it’s costlier than even ExpressVPN, as we discuss in our Astrill VPN review.

2. Mullvad

mullvad vpn
Mullvad offers two types of obfuscation.

Mullvad’s best asset is the two types of obfuscation that it offers, which makes it ideal for China. Obfuscation actuates automatically when you use the WireGuard protocol, but you can also use it with v2ray via Shadowsocks (in bridge mode).

Coupled with the 600+ servers in 40 countries, you can unblock multiple sites from China without the risk of being shut down. Read our Mullvad review to learn more.

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3. TorGuard

torguard vpn
TorGuard has reliable obfuscation that can bypass censorship in China.

With TorGuard, you get access to more than 3,000 servers in 50+ countries, so you can access blocked sites when in China. Like our other two alternatives, TorGuard also offers obfuscation through OpenConnect StealthVPN and Stunnel, which adds an extra layer of encryption. Our TorGuard review goes into finer detail about its best features that can be of help in China.

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Why You Need a VPN in China

You need a VPN service in China for outside internet access and to unblock streaming sites, social media sites and even search engines. A VPN protects you from government surveillance in China by encrypting your traffic. You can read our article on internet censorship in China to get a clear picture of what you’re up against.

Can I Get a VPN If I’m Already in China?

You can get a VPN if you’re already in China, even if all VPN websites are blocked, using a VPN mirror site like or If that doesn’t work, consider asking a friend outside China to download and send you the file in a zipped format via email. This file can be APK (Android), EXE (Windows), DMG (macOS) or IPA (iOS).

Final Thoughts 

Based on our tests and user feedback, the consensus is that ExpressVPN is highly unlikely to work in China. By combining automatic protocol selection and obfuscation, you may have some success, but we can’t make any guarantees. Fortunately, it’s not the only option. 

You can switch to an alternative VPN provider like Astrill, Mullvad or TorGuard, or even use all three at once. If you’ve been to China before, which VPNs worked best for you? Did you use ExpressVPN? If so, how long did it work before it was blocked? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and thank you for reading our blog.

FAQ: ExpressVPN-China Alternative

  • You can use ExpressVPN in China, but it’s not guaranteed to work. Internet censorship in China is extreme, and there’s a high chance that any of ExpressVPN’s servers that work will eventually be blocked.

  • Chinese citizens caught using a VPN in China are subject to heavy fines and jail terms of up to 13 years. However, there have not been any cases involving foreigners being penalized for using VPNs in China.

  • Not many VPN providers work in China; even those that do work constantly face blocks as China steps up its surveillance and censorship techniques. Astrill and Mullvad are among the VPNs that have had some level of success in China.

  • You can download a VPN in China by using mirror sites that have not been blocked or by having someone outside the country send the app file to you via email.

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