How to Watch Netflix in China 2021: What Great Firewall?

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large)
— Last Updated: 2021-03-18T13:45:52+00:00

If you’re traveling to the Middle Kingdom or are already there, prepare yourself for some disappointment when firing up Netflix: the streaming giant is unavailable in China thanks to licensing issues and general governmental disapproval. However, there’s a way around this block, as we’ll show you in this short guide on how to watch Netflix from China.

We’ll use ExpressVPN as our example as it’s the best VPN for China as well as one of the few services that both allow Netflix access and offer the security you need. As we talk about in our piece on censorship in China, the government’s control of the Chinese internet is no joke, with a strong block in place and serious repercussions for anybody caught circumventing them.

If you’d like to know more about it, check out our ExpressVPN review. If, however, you’re in a hurry and just want to get to watching Netflix in China, ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee that allows you to take it for a spin with no risk to you. If you’d like to know more about the subject before deciding anything, stick with us as we go over the why of the lack of a Netflix China.

Why Is There No Netflix in China?

China is in a very select group of countries that has no Netflix coverage, but you may wonder why. With the other members of that club it seems obvious that they wouldn’t have access to streaming entertainment: North Korea has no internet for the masses, Syria is a warzone and Crimea is currently under military occupation by Russia.

The reason China, an affluent country with lots of people hooked up to the internet, has no Netflix is, quite simply, control. The Beijing government wants to make sure that Chinese people don’t get influenced by the wider world, which might shatter the narrative that China is just the greatest. We would retort that Breaking Bad is a pretty good argument for socialized healthcare, but we digress.

It’s part of the greater repression that has put China at the top of our ranking for internet censorship around the world. In a bid to make sure that nobody starts having second thoughts about the success story put out by the communist party, said party wants to ensure that no other version of events or perspective are put out. That puts the kibosh on TV series that display life in the west, warts and all.

iQiyi: the Chinese Version of Netflix?

Not that Netflix hasn’t tried going the way of Apple and Microsoft and made inroads into China. However, the company’s strategy never involved launching a Chinese version of the site. Instead, Netflix partnered with Baidu — a huge Chinese tech company — and helped it launch iQiyi, which offered Chinese TV show and movies.

Note though, that this does not make it the Netflix of China: thanks to censorship, it pretty much only offers home-grown content and even that is heavily censored. Netflix quickly withdrew from the partnership, likely because of issues with the way business is done in China, though details are scarce.

Can I Watch Netflix in China?

All of which brings us back to the main question: is it possible to watch Netflix in China, or sites like Netflix? In both cases, the answer is yes, as long as you use a virtual private network. A VPN will let you tunnel under the Great Firewall and access servers in other countries, thus spoofing your location and allowing you to access Netflix.

The best VPN out there is ExpressVPN for any number of reasons, and we’ll quickly show you how to get it set up so you can get to watch Netflix from China (or Hulu, or Disney+, for that matter). Note that the below instructions also apply to any other service, including NordVPN.

how to watch netflix with expressvpn sign up

First up, surf to the ExpressVPN website and sign up to the service. Once you’ve paid, you’ll automatically be redirected to the downloads page, where you can click on the client you need. It should install with just a few clicks. Depending on which VPN you pick, you may need to do this step before going to China, as many VPN providers’ sites are blocked off, too.

how to watch netflix with expressvpn activation code

Once that’s done, open the app and find a server in the country you’d like to watch Netflix in. We went for American Netflix for this example, but you can do anywhere else, really. ExpressVPN is our best VPN for Netflix for a reason: it gets in anywhere.

how to watch netflix with expressvpn app

Click the server and, once its connected, go to netflix.com and sit back and watch the show. It’s that simple, really.

How to Watch Netflix in China

  1. Sign up to your VPN of choice
  2. Install the VPN client
  3. Start the app and choose a server
  4. Connect to the server
  5. Surf to Netflix and sit back and enjoy the show

Final Thoughts

There you have it: an easy way to watch Netflix shows in China. Though there is an issue with finding a VPN if you’re already in the Middle Kingdom, otherwise all should work out fine for you as long as you stick with our recommended VPNs. Our favorite is ExpressVPN, but there are a few others to choose from, like NordVPN or VyprVPN.

Do you have any thoughts on how to unblock Netflix in China? Did we miss any tricks? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.