Update 2020: Over the past two years, Netflix has begun aggressively cracking down on the use of VPNs and proxies to access its content. What nerve! While this has made watching Netflix in China a challenge at times, my family and I continue to connect on a daily basis.
How? I’ve been using ExpressVPN and I’d like to explain to you our method to make it work.
When moving or traveling to China, it’s hard to come to grips with the fact that popular sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible. At times, it feels impossible to keep up with the constant changes and figure out which websites and apps are blocked in China!
For some people though, the hardest part of being in China is giving up access to streaming entertainment like Netflix as well as other online content. Trust me when I say that Chinese TV just doesn’t cut it when you want to sit back and unwind!
Thankfully there are ways to get around this content restriction, so below I’ll give you a quick tutorial on how to watch Netflix in China.
*Note* Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use the services listed. Rest assured, I don’t recommend anything I don’t personally use, and I’m grateful for your support to keep this website running!
“Unblock Netflix” in China?
Interestingly, the problem with watching Netflix in China isn’t that China has blocked access to the website like they have to Facebook or Twitter (see How to access Facebook in China). Frankly, China could care less what movies you watch. The reality is that you don’t need to unblock Netflix in China.
I know what you might be thinking. “Wait…if Netflix isn’t blocked in China, why can’t I access it?”
The problem you’re running into is that Netflix is only licensed to stream its content in certain countries – and China is not one of them. If you try to access Netflix in China you’re going to end up with a screen that looks like this:
That sucks, especially if you’ve been a faithful subscriber like me who pays his monthly fees. But it doesn’t matter if you’re a paying customer or not. If you live or travel in China there’s only one way to get around this geo-restriction: a VPN.
Accessing Netflix in China Using a VPN
Without getting too technical, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a simple way to fool Netflix or any other online streaming service (think Pandora, Hulu or others) into thinking that you’re in a different location.
In other words, I can be sitting here in my home in China but when I’m connected to my ExpressVPN app, anybody who tracks my computer address will think I’m in Los Angeles or New York.
This ability to mask my location is one of the top reasons I spend money on a VPN.
At first this may sound fishy or illegal (and some people wonder if using a VPN is illegal), but as long as you’re a paying customer who is doing nothing more than consuming content (i.e. you’re not trying to download it), you are perfectly within your rights.
Since I use ExpressVPN, all I had to do after paying for the service was download and install the software (less than 10 minutes) and put in the license key they sent to my email. It was that simple.
After that I just log in and tell the program where in the world I want to connect my computer. For the fastest speeds I usually always choose a west coast city like Los Angeles or San Francisco. You can see some of my many options below:
Once I click “Connect” I am instantly able to stream Netflix to my computer here in China, enjoying some of my favorite TV shows without any problems, advertisements or interruptions.
Is it worth the extra money just to watch Netflix? Yes, it is for me and here’s why:
- A VPN like ExpressVPN can give you access not only to Netflix, but also Hulu, Pandora, Youtube, Gmail, Facebook & Twitter – all of which are inaccessible here in China.
- A VPN offers added security from hackers if you’re on Wi-fi here in China.
- A VPN allows me to access all of this content on my phone as well.
Like I said before, there are plenty of great VPN services out there to try, but I’m a big fan of ExpressVPN because they are easy to use, competitively priced, and they have a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.
*Get 3 months FREE with ExpressVPN on their annual plan!
In Case You Need Another Reason
If you’re still not convinced that spending a little extra money for a VPN is worth it, consider these interesting facts:
Don’t Risk Viruses with Downloads
China is notorious for pirated versions of movies that can be downloaded for free on the internet. I used to do this a lot via some torrent websites until the unthinkable happened: I got hit with a computer virus.
I lost everything.
Sure “free” sounds great, but when you consider that it often takes hours to download a movie and usually it’s not even good quality – it’s just not worth the risk of a virus like what I got. Viruses hidden in free downloads are one of the most often-used tricks in the book.
And seriously, now that streaming entertainment is so affordable, why are you still downloading movies and TV shows via torrent?
Access More Netflix Content
Did you know that Netflix licenses different movies for different countries? It’s true. Maybe that new movie you want to see isn’t streaming in the US, but it is in Canada.
By using a VPN like ExpressVPN, it’s possible to move locations all over the world, including Canada, the UK, and other countries where Netflix offerings are different.
Browse through the various selections and you’ll likely find a movie you’ve never seen available on Netflix before, all thanks to the nifty little VPN you have.
Concluding Thoughts on Netflix in China
I used to spend an unbelievable amount of money on pirated DVD’s in China every month and was always so disappointed when the quality was terrible. And it was always terrible. In the end, I threw all the DVD’s away during one move back to the U.S.
Now, I’ve just reinvested that money into a very useful VPN service and Netflix. I’ve watched hundreds of TV shows, I can budget better how much I spend on entertainment each month and the quality is always HD. Even better, I’ve figured out a way to connect my Apple TV to a VPN so that I can watch on the big screen!
If you’re even remotely interested in streaming quality content while living or traveling in China, a VPN is a must-have. One of the best options out there is ExpressVPN – read my full ExpressVPN review or check out the video review below to see for yourself why I like it:
Have you used ExpressVPN before to stream content like Netflix? What was your experience? Let me know in the comment section below!