What websites are blocked in China in 2019 (Updated May)? This is a question that gets asked a lot, particularly among people who are planning to travel or move to China. It helps knowing what to expect, which is why I’d like to give you a comprehensive (and constantly updated) list of blocked websites in China.
Starting in the late 1990s, China began monitoring and censoring the internet within its borders. That first decade of internet censorship flew mostly under the radar.
Everything changed in 2009. For a number of different reasons, and due to a number of different incidents, the Chinese government began to feel threatened by the free access to information for its citizens, particularly with western social media platforms.
I remember the days when I had a Blogspot blog in China. Email was sent freely through Gmail in China. I even read the Wall Street Journal in China.
In order to do any of these things, I am now forced to use a VPN (in my experience, ExpressVPN has been consistently reliable in China).
So as you plan your travels, your move or a business trip to China, it’s good to have an understanding of the blocked websites in China as well as the blocked apps in China. Below, I’d like to walk you through the list, followed by my personal tips from having survived and done business in China all these years.
Index of Blocked Websites and Apps in China
If you plan to do business, you need to understand which of your most used productivity tools are blocked in China.
- Google Apps (Drive, Docs, Calendar, Maps etc.)
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Google Play (i.e. no downloading Android apps)
Most of the major English-language social media sites have been blocked in China and new ones are added to the list each year.
Whether you want to stream content or upload videos to YouTube in China, you’ll find these streaming sites inaccessible.
At this point, most western-based news media has been blocked. I will only name a few of the biggest players here.
- New York Times
- Financial Times
- Wall Street Journal
Whether searching via text or voice, you’re going to have trouble with these search engines in China.
- Google (text and voice)
- Amazon (Alexa)
*Note* – It is possible to use Bing in China, but the results within China will be censored.
- Facebook Messenger
- KaKao Talk (Korean)
*You can still host your own WordPress-based website on your own servers. Learn more about my favorite website tools in my blogger toolbox
- Skype (although it sometimes works, it’s not reliable)
- Google Hangouts
*In my experience, iMessage has worked fairly well, but it’s not as reliable as using WeChat for VoiP.
- Porn websites
- VPN websites
- Politically sensitive sites
As you see above, I’ve lumped together porn websites, VPN websites, and any politically sensitive websites (i.e. websites for Tibetan, Uyghur, Falun Gong or human rights orgs). I don’t feel like it’s necessary to list them all. These sites have been and will remain blocked in China.
*Important Note*: The fact that VPN websites are blocked is why I usually recommend travelers and expats download a VPN before you enter China. It’s much, much harder once you’re inside the country. I recommend both ExpressVPN and NordVPN as highly reliable and effective VPN solutions to China’s censorship. I’ve used both for many years.
What ISN’T Blocked in China
There’s a lot of confusion and mis-information when it comes to blocked websites in China. Part of this has to do with the fluid nature of China’s internet (this list is always changing, which is why it’s updated every month).
Another reason for the confusion, though, is that some websites (including Wikipedia) continue to share outdated or outright wrong information.
Here’s a quick list of the websites and apps that AREN’T blocked in China – even though you might be told otherwise.
- Netflix/Hulu: Technically, Netflix and Hulu are not blocked in China. The website is accessible, but since the content hasn’t been licensed in China, you’ll still run into a “Sorry, our service hasn’t come to this country yet” message. Learn more about how to stream Netflix in China.
- Banking: Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about not being able to log into your bank account online. To date, no western banks have had their websites blocked in China.
- iMessage & FaceTime: Despite a tenuous relationship with China, Apple has been able to maintain and open iMessage platform for all its iPhone users.
How to Access Blocked Websites in China
If you’re not already aware, there are ways to access websites and apps that are blocked in China. It’s a technology known as a Virtual Private Network, or “VPN” for short.
Pretty much any expat who has lived in China for more than 6 months uses a VPN on a daily basis. I’ve used them for almost 10 years.
In short, a VPN works by encrypting your connection to a server in another country (such as the United States). When you access the internet, you see it as if you were in that country that doesn’t have censorship, as opposed to China. They’re easy to use and contrary to what you might think, they’re not technically illegal for foreign expats or travelers to use.
Using a VPN is thankfully very simple. We’ll take ExpressVPN as an example, since that’s the one I have used for many years and recommend. I simply open the app on my phone, tablet or computer and click the big power button. When it turns green, I have access to all of the blocked websites and apps listed above.
I know I’ve already said it, but I’d like to stress the importance of setting up your VPN before you enter China. Most VPN websites are blocked in China since the government doesn’t want it’s own citizens to use a VPN. That makes it hard for us as expats or travelers to download and install a VPN from within the country.
Personally, since my business relies on open access to the internet, I have subscriptions to multiple VPNs including ExpressVPN and NordVPN. You might be surprised that there are literally hundreds of VPN services to choose from, but only a handful of VPNs work well in China.
If accessing your email or staying in touch with family is important to you while in China, I recommend spending a few dollars on a VPN service. It’s well worth the money, VPNs still work in China despite what you might have read, and it has the added benefit of encrypting and securing your data.
Final Thoughts | Blocked Websites in China
There’s no indication that China will cease their censorship of the internet any time soon. In fact, all signs point to the fact that this list will continue to grow as I update it each month. New websites and apps will be added as they become popular (that’s basically what happened to Twitch last September).
By using a VPN like ExpressVPN, you’ll get access to all the productivity apps, social media, news, and streaming sites that you’re used to using.
One final note: you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get used to life without constant access to Facebook or Gmail. It’s a bit liberating 🙂
Are there any websites or apps that you think are missing on this list? Contact me or leave a comment below to let me know!