What websites are blocked in China in 2020 (Updated January)? 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 used to have a Blogspot blog in China. <what?>
–> Email was sent freely through Gmail in China. <gasp!>
–> I even read the Wall Street Journal in China. <the horror!>
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 as has NordVPN).
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.
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. I only recommend what I personally use and hope this free information has been useful!
List of Blocked Websites and Apps in China 2020
In this list of blocked websites in China, you’ll see that I’ve categorized each based on the type of website or app.
Hopefully this will make it easier to scan and understand.
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* – You can use Bing in China, but the results within China are censored.
Unless you’re willing to start using China’s version of WhatsApp, you’re going to need a good VPN for China to use these apps.
- 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.
Miscellaneous Blocked Websites
- 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, although it is possible to install a VPN within China.
What ISN’T Blocked in China in 2020
There’s a lot of confusion and mis-information when it comes to censorship in China. Which websites and apps aren’t blocked 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/Disney+: Technically, streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ are not blocked by China. The websites are 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. This is something known as geoblocking content and there are ways to still 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. In theory, this is more secure than using WeChat, but who knows for sure.
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.
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 worth it.
Many 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 of blocked websites in China will continue to grow as I update it each month.
New websites and apps will get axed by China’s Ministry of Information as they become popular (that’s basically what happened to Twitch last year).
Are there any websites or apps that you think are missing on this list? Leave a comment below to let me know!