Is it possible to use Amazon in China in 2019? You might be under the impression that an Amazon Prime membership is worthless in China. Surprisingly, it’s not! It may not guarantee you 2-day shipping, but you can order items on Amazon for delivery in China; you can watch Prime Video on your Fire TV; you can listen to Amazon Music. This guide is meant to show you how.
You’ve probably read about China’s censored internet that blocks access to popular platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google and many western media outlets. It’s annoying, but it’s a part of life and travel in China.
READ MORE: Check out this index of all the websites and apps blocked in China.
It’s tempting to think that Amazon has been blocked in China…but it hasn’t. If you want to listen to Amazon Music in China or watch Amazon Video in China, not all hope is lost.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a challenge to use Amazon in China, but that’s not because they’ve been blocked by the Chinese government. In fact, Amazon operates a Chinese-language service quite freely (although their market share is terrible).
The reason Amazon services are difficult to use in China is because Amazon geo-restricts its content. This means that even if you’re a paying Amazon Prime member, you can’t easily watch Prime Video in China or listen to Prime Music in China.
Thankfully, there is a way to get around these geo-restrictions. I’d like to share with you why I keep my Amazon Prime membership even though I’m living in China…and how I use the Amazon services on a daily basis.
Note: This article contains affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I will be compensated if you use some of these services I recommend. The good news is that in many cases, such as this link to ExpressVPN, I’ve negotiated special deals to get you 3 months of free service.
Unlocking Geo-Restricted Content from Amazon in China
Perhaps you’re still a bit confused by what I mean by “geo-restricted content.” Don’t worry, I’ll explain quickly.
Amazon faces the same challenges that Netflix in China does: they license content (video, music, etc.) based on country. Based on these licensing agreements, they are only able to stream content to countries where they have an active license. They restrict based on geographic location, or “geo-restrict” their streaming content.
For various reasons we won’t go into here, none of these video streaming services have been able to license content for streaming in China, which leaves us travelers and expats high and dry.
But there is a solution!
Using a VPN to Access Geo-Restricted Content
For the past few years, I’ve been happily taking advantage of Prime Video, Prime Music, and even the Amazon Fire TV by using a VPN. There are literally hundreds of VPNs, but the majority of expats in China use either ExpressVPN or NordVPN since they’ve had a reliable track record.
Believe me, a VPN is something that pretty much every expat in China uses (I’ve used ExpressVPN for more than 10 years now). By connecting to a VPN server in another country on your phone, computer or Fire TV, you essentially access the internet as if you were in another country.
When you’re connected to this foreign server, it makes Amazon think that you’re in the United States, for example, and that they can stream video, music and anything else you want.
And for those who wonder if using a VPN to do this is illegal, think about this: you paid for your Amazon Prime membership, right? Why can’t you be allowed to use it wherever you want?
Setting up a VPN to use Amazon in China
Thankfully, setting up a VPN isn’t terribly difficult. It’s a bit different based on what device you’re using, though, so I’m going to walk you through the most common VPN setups. I’m going to use ExpressVPN as an example, but it’s pretty similar no matter which VPN service you end up choosing.
Computer VPN Setup
Setting up a VPN on your computer in order to use Amazon in China is very simple. Once you’ve paid for an ExpressVPN account, you’ll be directed to a downloads page where you download the ExpressVPN program onto your computer.
Once the software is installed and you’ve verified your account, you simply choose the server location and click the big power button to connect. When it turns green, you’re good to stream whatever Amazon services you want on your computer!
Mobile Phone VPN Setup
The mobile phone setup for ExpressVPN (or pretty much any good VPN service) is equally simple. Go into the App Store or Google Play store and search for your VPN. Don’t buy a VPN that doesn’t have it’s own app!
Once the VPN app is downloaded and you’ve logged into your account, everything is pretty much the same. Find your server, click the power button and wait for it to turn green. You’ll now be able to stream Prime Music and Prime video on your phone!
How to Add a VPN to Amazon Fire TV
It used to be that adding a VPN to a media device like the Amazon Fire TV stick was a challenge only the super tech-savvy could perform. Amazon has changed all that (which is why I recommend an Amazon Fire TV stick over something like a Roku or other popular media streaming devices).
WATCH! See how a VPN is added to the Amazon Fire TV in this video tutorial.
On the main menu screen, go into search and type in “ExpressVPN”. You’ll see that they have a specific app for the Amazon Fire TV. Once the app has been installed you can use it like you would on your computer or mobile phone. Connect and then stream!
If you want a more in-depth look at this process, check out this helpful guide to installing a VPN on Amazon Fire TV stick.
Benefits of Using Amazon in China
The benefits of using Amazon in China may seem obvious. Of course, to some it may seem like a waste of money.
As you’re weighing the pros and cons of purchasing both an Amazon Prime membership and a VPN subscription, think about these reasons that I love being an Amazon Prime member even though I live in China.
- Easy Gifting from Overseas: Amazon makes it super easy for me to send birthday gifts and Christmas gifts without having to go to the post office. I promise you – holidays and birthdays sneak up on you when you’re living in another country, so free 2-day shipping can be a lifesaver!
- Save Money on Pandora and/or Netflix: Unless you have specific shows you want to watch on Netflix, having an Amazon Prime membership in China has allowed me to drop my Pandora/Spotify fees and just stream music on Prime Music. Likewise, I can drop Netflix and still be able to stream some great shows on Amazon Prime Video.
- Watch the NFL in China: There are a number of ways that you can watch NFL games in China, but one of my favorites is being able to watch Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. Obviously this isn’t a solution for big NFL fans who want to watch every game, but if you simply need a weekly fix of NFL football, it’s a great option.
- Free Prime Books: Since moving to China, I’ve converted most of my library to digital books. Being an Amazon Prime member gives me access to a number of Prime books and magazines that rotate each month.
I’m unashamed to say that I enjoy the services that Amazon has to offer – even here in China! If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you can learn more about what they offer here.
Conclusion | Using Amazon Prime in China
As you now know, China doesn’t block Amazon in China – but it’s still difficult to use great Amazon services like Prime Video, Prime Music and Fire TV from within the country. Using a simple solution like ExpressVPN and/or NordVPN will give you access to all of this geo-restricted content and restore the value that a Prime membership provides.
Mind you, any Amazon.cn purchases you make (“.cn” is Amazon’s China website), won’t give you free 2-day shipping. At least not yet. What we’re talking about is using most of the services from Amazon in China.
Were you able to use Instagram while traveling in China? How did it go for you? Let me know in the comments below.