Many folks ask me, “How can I watch Chinese shows outside of China?” Having watched many Chinese shows myself in recent months in the US, I’d like to share three primary ways that you can stream Chinese TV online.
When trying to stream Chinese TV from apps like Youku, you always encounter an error reading “This content is not available in your region.” Put more simply, much of Chinese TV is geo-restricted content and not available for streaming outside of China.
For folks who have traveled to China and tried to unsuccessfully watch Chinese TV at home, you immediately think back to when you used a trusty VPN to stream geo-restricted content from Hulu, to watch Netflix in China, and upload to YouTube in China. It only seems logical that a VPN would be helpful in this case as well, right?
That might not be the case, though, and I’d like to share why that is and what you can do to make sure you have access to Chinese TV outside of China.
1. Watch Hong Kong Shows via a VPN
As it stands, I have yet to find a VPN that can connect you to the mainland Chinese Internet. And frankly, that comes as no surprise seeing as private VPNs are illegal in China (although using a VPN in China isn’t yet illegal for foreigners). Considering how much trouble VPN companies like ExpressVPN go through to avoid censorship in China, would they really want to risk renting server space within the country?
In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no and I’m sure for the cyber police behind the Chinese Great Firewall, the feeling is mutual.
Now I have in the past come across a free VPN that offers service in China, but I wouldn’t recommend any free VPN as they are both insecure and likely to contain malware.
Returning to the matter of watching Chinese TV, while we are out of luck on connecting to the mainland Chinese Internet from abroad, you can generally connect to servers in Hong Kong with any reputable VPN. The big plus is many Chinese TV shows that can be streamed in the Mainland are also accessible in Hong Kong.
You can read more about choosing a good VPN for China, but based on my 10+ years of experience living and traveling around China, I usually recommend ExpressVPN, which does have a Hong Kong server.
To watch Chinese TV, just connect to a Hong Kong server using a VPN like ExpressVPN and then check out popular Chinese video sites like Youku. For most shows, you shouldn’t have a problem streaming the content!
2. Watch Chinese TV on YouTube
When you have a particular Chinese show in mind you would like to watch, you can also see if it is available for streaming on YouTube. I’ve had decent luck at finding some of the latest big hit series on YouTube including Like a Flowing River, the Story of Yanxi Palace, and my personal favorite Taste of China.
The general rule is that you have to know the name of a particular show in English or Chinese to watch Chinese TV on YouTube. After a while, though, the YouTube algorithms will start recommending popular Chinese TV content, making it easier to find good stuff to watch.
Another big plus of streaming Chinese shows with YouTube is they are usually in high definition and you can also get lucky in finding shows with English subtitles. The subtitles are occasionally poorly translated, but hey, it saves you the headache of trying to understand everything in Chinese!
3. Use Duonao to Watch Chinese Shows
Another way to stream Chinese TV is to use the Chinese website Duonao, which is a Chinese media platform marketed towards overseas Chinese. With Duonao, you can stream almost any Chinese TV show or movie in your home country without the use of a VPN. You even have the ability to watch many Western movies and TV shows on Duonao.
While great for watching almost anything from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, to Western media, there are a couple of pain points to consider when using Duonao:
- Super-annoying Ads: The worst part of Duonao are the long ads you have to sit through in order to watch any show. Some of the ads can also be sketchy – but you are watching TV on a free platform that features pirated content, after all.
- Poor Video Quality. Don’t expect any high definition picture unless you pay for a subscription.
- Requires a Log In: You have to log onto Duonao’s website to stream content and then link your iPad to your TV should you want to watch from a bigger screen. While this generally works, my iPad tends to lose the connection through the app, which is frustrating.
I’m also not convinced the website is entirely secure or free terrible malware, but should you not be interested in investing in a VPN or unable to find what you want to watch on YouTube, using Duonao to watch Chinese TV is a viable alternative.
Final Thoughts: How to Watch Chinese TV Outside China
In this guide, I covered three ways to watch Chinese TV. While you cannot connect to Mainland Chinese servers with a VPN, you should have little issues streaming content from Chinese apps like Youku when connecting to VPN servers in Hong Kong.
But if you know the name of the show you want to watch or simply stream content for free, you can always see what’s available on YouTube or Duonao.