You might have heard of the Great Fire Wall of China. In a nutshell, in 2010 China began censoring their internet very heavily. The Chinese political party reserves the right to block anything they find dangerous to national security, inappropriate in any way, critical of the Chinese government, or destructive to China’s reputation; the definition these terms have yet to be given, so they could be used as an excuse to block pretty much anything at any time. For instance, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, iTunes, YouTube, blogs, and all things Google are inaccessible.
Now here’s where things get interesting. You can probably live without social media if you’re only going to be in China for a couple weeks or if you’re cool and want to do a social media cleanse. However, if you’re there for an extended period of time, it’s nice to have the capability of keeping up with events in the U.S. Therefore, VPNs.
Webopedia explains VPN’s way better than I ever could. They say “A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”
Basically, you can download software on your devices that will allow you to circumvent censorship. Most VPNs come as a monthly or yearly subscription. The prices and efficiency vary widely from service to service. If you want to get a VPN you should do research to ensure that particular service will be effective in China and to how many devices the software can be downloaded. A lot of VPN providers would be effective in many countries, but China is exceptionally diligent on their censoring.
Here are a few VPNs that have worked for me:
Most of these VPNs can be refunded within a week or so of purchase. I would suggest downloading from various providers and then cancelling the ones that don’t work. They’ve always been good about refunding my money within a week.
A word of warning. Don’t be scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while in public. It’s just asking for trouble, you’re not going to get arrested, but something interesting happens when people are placed under such heavy restrictions; they begin to restrict themselves in anticipation of consequences. Meaning, the common Chinese people don’t want to be seen with someone breaking the rules. Just be respectful no matter what you choose to do.