Using VPNS in China?
June 19, 2011 9:34 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is moving to China in a couple of weeks and was wondering if anybody has any up to date information on getting around the great firewall with a VPN service?

He had heard that since the revolutions in the Middle East and some calls for protest there the Chinese government had started cracking down a little harder on VPNs. So I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations on how he should set everything up before he heads over there.
posted by clockworkjoe to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just returned from there, and had great success with both StrongVPN 's OpenVPN ( and Astrill's service. Both offered IPs from the US (L.A. for Astrill's, and Miami for StrongVPN) and we had no problem getting through with Skype video chats, sftp connections, etc.

Safe Journeys
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 9:46 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use Witopia. $60/year. I used to say it was bulletproof, but over the last year, we've had some problems. Witopia has been pretty quick to develop and implement workarounds. I haven't tried any other service.
posted by hawkeye at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2011

Astrill works great for me in Shanghai, and I have friends who like Freedur. Witopia used to be good, but it seems like it got a lot slower after the recent VPN crackdown.

If your friend is using a PC, there's also a free proxy program called Freegate that works pretty well for most sites.
posted by twisted mister at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2011

I asked this same question when I moved here last year.

I use Witopia. Largely been good, some issues the past few months as some ports got shut down. Customer service is excellent and very responsive to questions. Most issues seem to be related to our crappy bandwidth in our neighbourhood.
posted by arcticseal at 10:31 PM on June 19, 2011

Freegate is a popular alternative for PC users, but it's operated by Falun Gong and there have been indications in the past that FLG is willing to sell user data, so decide for yourself whether or not you want to bother with it.

Witopia was the most popular VPN option for years here, but as noted above, it's come under attack over the past few months, and while it's now accessible (for certain gateways), you should be aware that (a) there's an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between commercial VPN providers and the people running the Great Firewall, and highly visible providers like Witopia will be the first ones targeted, and (b) despite the number of gateways Witopia advertises, only a handful are currently available (at least for me) from China. You'll also want to get the full PPTP/OpenVPN/IPSec plan, as PPTP connections are spotty here.

Smaller alternatives may also be worth a look. I signed up for VPNinja as a backup VPN plan about a month ago, and have found them to be zippy and mostly reliable. Astrill works reasonably well, though I had somewhat uneven luck connecting to it from my iPhone, and I've heard good things about StrongVPN.

In any event, your friend will want to make sure he's got everything set up before moving here. Witopia's website is consistently blocked; StrongVPN's, intermittently so. He'll also want to make sure that he's not using his ISP's default DNS servers, as Chinese telecom operators use DNS poisoning fairly regularly: Google's DNS servers ( and are both good bets, and OpenDNS is okay; Witopia also offers its own DNS servers.

As arcticseal mentions, Chinese internet connections kind of suck at the best of times, and the last few months have seen increased throttling for overseas connections, so if your friend is used to US broadband speeds, he's going to experience unpleasant flashbacks to the year 2000. VPNs can sometimes speed up overseas connections, but in general things like Youtube/Hulu/etc. are going to require a lot more buffering time than they would in the US.
posted by bokane at 10:55 PM on June 19, 2011

bokane is right, internet speeds here are poor, particularly at weekends when our cable connection seems to revert to dial-up speeds at times.
You Tube is working OK over Witopia for Mrs A, but be prepared to let it buffer before playing.
posted by arcticseal at 11:39 PM on June 19, 2011

I'm here in Beijing now. I recently started using FbVPN - it's a paid service, but it's very fast - the best VPN I've used here (last year I used Witopia, which I found to be slow, and recently I was using an SSH tunnel, which was also slow).
posted by god particle at 1:12 AM on June 20, 2011

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