When you land in China as an expat the first thing you will be surprised is that most of the popular sites are blocked in mainland China. All popular sharing and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are blocked in China. This blocking is popularly known as “Great China Firewall” which will make you isolated from your friends and community. It is also true that all Google services also blocked completely to make things worse. What it literally means for an expat is that you can’t search in English and look for a place in Google map. Alternate options like Bing, Baidu, Apple map, etc. offer filtered searches which is not worth of using for daily purposes. The solution is to find a good VPN to unblock Google and other services to make sure you are connected to rest of the world.
What is VPN?
VPN is a Virtual Private Network allows you to remotely connect to a server located any part of the world. Once the connection is established between your device and the server all your internet activities will be routed through the server. For example, if you are in Beijing and connected to a server in Chicago, United States then you can freely access internet as if you are located at Chicago.
There are many protocols to remotely connect to the server which is more technical and beyond the scope of this article. OpenVPN is the popular protocol mostly used and working in China.
5 Reasons Why You Need VPN in China?
Below are five important reasons for an expat to have a VPN in China:
1. Unblock Websites
As mentioned VPN helps to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and all other popular global sites. If you are habituated to use Google, Facebook, etc. then you need a VPN to access those site to continue your regular routine.
2. Faster Internet
Though internet accessibility is far better in China than many other countries, you will feel slower connection especially when trying to connect to sites hosted outside China. Even on metropolitan cities like Shanghai and Beijing the download and upload speed will be slow.
VPN helps to improve the speed by connecting to the server from the local location especially when you are reading local news sites and looking for events on your local location.
3. Professional Continuity
Besides personal connectivity, some of the expatriates need to access sites like Blogger, WordPress.com for professional work. Since almost all websites call for one of Google or social sharing APIs, you will go crazy looking at the messages like “waiting for fonts.googleapis.com”, “waiting for ajax.googleapis.com” or “resolving host” on the bottom lower corner of the browser.
Having a good VPN is mandatorily required for professionals who look to continue their work from mainland China.
4. Access Sites Locally
You will not believe many things like geo-blocking of sites. It is true that most of the sites are blocked by the site owner if the originating IP address is from China. Though this is done for security purpose, it will hinder you as an expat to access the site (even it is not blocked in China). The only possible way to access such sites is to change your IP which is the purpose of VPN.
Most of the membership sites allow access only for local country IP addresses. For example, if you are a tax payer in your native country then the site may not allow the IP address from other country. Again VPN comes to rescue here, most of the VPN services offer 40 – 50 servers located around the world. Ensure you can access the local server from your country before buying a VPN service so that you can access any local website that does not allow outside IPs.
Similarly, most of the local events can only be viewed within that country and VPN will help to choose the required server and access the site broadcasting the event.
Last but not least, if you are a surfer looking everywhere on the net without any real need then watch out your trouble. Basically you are inviting the trouble by visiting unknown Chinese sites with lot of popup and automatic downloads. There will be lot of computer viruses and jargons to hijack your PC and make your life miserable. This is one of the reason people go for high end Apple devices to protect the device and data from internet threats. Whether you have Mac or Windows based laptops, ensure not to visit unnecessary sites and install the latest software and anti-viruses to protest yourself.
VPN helps in encrypting your data through secure channel thus preventing third parties to view it. This is very helpful especially when you are paying though credit card or accessing the bank account from your country.