Netflix is the biggest video streaming service in the West, and if you’re traveling abroad in China, you’re likely interested in learning how to watch Netflix in China. Because of the “Great Firewall”, you’ll be unable to access most Western sites like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and even Netflix.
Whether you’re traveling as a student, for vacation, or for business, chances are that you’ll want to relax with your Netflix library every once in a while. But unless you have the right software to help you watch Netflix in China, you simply won’t be able to do so.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can use a VPN to watch Netflix in China, and access most other blocked websites. Let’s begin!
VPNs Are the Only Way to Watch Netflix in China
Want to watch Netflix in China? You’ll need a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. These online services protect, encrypt, and re-route your internet traffic to servers in other countries, allowing you to circumvent the “Great Firewall”, and unblock Netflix, as well as other websites.
Understanding “The Great Firewall of China”
If you’re planning on going to China, you’ve probably heard this term before. It refers to dozens of individual restrictions and legislation that has been passed in China to control access to the internet. Among other things, the Great Firewall of China is used to:
- Block access to Western social media websites
- Censor online content and block websites
- Filter content with particular keywords
- Detect VPN connections
- Block politically-sensitive content or non-approved content
Essentially, the Chinese government is looking to minimize the prevalence of controversial material on the internet, and prevent their citizens from freely accessing information that is critical of the government.
How do VPNs unblock Netflix in China?
VPNs help protect your information and web browsing traffic in a number of ways. First, a VPN creates an encrypted “tunnel”, which cannot be inspected using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). This is one of the methods by which the Great Firewall blocks particular websites and services.
In addition, a VPN can be used to make it look like you are connecting from another country. If you are in China and you use a VPN to connect to an American server, Netflix and other websites will think that you are connecting from America, and the content will be unblocked.
As long as you have a VPN installed on your computer while you’re living in China, you’ll be able to unblock Netflix and other Western websites.
ExpressVPN – The best choice to watch Netflix in China
Obviously, the Chinese government knows about VPNs, and the fact that a VPN service can be used to access illicit or blocked content, such as American Netflix. This means they have taken several steps to try and block individuals from using VPNs in China, such as:
- Blocking all VPN apps from the Apple App Store
- Discover VPN connections and block them until they are disabled
- Block encrypted connections from the network
- Blocking websites that sell VPN subscriptions and software
However, the government has not yet been able to disable all VPNs, and it’s unlikely that they will be able to do so in the future. However, some VPNs are better for getting around the “Great Firewall” than others.
Our top choice is ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN has a number of features that help its users avoid detection, and access Western websites such as Netflix. With thousands of servers, great customer support, and top-notch security features, ExpressVPN is the best choice for anyone who wants to watch Netflix in China.
Finally, it’s really easy to get started with ExpressVPN. After buying a subscription, setup takes only a few minutes, so you won’t have to worry about any complex software or difficult, technical setup problems. If you already have a Netflix account, you can start watching Netflix in China in no time!
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How To Watch Netflix in China With ExpressVPN – A Step-By-Step Guide
If you’re not sure how to get started with a VPN service like ExpressVPN, you’re in the right place. We’ll go over the step-by-step instructions for setting up ExpressVPN, and show you how you can use this service to watch Netflix in China.
Step 1: Sign up for ExpressVPN
Before you can install the ExpressVPN client, you’ll need an ExpressVPN account.
First things first, you’ll need to create an ExpressVPN account. Head on over to the ExpressVPN website, and get yourself signed up.
If you’re going to be in China for only a short period of time, the 1-month subscription is the best deal, at $12.95 per month. If you’re going to be there for longer than a few months, a 6-month or a 12-month subscription may be a better choice, as you can save money, compared to a month-to-month subscription.
After choosing your plan, you’ll have to pay. You can use PayPal, all major credit cards, and even some cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to pay for your subscription. You’ll be asked to create a login, and you’ll be emailed a confirmation link that confirms the creation of your account.
Step 2: Download the ExpressVPN software for your computer
After you’ve created your ExpressVPN account, you can either log in, or follow the confirmation link sent to you via email. You’ll be redirected to the following page:
Depending on what platform you’re using, this may look somewhat different. You’ll be able to download the right ExpressVPN client for your computer (whether using Mac, Linux, or Windows) by clicking the green button on this screen.
If your platform is incorrect, simply click on the “Set Up On More Devices” button, and choose the platform you’re using.
Also, take note of the “Activation Code” section on the screen, to the left of the “Set Up More Devices” button. Unlike some other VPN services, ExpressVPN uses a unique, randomly-generated activation code when you set up your ExpressVPN client for the first time. You’ll want to copy this code to your clipboard to make it easier to set up ExpressVPN.
Download the ExpressVPN software, and install it on your computer, according to the instructions provided by the installer. After the installation is complete, you’ll move on to the next step.
Set up and configure ExpressVPN
Once you’ve installed ExpressVPN and you run it on your computer for the first time, you’ll see the following screen:
To begin, you’ll need to click “Sign In”. Then, you’ll need to paste your activation code into the following field, to authenticate your ExpressVPN subscription. Go back and copy this code if you haven’t already.
After you enter the activation code, and ExpressVPN will confirm that you have a valid subscription, and you’ll be ready to start using your new VPN. Once your ExpressVPN client has been activated, you will see the following screen:
The upper-left “hamburger” button controls your preferences for ExpressVPN, such as whether or not it starts when you turn on your computer, and other functionality like an internet “kill switch” which will disconnect you from the network if your VPN fails.
The central “power” button turns the VPN on and off. By default, your VPN will be set to connect to the fastest server near you. To change where you’re connecting to, you’ll need to click the “Choose Location” button in the lower-right of the screen. That’s what we’ll be doing in the next step.
Step 4: Connect to the right server
To unblock Netflix in China, you’ll need to connect to a server located in a country where Netflix is available. You could connect to the UK, Canada, or the United States, for example. The type of content available will vary, based on the location in which you’re connecting, so you’ll probably just want to connect to your native country and browse the Netflix titles available there.
Let’s use America as an example. Click on the “Choose Location” button to choose a server. You’ll see the following screen.
You can search for a particular country or city using the search menu in the top of the screen, or you can browse through the available servers manually. You can also favorite recent servers, and look at the servers you’ve used most recently.
Click “United States” to continue. You’ll see the following screen:
Here, you can choose from a number of different servers in America. You may want to try a few different ones to find the server with the best connection speed and reliability.
You can simply double-click your preferred server to connect to it. In this example, we’ll pick USA – New York. The location window will close, and you’ll see this screen:
The green shield in the middle indicates that your VPN connection is on and functioning properly. Congratulations, you’re all set!
Step 5: Enjoy your favorite Netflix shows and movies
Once you’ve connected to a VPN server in a country where Netflix is available, you’ll be able to enjoy the full library of Netflix content, and enjoy all of the Netflix Originals and licensed content that the company has to offer.
I Still Can’t Access Netflix with ExpressVPN. What’s Happening?
If you are using a VPN and you still can’t access Netflix, it’s probably not because of the “Great Firewall”.
Netflix usually has to license content on a country-by-country basis. This means that what’s available on American Netflix is different from what’s available on Canadian Netflix, for example.
Netflix takes steps to stop people from outside these countries from accessing Netflix. If you get an error message that says Netflix is not available due to the use of a “proxy or unblocker service”, this is what’s happening.
Netflix can recognize VPN connections if a single server is used by too many people and block that IP address from accessing content. This can happen to every VPN, including ExpressVPN.
Just try a few different servers, and you’ll find one that will work with Netflix in China. If you have trouble, just contact ExpressVPN support. They can help you find a server that is not blocked by Netflix.
Is it Legal to Use a VPN in China?
Yes. There is nothing illegal about using a VPN in China, particularly if you are a foreigner. You are perfectly within your rights to use a VPN in China, though future legislation may change this.
You will not get in any kind of legal trouble for simply using a VPN in China. There are many legitimate uses for VPNs in China, and larger corporations use them regularly to connect to off-site servers and internal websites.
So don’t worry. If you want to use a VPN to browse Facebook, watch Netflix, and access other Western websites in China, you can do so without fear of legal retribution.
Should I Install a VPN on My Computer Before I Go to China?
Yes. While VPNs are not completely illegal to use in China, they are very hard to access if you do not already have one on your computer.
What do we mean? Well, if you try to sign up for a VPN while you’re in China, you probably won’t be able to. Websites like ExpressVPN will be blocked – so you won’t be able to sign up for service, or download a VPN client. It will take a lot of troubleshooting and workarounds to install a VPN if you’re already in China.
That’s why it’s best to sign up for ExpressVPN and get your VPN set up before you go to China. You’ll be able to easily download the ExpressVPN client, and start using your VPN as soon as you set foot in China.
Why is Netflix Blocked in China?
Partly, it’s due to government censorship. Netflix was simply not willing to adhere to the strict government standards for regulating their content, and censoring it.
Paid streaming services are also not super popular in China, especially when they are as expensive as Netflix. About 95% of streaming sites in China are supported by ads. Finally, there are already dozens of other video streaming services in China like Youku, TBO, and iQiyi.
Because of all these reasons, Netflix will likely never expand into China – and it will be blocked in the country for the foreseeable future, unless you use a VPN to watch Netflix in China.
Eric Liston is a content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2015, he’s been writing about technology, cord-cutting, and helping everyday people save money. He also has expertise writing about medicine, dentistry, insurance, and a variety of other industries. No matter what he’s writing, his focus is always on simplifying complex concepts and making them approachable for everyone. When he’s not slamming away on his keyboard at his home office, you’ll find Eric reading sci-fi novels, improving his disc golf game (he just hit his first 400-foot drive) and playing video games on his gaming PC.