China is becoming one of the most visited countries in the world, a major problem for people travel to China is they can’t directly access to YouTube from within China to stream videos. In fact, YouTube can still be accessible with the help of some applications, in this post, I will introduce the methods to unblock YouTube in China in 2018.
China has strict internet censorship, contents published or shared on popular websites must comply with some special rules. Many most used websites are blocked in China, because the authority is unable to control the content shared on these foreign sites, it simply block them all.
A wide range of popular websites are blocked, including Google, Facebook, Twitter. The video streaming site YouTube is also one of them, so the site can’t be directly accessed in China.
A large virtual filtering system called Great Firewall(abbreviated as GFW, don’t be confused with Great Wall) is being used to achieve the blocking, the Firewall can detect the Chinese internet users’ traffic, and will block their browsers or site apps interacting with the blocked websites.
As a result, the browser will only display the text of “Unable to connect” on the screen, and the apps of blocked sites just show blank space.
While alternatives are available for Facebook and Google(Travelers can simply connect with their families or friends via phone calls, search with search engines that are not blocked in China), no alternatives is available for YouTube in China, Vimeo is blocked, too. Chinese people generally stream videos on Youku, a domestic video site similar to YouTube, but only available in Chinese, and the videos hosted are mostly things of Chinese culture uploaded by Chinese users.
So it’s really necessary for travelers to know the method to access YouTube in China.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, although YouTube can’t be accessed directly in China, it still can be easily accessed by running a sort of desktop or mobile app on device. For travelers in China, the most effective application is VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, it can hide your real IP address, and gives you an IP address of other countries that have no internet censorship.
With a VPN running on your device, you can access free and uncensored internet in China, as if you are in a different country where the internet isn’t subject to censorship, GFW can’t block you from visiting the blocked sites since it determines the location of internet users based on IP address, it can’t block other countries’ users from accessing those websites.
Most VPN are not free to use, though the VPN applications are free to download and use, the software can only run with the support of VPN servers that are located in countries other than China, it’s these servers disguise your IP address in China to a foreign one. Running and maintaining VPN servers all cost money, so VPN service providers will charge their costumers a small fee that ranges around $10 to allow them using VPN software connect to those VPN servers.
Using VPN software is very easy, much easier than most of other applications. You only need to download the application from the website of a VPN service, and start the application, click the button that reads connect to get your device connect to remote VPN server, you can choose the cities or countries where the servers located among up to a hundred of countries in the world. After that simply leave the application in the background, then you will find all the blocked websites become accessible.
Before using the VPN software, you need first to subscribe the VPN service on the site of a VPN provider of your choice, it typically cost 5 to 14 dollars a month depending on which brand and plan you choose.
Be aware that because of the complex technology used by Great Firewall, not all VPNs can be used to bypass the blocking, only a few of providers’ VPN work in China, and some of them have been cracked down by GFW in 2017 after a series of the upgrades of GFW, and almost all of the domestic VPNs (which were widely used by Chinese users) in China have been shut down, as of 2018, the VPNs of the following brands still work in China: NordVPN, ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, PureVPN.
While these VPNs can be efficiently used to bypass the block, their websites for costumers to sign up for the service are all blocked in China, which means you must sign up their service before entering into China.
Also have a look at here to learn more details of different brands of VPN that work in China.
Any other methods?
The internet blocking in China is much more complex than that of other countries, in some other censored countries, the blocking can be easily circumvented for free by visiting some proxy websites, these websites will display the content from the blocked websites, but in China, the authority even block these proxy sites, so visiting proxy sites cannot be a method to access YouTube in China. Instead of using proxy sites, you can try to use some proxy software, which are similar to VPN software and are generally free to use, one of the most used proxy software is Lantern, the software can effectively circumvent censorship in other countries, for China its performance is greatly reduced, as GFW is consistently interfering proxies, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The connection of Lantern is unstable and slow, the software is suited to browse some light pages, it’s not recommended to use it for streaming videos, which requires fast and stable connection, with Lantern you will see frequent interruptions and video will be played in low definition. In addition, most free proxies have monthly data usage limitation, usually a 50-minute video in the definition of 360p will make your proxy data usage reach that mark.
For these reasons I recommend you do not just rely on a proxy software, the most reliable way to watch YouTube or access other blocked websites in China is to sign up and use a VPN service and try to use it, you can always ask for a money-back if the free proxy works pretty well.
If you do want to use methods other than using VPN to access YouTube in China, you can try to use Shadowsocks, it’s very similar to VPN and can also effectively bypass the Great Firewall. The difference is you need to rent a remote server for yourself, the cost is much lower than subscription fee of a VPN, and then install Shadowsocks and set a Shadowsocks account on that server. After that download a Shadowsocks client on your device and connect to the server, you will then be able to access YouTube in China. You can learn how to use Shadowsocks at here.