How to use Instagram in China 2018

Instagram is maybe the best platform to share the things in trips with others, for it’s all based on images, which is ideally suited to show the places visited, additionally getting followers from Instagram is much easier than from other platforms like Facebook or Twitter. So wherever you are traveling you will need Instagram. This article will explain the method to access Instagram in China, a country that has blocked access to many most used foreign websites or apps.

Can Instagram be directly accessed in China?

Despite the high popularity of Instagram around the world, the website and app of Instagram is permanently blocked in China, if you try to directly access Instagram in China with the mobile app, you will only see the blank space with a spinning grey circle, if access with a browser, the browser will display a message that says “unable to connect”. China blocks Instagram using a filtering system that nicknamed “Great Firewall”.

Why China blocks Instagram?

Just like China had gradually blocked all the services of Google after its search service was blocked in 2014, Instagram was blocked mainly because it was acquired by Facebook becoming a sub-service of Facebook, which had been blocked in China for nearly a decade. Second, because of the strict internet censorship of China, the information shared on websites must follow the rules set by the authority, they will delete any content that is considered harmful by them, for foreign sites like Instagram, on which the contents shared is not under control of the authority of China, the only thing they can do is blocking the access to it. Moreover, being a popular sharing platform, Instagram may threat to the dominant status of several alternative domestic sharing websites in China, blocking such competitors is beneficial for China’s own economy.

Method to access Instagram in China

Although being blocked in China, you can still find plenty of posts and comments written in Chinese on Instagram, this is because the blocked sites or apps can still be accessed in China with circumvention methods, which are generally quite easy to do.
The most used method to use Instagram in China is using a VPN service, VPN is simply a software or app that can help you circumvent the censorship of Great Firewall and unblock Instagram in China. The technology behind VPN is that it can encrypt the user’s internet traffic and reroutes it through a remote intermediary server in uncensored countries, as a result, Great Firewall will treat the VPN user in China as an internet user in other territories.
The use of VPN is same as using a normal mobile app or a desktop software, depending on which kind of device you use, in case of Instagram, it should be more likely mobile app, as desktop version doesn’t allow photo uploading. VPN is paid service, users are required to first subscribe a plan on the website of a VPN service provider in order to get the activation code, which is then be used to activate the service so that the app can start working to bypass the blocking in China.
One more thing you should know is that unlike the internet blocking in other countries, the authority in China also consistently attempt to block VPN, as they know there are a considerable amount of citizen using it to bypass the Great Firewall, many VPNs have been cracked down in China, so only a few VPNs can still work in China in 2018.

Here are some VPNs that still can be used to access blocked sites or apps in China: ExpressVPN, PureVPN, NordVPN, VyprVPN.

Be aware that the websites of these VPNs are all blocked in China, though their services are effective and can’t be blocked. So you should subscribe a VPN service of your choice before arrived in China.

Other methods

If you need to take pictures and upload the pictures to Instagram, using VPN is the only reliable way. There are some other methods available to access Instagram if you just want to view the pictures taken by others, not to take and upload your own pictures. You can try the methods introduced below:

Using proxy:

Here proxy means proxy software, not proxy sites(a kind of sites that can display the content from blocked sites), which are rarely accessible in China. Proxy software is similar to VPN, but are generally not as stable and fast as VPN, especially after recent upgrades of Great Firewall, proxy is becoming very unstable as they can be easily targeted by Great Firewall and interrupted by it. Pictures can be hard to upload, as uploading pictures requires fast and stable connection, connection drop-outs will make the picture failed to upload, that’s why tools other than a premium VPN are only suited to be used for browsing pictures. If you really just only want to view others’ pictures on Instagram, not using it to show the pictures from your trip, proxy software is suitable for you, they are usually free to use, one of the most used proxies is Psiphon, you can download its app from their official website or mobile app stores like Google Play.

Using Tor:

You can also use Tor to see the content on Instagram, Tor is actually a browser, using this special browser you can access the blocked websites.
However you can access Instagram via just this one browser, it is still not accessible via other browsers or the app of Instagram without a VPN or proxy. So this method is only for browsing pictures uploaded by the people you followed, not suitable for uploading pictures taken by yourself to Instagram.

Using Shadowsocks:

Shadowsocks is a special proxy invented by a Chinese programmer a few years ago, it’s faster and more stable than other proxies, the performance is even not inferior to VPNs in terms of bypassing Great Firewall, but unlike VPN, Shadowsocks doesn’t encrypt user data, it’s not an ideal choice if you care about online security and privacy. The app of Shadowsocks is open source and free to use, but it will not run without a remote server, to use Shadowsocks, you need to rent a Virtual Private Server in countries outside of China, the cost is maybe slightly cheaper than a VPN, but you are also required to configure things needed for Shadowsocks on the server by yourself, which is a little complex and difficult to do for many people. As the process to set up a Shadowsocks server is quite long, this article will not cover the steps of using Shadowsocks, but you can easily find tutorials on web. If convenience and privacy are your concern, then VPN is still the best choice for you. In case of you are not familiar with VPN and have no idea about which VPN to choose, here’s a comparison of some VPNs that can be used to access blocked sites or apps in China.

Last, wish you have a nice trip in China and get more followers on Instagram.

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