How does the Chinese Great Firewall work?
The Great Firewall is considered to be one the largest and most advanced internet censorship in the world. It is estimated that nearly three thousand websites are being blocked by the Chinese authorities. It’s not always entirely clear on the basis of which criteria this happens. Some websites are considered as amoral, such as pornographic websites, but the most important reason for the blockade is to censor criticism on China or the ruling communistic party. Some websites, such as The Economist or TIME, are not fully blocked. Only one article regarding Xi Jinping, the President of China, isn’t accessible to Chinese residents. However, it is more common that the blockade hits the entire website. China uses various techniques to find websites with unwanted content. For example, website crawlers scan for certain terms such as “Tiananmen” (also referred to as the “Square of Heavenly Peace”, where a large-scale student protest against the communist regime took place in 1989). For this reason, some websites now use code language so that they can still spread information on certain topics, without risking immediate action from the Chinese Great Firewall.
How does a VPN help to avoid the Great Firewall?
The easiest way to bypass the Great Firewall is to make use of a VPN service. With a VPN service, your internet traffic is hidden, so that the Chinese authorities can’t find out which websites you visit. Additionally, the Great Firewall cannot intervene when you are using a VPN to visit sites such as Facebook. This is how it works: As a user of a VPN service, you will first be making contact with the VPN server before establishing access with the world wide web. This connection is highly secured. This means that all data that is exchanged between your computer and the VPN server is unreadable to any third parties (such as the Chinese authorities) who may have intercepted your traffic. This way, you can easily prevent the Chinese government from finding out which websites you are visiting. The VPN server that you are connecting to is obviously located outside of China, for instance in the United States or the Netherlands. The connection with websites such as Facebook is established by the VPN server, while it is completely hidden that the VPN server is also connected to your device in China. This way, the Chinese Great Firewall isn’t able to get a hold of your internet traffic, and you are thus able to freely and safely browse the web, just like you can in Western countries.
Is it legal to use a VPN in China?
The Chinese authorities are undoubtedly aware that there are people using VPN services to bypass the Great Firewall, so it shouldn’t surprise you that China is fighting against companies that offer VPN services. Recently, the Chinese authorities announced that they would tackle Chinese telecom companies offering non-licensed VPN services more rigorously in the future. In some Western media, this news was interpreted as a complete Chinese VPN ban. However, this is incorrect: it is still completely legal to use a VPN service in China. But founding a start-up company in China to offer VPN services isn’t really recommended. However, there is no Chinese law that prohibits the use of VPN services. It is also unlikely that such a ban will ever be introduced. The Chinese authorities are always striving to find a balance between their own internet censorship and at the same time not becoming too unattractive for foreign companies and expats that invest in the nation. A complete VPN ban would chase multinationals away and is thus harmful for the Chinese economy. Expats in China can thus carelessly make use of VPN services offered by Western companies.
Travel carefree through China thanks to a VPN
Whether you’d like to share some of your pictures from your holiday in China on Facebook, would like to plan a route on Google Maps or keep an eye on your Gmail account: without a VPN service, the Chinese Great Firewall will prevent you from doing so. With a VPN subscription, however, you won’t experience the burdens of Chinese online censorship. In addition, VPN services of a good VPN provider are easy to use, and your internet connection is hardly slowed down. For a carefree vacation to the Netherlands, purchase a VPN subscription.