During the reign of Mao Zedong, you could be detained for talking about your cat (the word is consonant with the Great Leader's name). This is no longer happening in China, but instead, the government has developed an arsenal of tools to monitor, classify, and suppress the free speech of 1.4 billion people. The Internet has become the focus of government attention; cyber sensors suspend social media accounts, searches are blocked, and sites like Google, Facebook, and many others are down. We will tell you why the Internet is closed in China; the Play Market does not work, YouTube, Instagram, and other services are blocked, as well as how to still get access to them.
How Internet Censorship Works in China
China learned from the best in building its firewall: American technology companies such as Cisco developed basic Internet filtering tools that allowed corporations to control their employees' work. But Beijing has brought these tools to a new level, and today the world's most advanced censorship and surveillance system, the Great Fire Wall Golden Shield, is operating in the country. To prevent people from connecting to websites or services that the Communist Party doesn't like, the Great Firewall blocks website names, redirects traffic, and can even disable encrypted messages by figuring out what type of service a user is trying to connect to.
Service blocking in China GFW does not operate in special administrative regions such as Hong Kong and Macau, or in Taiwan-controlled territory, but the Chinese authorities are closely monitoring traffic from these regions. Hong Kong will probably also need a high-quality VPN shortly.
How Does the Great Firewall Work?
The Great Firewall of China is a huge, complex system. If you try to access blocked content such as Facebook, you will not be informed that the traffic has been censored; the site will simply not load. The Chinese authorities use many restraint methods, and here are just a few of them:
• IP Blocking This approach blocks access to specific IP addresses, which means that the user's device cannot connect to the server on the other end.
• DNS Spoofing or DNS Cache Poisoning When you try to access a website by name, your device uses a DNS server to query the IP address associated with that name. GFW poisons the DNS response by returning an invalid or corrupted address.
• URL Filtering This method filters keywords and simply blocks websites based on those words and phrases.
• Manual and AI censorship For a time, censorship was carried out manually by Chinese government officials who monitored, removed, and edited online content. Recently, however, artificial intelligence has increasingly taken over this job.
• VPN blocking The Chinese government is taking action to block traffic that looks like it is coming from a virtual private network (VPN), and there has been a general VPN crackdown since new PRC President Xi Jinping came to power.
• Some VPN providers have learned to encrypt and mask traffic, displaying it as random HTTP, so the packets are not analyzed, and the very fact of using VPN is hidden.
What Apps and Websites Do not Work in China in 2021?
Social networks and communication
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Picasa, Tumblr, Snapchat, WordPress.com, Pinterest, Blogspot, Blogger, Google+, Google Hangouts, Flickr, Hootsuite, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Periscope, KaKao Talk.
Google (and Google.com, and most local versions such as Google.com.hk, Google.fr, etc.), Duck Duck Go, Ask.com, Yahoo, various foreign versions of Baidu, Yandex, and Yandex .com
Youtube videos, Daily Motion, Vimeo.
Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, SoundCloud, Twitch, Pandora Radio. Hulu and Netflix are not disabled, but there is no access from the region.
Google Drive, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar (usually all Google services), Dropbox, ShutterStock, Slideshare, Xing, Slack, WayBackMachine, iStockPhotos, Scribd.
What Apps and Websites Work in China in 2021?
Not everything is blocked. For example, Skype works in China without problems and has not been blocked. In 2017, access to the Google translator was re-opened. But to the question of whether WhatsApp, Viber, VK, Instagram, Telegram, Mail.ru, Facebook, Yandex, and Google work, the answer is disappointing, and the abolition of Internet censorship in China is not planned.
What's available: For calls and video calls - FaceTime, Skype (for voice it is normal, with video it often slows down to the impossibility of communicating). For messages iMessage, WeChat. Streaming platforms HBO (sometimes temporarily blocked). Search Engines - Baidu. Email Hotmail, formerly Yahoo (needs to be checked, may not work).
The list of sites blocked in China is not exhaustive, keep in mind that the internet situation in China is constantly changing; a site that is blocked today may work tomorrow, and vice versa; a site that is working today may stop working within twenty minutes.
Does VPN Work in China?
VPNs work in China, but not all. After blocking in 2017, most of the services left the market, the final restrictions in 2018 removed most of the rest. Google Play and AppStore were forced to remove VPN apps from their stores, and providers' sites were blocked. Currently, only two types of VPNs work in China:
• Local, Chinese services work legally. They are often distributed for free, but the government controls all traffic, and in addition, they usually collect user traffic for sale to marketers. In the worst case, you will receive viruses, spyware with them and provide them with access to all personal data (photos, messages, contacts, location, passwords, etc.).
• The world's top VPNs seem to be illegal, but there will be no sanctions for tourists. These services mask traffic and use Stealth servers. The constant "race" with GFW requires regular updates of technologies, new servers, and capacities; therefore such services are paid.
What Browser and Search Engines Work in China?
Browsers are not blocked by themselves, and you can use whatever you are used to. You may have to change your favorite search service if you do not supply VPN. Baidu, Sogou, SO.com, Youdao, Shenma work, and a simplified search on general topics Google.cn and a stripped-down Yandex.
Does the Internet Work in China?
Yes, of course, they are not going to turn it off somehow. But you won't be able to connect to open Wi-Fi without a Chinese Sim card, and if you log in with a password or via mobile Internet, you'll still need a VPN.