Last Update: June 9th, 2016.
These days, there are various ways to unblock restricted sites where ever you are. However, it becomes difficult when you are in a country like China, where Internet censorship is very strict. Therefore, it is very important that you understand each method before you even try them. From there, you can easily choose the best way to unblock sites in China.
But first, China’s Great Firewall (GFW) is powerful enough in blocking sites related to pornography, gambling, violence and other unsafe topics. The Chinese government also blocks social sites such as Facebook, and Google products including Gmail and YouTube. Messengers like Line, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp are also not available in China. Below are some tips on how to browse the web anonymously, along with their limitations.
Unblock sites using your browser
Browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have proxy extensions or add-ons that actually allow you to unblock restricted sites. They are easy to set-up, no registration required, and most of them are free. Once you activate it, you can now browse the web anonymously and can visit any blocked website. But because we are talking about China, expect that you can easily be detected. Nevertheless, they may work well in other countries.
A proxy server simply acts as a middleman between your computer and the web. The traffic passes through this server, allowing you to browse the web using its IP address. It receives request of Internet connection, finds the requested web page, and forward it to the user without sending a request to the Internet. Generally speaking, proxy servers are easy to use. However, you are not totally safe because traffic is not encrypted and can easily be intercepted.
Tor, also known as the Onion Router, is free software that allows you to browse the web anonymously. This anonymization service works by sending your traffic to several nodes or relays, which are being operated by volunteers. However, you should understand that Tor only encrypts your anonymity to hide your real IP address and location, and not your web traffic. So if you use Tor in China, there’s really no assurance that your connection will be consistent.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Theoretically speaking, VPN works almost the same as the other methods mentioned above. With VPN, your real IP address is hidden along with your geo location. But the best advantage of using VPN is that your web traffic is highly encrypted, thus giving you a more secured Internet connection if you are in China. VPN is also virtually faster than the others, but of course, it depends of the service provider. Paid VPNs are obviously better than the free ones.
Here’s the painful truth. There is really no guarantee that you can always watch blocked sites in China. In fact, GFW have also blocked many VPNs in the past, and some of them are still blocked until today. This is why you have be very careful in choosing your VPN service provider. But so far, nothing beats VPN in terms of speed, reliability, and security. In fact, more and more travelers prefer using VPN over the rest, especially when they need to go to China.