ExpressVPN

How to Access Gmail in China

Gmail Logo

The formation of the internet as we know it today was actually pre-dated by email, though sending messages in something approximating our experience came about with an early US Department of Defense Network (ARPAnet), forerunner to the modern internet. The graphs below illustrate just how widespread email usage is, in both professional and personal settings.

Pew Email at Work

Pew Email on Smartphones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2007, Google expanded on their primary business model by introducing their own email hosting service, Gmail. The intervening years have seen Gmail rapidly ascend to become the in-vogue email client, with novel features such as being able to recall sent mail (actually a timed delay so that revisions can be made if you hit send by mistake or found a typo). Moreover, it’s free to use, filters spam messages and protects against phishing schemes, comes with free cloud storage allowing remote editing from multiple parties regardless of location (Google Docs/Drive), and support for POP3 and IMAP protocols. Gmail has social media integration with Google+ built in, while also providing instant messenger and phone call capabilities in the email client. Gmail even uses HTTPS to encrypt messages end-to-end. This is the same security protocol that credit cards and banks use for secure transactions.

What recourse is there when you’re a resident of or travel to a country like China, where access to the email client provided by the most visited website in the world is banned and actively blocked by the government? Simple, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

What is a VPN?

A VPN masks your I.P. address so that the devices you connect to the internet show their location as the US, UK, or anywhere else the VPN provider has servers. Most providers host servers throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, though some also run servers in Latin America, and Australia. Please note, not all VPNs are equally suited to getting through the Great Firewall of China (GFW), more details below.

When should you install the VPN?

VPN software meant for smartphones should be installed before traveling to China, if possible, as the Google Play Store is blocked in China, and many VPN website domain names are blocked as well. Alternatively, you can still install a VPN service while in China, it’s just harder to do so. Once you’ve read over our picks for the top VPNs to use in China and made your, decision, it’s time to download and install your VPN following the provider’s given instructions.

You’ve signed up and installed a VPN Client. What now?

Open and run your VPN client according to the instructions given to you, then open your web browser. In the URL bar at the top, type: https://accounts.google.com/ – then hit enter. It’s that easy!

What is the top VPN for China?

All points considered when looking for a VPN with both strong performance, and encryption, ExpressVPN is the winner. It uses 256-bit security with OpenVPN as the standard protocol. Alternatively, you can use L2TP or PPTP, for faster speeds, though they already provide excellent bandwidth. These are also supported on its mobile apps. ExpressVPN run servers in 78 countries. The important part is that they maintain dedicated ‘stealth’ servers in Hong Kong specifically to circumvent the GFW.

Do note that regardless of the information posted here, or on other review sites, many listed VPNs aren’t working anymore because the GFW is constantly updated and increasingly difficult to bypass – it’s a fluid paradigm. Consequently, it’s best to check beforehand and semi-regularly if a particular provider’s site is blocked.  Read on to see our Top 5 VPN picks for China.

Best VPN for China Summary

Rank Provider Grade Starting Price Link

1

ExpressVPN

Read Review >
$12.95/mo Visit Site >

2

VyprVPN Logo

Read Review >
$14.99/mo Visit Site >

3

AirVPN Logo
Read Review >
$7.86/mo Visit Site >

4

TorGuard Logo

Read Review >
$9.99/mo Visit Site >

5

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review >
$10.00/mo Visit Site >

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

  • PROS
  • Fast speed boosted for China
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • ‘Stealth’ servers in Hong Kong
  • CONS
  • Not the cheapest VPN

We love ExpressVPN because as a large international company it has servers in 78 countries (including Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and West Coast US), it is very fast, it offers a very generous 30 money back guarantee, and it has great apps for both Android and iOS. It keeps no logs of users’ internet activity (although some connection logs are maintained) and allows up to 2 VPN connections at once. Even better for users in China, ExpressVPN offers stealth servers located in Hong Kong that are specially designed to evade the GFW. With lots of funky features, great speeds, and solid reliability, ExpressVPN is a great all-round choice.

Try Out the Best VPN for China Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day moneyback guarantee

2nd place

VyprVPN

4,5/5

  • PROS
  • Servers in Hong Kong
  • 7 day money back guarantee
  • Up to 3 simultaneous connections
  • ‘Chameleon’ anti-GFW system
  • CONS
  • Pricey
  • Avoid cheaper PPTP-only package

This multinational provider is unique in being the only VPN service to own its own server network. This results in blazing-fast performance, and allows VyprVPN to offer proprietary ‘Chameleon’ anti-censorship technology which ‘scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection, while still keeping it fast and lightweight. The Chameleon technology uses the unmodified OpenVPN 256-bit protocol for the underlying data encryption’ to access international websites unhindered.’ VyperVPN also allows a generous 3 simultaneous connections, features a desktop app with a kill switch, and apps for iOS and Android. As with TorGuard, it seems the VyprVPN website is not currently blocked.

Visit VyprVPN »


3rd place

AirVPN

4,35/5

AirVPN Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs at all
  • Transparent service
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Dynamic port forwarding (port 443), real-time user and server statistics
  • Support for VPN over Tor
  • VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels
  • Good speeds
  • 3 day free trial, uses shared IPs
  • P2P: yes
  • 3 simultaneous connections
  • Server in Hong Kong, 3 day trial
  • CONS
  • none

This Italian provider offers among the best security and anti-censorship technology available on the web, allowing both SSH and SSL tunnelling to evade the GFW (and also supporting VPN through Tor for maximum anonymity, making it a great tool for dissidents.) Add in some of the strongest encryption around, and a Windows, Mac OSX and Linux client with built-in DNS leak protection and a kill switch, and AirVPN should be on the top of every privacy fanatic’s wish list. As with most of the providers listed here, the AirVPN website is blocked by the GFW, but we are told that if you email AirVPN support, they can provide access to the website through a URL that is not blocked in China.

Visit AirVPN »


4th place

TorGuard

3,75/5

TorGuard Logo

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Ve4ry fast
  • Shared IPs
  • SSH tunneling
  • DD-WRT routers
  • Server status information
  • P2P: yes
  • Servers in Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • West Coats US
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Port forwarding
  • 7 day trial
  • Website not blocked in China
  • CONS
  • Encryption on most servers a bit meh • customer service could be better
  • Based in US

TorGuard uses an adaptation of obfsproxy for OpenVPN. This transforms the VPN traffic so it appears to be regular HTTP traffic, which makes it difficult for the GFW to filter. In addition to this, TorGuard runs servers within mainland China, which it uses to offer secure SSH tunnel services. Other than that, TorGuard offers servers in an impressive 42 countries (including Hong Kong, Japan, and West Coast US), allows up to 5 simultaneous connections, and supports port forwarding. As a bonus, for some reason the TorGuard website is not blocked in China (at the time of writing).

Visit TorGuard »


5th place

BolehVPN

3.5/5

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Fast
  • Great OSX and Windows software
  • P2P: yest
  • 2 simultaneous connections
  • ‘xCloak’ servers
  • Servers in Hong Kong and West Coast US
  • VPN over Tor
  • CONS
  • 128-bit Blowfish OpenVPN encryption could be stronger

Based at an off-shore location somewhere along the Malaysian coast, this provider offers ‘xCloak’ servers designed to allow access through the GFW. We love BolehVPN’s no logs at all policy, plus the fact it has great connection speeds, and servers in Hong Kong and West Coast USA. The Windows and OSX client is also very funky, and features a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection.

Visit BolehVPN »


Honorable mentions

Other VPN providers reported as working are MyVPN, PureVPN, and Hide My Ass (HMA) (reviewed) and TigerVPN and MoleVPN (not reviewed by us). IronSocket also offers stealth servers.

Best VPN to access Gmail in China Conclusion

Now that we’ve gone through our picks for the best VPN for using Gmail in China, let’s recap. The GFW blocks Gmail for users connecting from China, making a VPN necessary to circumvent the blockage restriction. Choosing your VPN boils down to an idealized nexus of price, speed, and server availability, with ExpressVPN a particular standout. Sign up to a VPN service below and start messaging to your heart’s content now!

Summary

Rank Provider Grade Starting Price Link

1

ExpressVPN

Read Review >
$12.95/mo Visit Site >

2

VyprVPN Logo

Read Review >
$14.99/mo Visit Site >

3

AirVPN Logo
Read Review >
$7.86/mo Visit Site >

4

TorGuard Logo

Read Review >
$9.99/mo Visit Site >

5

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review >
$10.00/mo Visit Site >

*Some parts of this review were written by Douglas Crawford in an earlier post.

Check out our Ultimate Privacy Guide for further information, and let us know of any of updates or blocked VPN providers you come across in the comments below.


Dimitri M Expat in Europe - pathos for good conversation and Italia's Grande Juventus.

Related Coverage


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *