How to Access Gmail in China
Updated: January 12, 2017
* This Solution STILL WORKS to access Gmail in China *
- Start with setting up a VPN account
- Then install the VPN software onto the device(s) you want to access Gmail in China from
- Next, open the VPN software then connect to a server location where Gmail is not blocked (for example, a US-based server)
- Once connected, you will be able to access Gmail in China
How to access Gmail in China in more detail:
Email is such a fundamental pillar of internet usage, and always has been. So when I heard that China was still -- in 2016! -- blocking access to Gmail, which is the most popular email service in the world, I was shocked.
Feeling more than just a little compelled to help out the internet users of China that are denied access to using an incredibly sophisticated and arguably the most user-friendly service of such a fundamental function of the internet, I wanted to put together this quick guide to provide a solution on how to access Gmail in China effectively, securely and easily.
So on behalf of all non-China based internet users around the globe that have full access to Gmail, please accept this quick guide as a gesture of support to fighting for online freedom from within that oppressive nation. Let's get around that Great Firewall!
This guide requires zero technical "expertise". All that's required of you is 5 minutes of your time for me to walk you through this solution and have you able to access Gmail in China (and any other website or online service you want to access in China) effectively and securely. Enjoy!
Why is Gmail Blocked in China?
To understand why the solution I walkthrough below is so effective at unblocking Gmail in China, it is important to first understand the reason behind China blocking gmail in China.
The reasons why behind Gmail being blocked in China are of the same ambiguity that has surrounded China's IP-level blocking of practically all of Google's popular online services like GDrive and of the course the search engine itself - not to mention a whole bunch of additional popular websites. The following either are, or have been, blocked in China at some point:
- Dropbox (file sharing site)
- DuckDuckGo (anonymous search engine)
- Facebook (we all know what facebook is)
- Flickr (photo-sharing platform)
- Instagram (social photo-sharing app)
- Netflix (most popular commercial media streaming website in the world)
- New York Times (popular news publication)
- Twitter (social hub)
- Wall Street Journal (another popular news publication)
- YouTube (largest video publishing/viewing platform on the web)
Essentially the Chinese government appear to have wiped out all traffic from their nation to any Google service n a bid to (perhaps) drive down the global market value of the corporation. So you can almost guarantee that the vast majority of internet users in China see this block as a huge inconvenience and frustration, thus being opposed to it; rather than understanding and supporting their government's purely global-political reasoning to do this.
Thus, it's basically a very vague and non-specific reasoning behind the nation's blocking of Gmail along with all Google services. So we should not dwell on this and go ahead and skip to the more important "how" behind this block...
How is Gmail Blocked in China?
So the actual technical process being used by China's ISPs (Internet Service Providers) is a complete block at the IP-level. To understand what this means, you just need to understand how IP addresses work.
An IP address is a numerical string, e.g. 123.45.365, that you are given whenever you connect to an internet connection, whether your home router or a cafe's WiFi or whatever it may be. Each of these IP addresses is unique to that connection.
Most importantly, the IP address you get when you connect to the internet also tells every website and online service you visit what your physical location is. So because all of China's ISPs are legally obligated to deny access to Gmail at their IP-level, the only solution to get past this block is to somehow change your IP address to one that shows your location as outside China.
Is this possible? Yes -- and surprisingly easily.
There are a few methods that allow you to change your IP address, however by far and away the most effective, secure and -- most importantly -- privacy-protecting approach is to use a VPN, or "Virtual Private Network".
NOTE: Although you may not be able to access VPN websites in China, this does not mean that VPNs do not work once installed on your device. So it is worth getting access to a VPN by any means possible to do this.
How to Use a VPN to Access Gmail in China
Step 1: Sign up for VPN
There are a large number of VPN service providers to choose from, many of which are brilliant; some of which are very flawed. It's a safe bet to assume that the cheapest/free VPN providers are not actually giving you the performance or privacy-protection you want -- so after reviewing the very best "Bang for your buck" providers around; I decided to go with ExpressVPN for this solution. Thus, I will use this provider as the example while walking you through the setup steps below.
So head over to the ExpressVPN website and choose the plan that best fits your commitment and budget preference, then process payment and confirm your account setup via the email you receive. Here's how this process looks to give you an idea:
Once your account details are confirmed, you're ready to move onto the next step...
Step 2: Download & Install VPN
You will notice in your account confirmation email that you also receive a link to download the VPN software. Click on this link and you'll be directed to the main download area of the website.
Here you will see the many download links for each and every device that ExpressVPN is compatible with. You'll see that essentially every device you would ever want to use the VPN to access Gmail from is supported, which is great.
So click on the appropriate download link for the device(s) you want to access Gmail in China through, then the installation process will begin automatically. Just follow the steps as prompted for this, then you will have the VPN software fully installed and ready to launch.
Step 3: Connect to non-China Based Server on VPN
The installed software will launch automatically, so let that happen and your next step is to go ahead and connect to the VPN through a server location of your choice.
This is the important part in this whole solution, because based on the server location you choose -- your "physical location" will change accordingly to reflect this (i.e. your IP address will change).
Thus, you want to make sure to connect to a server that is located outside of China. Somewhere like Hong Kong or the like will work fine. You can even connect to a US-based server, which will work effectively but may provide a slightly slower connecting speed because of the distance between that server and your actual location.
So go ahead and choose a non-China based server location, click "Connect" and wait a few moments. Once you're connected, you will have successfully changed your IP address! Here's how the software looks on my Mac:
Step 4: Sign Up/In to Gmail
With your VPN connected now, you can now go to Gmail and you will have full and total access to the service! So if you have not setup a Gmail account, you can do this now -- and if you have a Gmail account that you have been unable to access from within China, then you can now sign into that securely and instantly.
Should you want to change your location to any other server that ExpressVPN offer on their VPN (of which are located all over the globe) then all that you need to do is disconnect then reconnect on any server location you choose.
This concludes my super quick and simple guide on how to access Gmail in China in just a few steps that will take you no more than 5 minutes to setup.
If you want to check out some other VPN service providers, then as I mentioned; I reviewed a lot of the best rated providers out there today and narrowed down my search to the following five:
Thanks for checking out my guide and I hope you are now happily accessing Gmail in China!