How to Watch Netflix in China
Updated: January 23, 2017
- Get a VPN account setup
- Download and install VPN software to your device
- Open software and connect to US-based server
- Sign in to Netflix account or signup for account if you don't have account already
- Enjoy Netflix in China
How to watch Netflix in China in more detail:
I knew a bit about China before spending six months teaching English to young kids at a school in Shanghai. I knew it was big. But until I got there, I had no idea quite how big. I knew it had a lot of people. But even compared to New York, Shanghai is something else. And I knew there were restrictions on what I could do online. But until I actually started to try and use my computer, I had no idea just how many sites and services are blocked.
China is run by an authoritarian, Communist regime which retains power by closely controlling the activities and opinions of the billions of people who live in its territory. This includes an internet censorship program which is beyond anything any other country has managed to implement to date.
Known as the Great Firewall, it blocks many US and western based online services. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are just three of the sites I regularly use which are off limits in China. Sure, there are Chinese equivalents you can use, but content here is closely monitored and, of course, as a foreigner there are big language problems to overcome.
Another service which is unavailable through regular means is Netflix. Despite the recent announcement of a Netflix global expansion, China remains one of just four places on earth (alongside North Korea, Syria, and the disputed region of Crimea) where there is no local Netflix service. I have a US Netflix account anyway, and after tiring (quickly) of the extremely limited English-language content on Chinese TV, I decided to try and find a way to make it work.
The solution as it turns out was relatively straightforward.
Why is Netflix not Available in China?
As I have already explained, the censorship of online activity by the Communist regime in China means Netflix is just one of many commonly used sites which are not available in China.
Despite the absence of a Chinese version of Netflix, I had hoped to log into my US Netflix account. But to do this, I discovered I faced two problems. The first was that access to the site was blocked by the Great Firewall.
The second was that even if I could get onto the site, I would still be unable to log in to my account. This is because Netflix restricts its accounts to the region they are intended for, meaning that I can only access my US account when I am in the USA. This is because they own different show rights in different countries, and do not have permission to stream every show on the US version of Netflix, in every country.
How is Netflix Blocking Access in the China?
Therefore, US Netflix (and indeed all other regional Netflix sites) use a technology known as geo-blocking to stop users in China from accessing the service.
Geo-blocking is a relatively common technology which allows a site to read the geographic information you transmit with your IP Address. If that information tells the site you are not in the USA, then US Netflix will block you from using their service.
So was faced with a double problem. US Netflix and the Great Firewall both wanted to stop me using my US Netflix account. If only there was a simple way to get around them both.
Well, it turns out that there is, and it simply requires you to use one straightforward online service; a VPN. And if you read on, I will tell you how it I done.
How to Use a VPN to Watch Netflix in China
Step 1: Sign up for VPN
A VPN is a service which reroutes all of your internet traffic down an encrypted link and through an external server. This process serves to anonymize your activity and the information transmitted to the sites you visit in the form of an IP Address is linked to the external server rather than your machine.
This means that you are, to all intents and purposes, accessing the internet from wherever the external server is located. The encrypted link to that server allows users in China to bypass the Great Firewall restrictions, and therefore lifts the Chinese censors blocks on sites such as Netflix. Problem One overcome.
The change in IP Address also fools the Netflix servers into thinking you are in a different country, so in my case, by using a US-based server, I was able to access US Netflix.
The first thing I did was sign up to a VPN service. I have since tested numerous VPN’s and the best one for this purpose is undoubtedly ExpressVPN.
So you will need to start by visiting the ExpressVPN website, which you can do using one of the links on this page. Then you can choose a package that best suits your budget and usage.
Once you have chosen, you will be directed through a simple payment process where any number of internationally recognized payment methods are accepted. There is also a 30-day money back guarantee on all purchases in case you are not completely satisfied.
Step 2: Download & Install VPN
As soon as you have made the payment, you will be directed to download and install the software. This is a simple and well explained process, but be sure to choose the right platform and operating system for your device.
Some package allow you to download to multiple devices and you will be prompted to do so at this point if yours in one of them.
Step 3: Connect to US-based Server on VPN
As soon as you have installed the software you will be given the option of choosing which server to connect to. I chose a US-based one to access my US Netflix account. If you want to use Netflix from another part of the world, be sure to choose a server from that country.
Once you have made your selection, it will take a few moments for you to connect:
Step 4: Setup a Netflix Account
If you don’t already have a Netflix account setup, this is the point where you can get one. Gain the process of signing up is quite an easy one. Having a credit card from the country where you want to connect is definitely helpful, although most Netflix sites (certainly US Netflix) enable you to walk around this problem with the use of a Zip (Postal) Code where they never check.
And once you have an account set-up, you should be able to use ExpressVPN to watch Netflix wherever you are in China. It is a method already used by countless ex-pats and Chinese citizens, and I know from personal experience that it really does work.
Please do comment on your experiences on using ExpressVPN, or another provider in China to watch Netflix. It is always great to keep informed by people of their experiences.
I have recommended using ExpressVPN to watch Netflix in China, but of course other providers are available. See above my pick of the Top 5.