UPDATE: On February 1st, 2018 I can confirm this solution still works. The tool I use in this guide is called ExpressVPN. Feel free to comment below, or go check it out by clicking here. I use ExpressVPN because it is the only one I've found that still currently works to unblock Gmail in China.
Gmail is still completely blocked in China. But can you use Gmail in China? Yes - you absolutely can.
Do the following to unblock Gmail in China right now:
- Start with setting up a VPN account
- Install the VPN software onto the device(s) you want to access Gmail on
- 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.
Time to do this: 5 Minutes
How to access Gmail in China
in more detail:
The Chinese government have a “Great Firewall of China” built into the country’s internet, that allows them to control what websites China-based people can and cannot access.
Why? Primarily to reduce any and all online content that openly criticises the Chinese government.
As a result of this, many popular websites and online services have subsequently been blocked in China that do not solely criticise the government. Gmail being one such service.
We have put together this guide to give you a simple and 100% effective solution to unblock Gmail once and for all, from anywhere in the world so you no longer have to worry about not being able to access your emails when living in/visiting China.
We also made this super simple video walkthrough that not only shows you the steps to follow in real time, but also gives you a super quick education on why Gmail in inaccessible in China. Check it out, or alternatively go through the steps below the video and have access to Gmail in less than 5 minutes:
NOTE: This super quick guide on how to access Gmail from within involves using a VPN. There are a large amount of VPN service providers around today, so I reviewed the very best providers out there and narrowed down my choice to ExpressVPN:
Email is such a fundamental pillar of internet usage, and always has been. So when I heard that China was still -- in 2017! -- 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 (and any other website or online service you want to access) in China effectively and securely. So when you ask yourself the question " does Gmail work in China?" or "can you use Gmail in China?" - you can confidently say: yes!
Why is Gmail Blocked in China?
To understand why the solution I walkthrough below is so effective at unblocking Gmail from inside China, it is important to first understand the reason behind China blocking Gmail.
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".
If you are not familiar with what a VPN is, then do not worry if it sounds a bit “technical” - it really is not. A VPN is actually a very simple (but powerful) piece of software that you can download and install onto any internet-connectable device that you would possibly want to access Gmail from while in China.
Using a VPN should be standard amongst all internet users today, since the privacy protection the software gives you is incredibly secure and worthwhile. With that said, the IP-address changing that a VPN gives you is the perfect solution to unblocking your Gmail account from within China, so for that reason alone we will now walk you through the few quick steps to do this with a VPN.
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 you land on the homepage, choose a package that best suits your personal preference:
As you will see, ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money back guarantee as well as 3 free months (I believe this deal is temporary, so definitely jump on it now if you can). This is great as it allows you to triple-check that the VPN allows you access to Gmail from inside China, without you having to worry about spending your precious money on a false solution.
Once you have chosen the subscription length that you want, and your account details are confirmed (should be instantly), you will receive a couple of emails from the VPN service confirming your details and login credentials. You will need these to login to the software once you’ve downloaded it, so don’t delete that email!
Let’s now move onto the download and installation process...
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. Can you use Gmail in China on your laptop and smartphone at the same time? Yes - along with many other devices:
So click on the appropriate download link for the device(s) you want to access Gmail 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.
To give you an example, here is how ExpressVPN displays the VPN for my Mac the moment I have downloaded, installed then opened it for the first time:
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!
For any of you that use your mobile device (smartphone, ipad, etc) more often to access your Gmail account, then just check out how easy to use the ExpressVPN mobile app looks. Here it is on my Android smartphone:
The app is equally as intuitive and easy to use on your mobile device as on your laptop/desktop computer. All you need to do is choose a location outside China then hit “Connect”. Simple as that:
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.
ExpressVPN is the most consistently updated and effective best VPN service to use for keeping your Gmail unblocked while in China. However, there are a few other VPN service providers that we have personally reviewed and would recommend giving a shot. Check out the list below:
Alternative Method to Unblock Gmail in China
The way that a VPN works to change your IP address is not solely unique to VPNs. There are ways to change your IP address that do not require using software.
A common example is to use an online Proxy server service. There are literally hundreds of proxy server services available, with some charging and many being completely free.
Important Note: If a proxy server is completely free to use, then you can almost guarantee that it is either already blocked in China or will be blocked by the time you are reading this guide. With that said, here are some free browser add-on proxy services that may still be working and could be worth trying out: Hide.me, Whoer.net and kproxy.com.
The reason we strongly advise to use a VPN over a free proxy is because with a proxy being free you are getting zero support, to any issues with it will go unresolved. Also, since no one is making money from the proxy -- it can take a very long time to have the service updated. In some cases a proxy will never be updated.
This concludes my super quick and simple guide on how to access Gmail from inside China in just a few steps that will take you no more than 5 minutes to set up.
Clearly the Chinese government is not planning to lift this Gmail block any time soon. So to give yourself the best chance to access your Gmail, definitely grab yourself a VPN and go through the steps laid out in this quick guide.
If you are within China and your local ISP (Internet Service Provider) somehow has blocked access to, for example, ExpressVPN.com, then you can work around this by either using a proxy that works to access the VPN website, or alternatively have someone you know and trust that is located outside China set up a VPN account and download the software for you. They can then send this to you via a method that the Chinese internet allows, like using WeTransfer.com to send a download link to your alternative (non-Gmail) account, like hotmail.com.
Thanks for checking out this guide and enjoy having full access to Gmail while located inside China.
Should you have any issues with the steps in this solution, or with the VPN giving you access to Gmail effectively, then please do not hesitate to let us know by commenting below. We read and respond to every single comment, and love to hear your experience and feedback.
Thanks again and remember to share this solution to anyone asking "does Gmail work in China?", so you can say "yes, if you know how!"