Arming myself with multiple VPNs before a weeklong trip to Mainland China

Stockpiling multiple tools just to get access to Twitter (and other blocked websites)
China's Great Firewall

I actually lived in China at a time when a person could search Google (gasp!) and find pictures of Tank Man (double gasp!). Yeah, it’s gotten a lot worse since 2004…

When I travel in the Mainland these days I use Google’s spectacular Google Fi service (née Project Fi), which provides unfettered internet access as if I was in Chicago. Prior to that, I was able to roam in the Mainland using data plans from China Mobile Hong Kong, Three, or Smartone without much trouble. Authorities do allow the uncensored web if your phone plan is registered elsewhere.

That’s great if you have a generous data plan, of course, but not everybody does. I’m going to be holed up at the Dalian International Convention Centre for part of the week, with my MacBook Pro likely fully dependent on the facility’s Wifi network. It will likely be the same when I’m back at the hotel, which means a VPN is no longer optional – it’s mandatory. China blocks access to VPN websites, making it imperative that VPNs are installed in advance while still outside of the Mainland. Which is what I did last night.

I usually try and arm myself with one VPN when I head up to the motherland, but I now have three. I get ProtonVPN through my subscription with the uber secure ProtonMail service, but service is intermittent when I’ve tried to connect from behind the Great Firewall. So to play safe, I’ve signed up and paid for a month of VPN service from two of the more highly rated companies online.

I’m reluctant to name them, even though they aren’t secrets and China’s eagle-eyed internet censors probably have a book on them already. Still, no need to draw any additional attention.

I’ll let you know how it works. (Or I won’t… if there’s no update to this post, you’ll know how it went!)

Cam Macmurchy

Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology and productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.