How to Use WhatsApp in China in 2024 — Full Guide

Updated on: May 28, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Gjurgjica Panova Gjurgjica Panova
Updated on: May 28, 2024 Writer

Only 3 Steps (Quick + Easy) to Use WhatsApp in China in 2024: 

  • Download and install a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN, as it reliably works in China, maintains very fast speeds, and has strong security features.
  • Enable the VPN’s obfuscation tool. Every obfuscation tool works differently. ExpressVPN’s obfuscation is automatically enabled on all servers and protocols.
  • Connect to a server in a country where WhatsApp is available. Next, log into your WhatsApp account, and you’re all set to message your friends on WhatsApp from China.

WhatsApp isn’t available in China due to the government’s Great Firewall, which blocks many apps and websites. This means that you won’t be able to use the app to message your friends while you’re in China.

The best way to access WhatsApp in China is with a VPN. A VPN encrypts your traffic, so the Chinese government and ISPs (internet service providers) can’t see that you’re using WhatsApp.

However, not many VPNs work in China because of the government’s restrictions. This is because most of them lack high-tech obfuscation tools that make your VPN traffic look like regular traffic.

I spent a few weeks researching dozens of VPNs and found the best ones for China. My top choice is ExpressVPN as it has obfuscated servers that work all the time in China, maintains the fastest speeds on the market, and has top-notch security features.

GET EXPRESSVPN NOW

IMPORTANT: WhatsApp might be limited in your area. Before using WhatsApp, check that it’s permitted in your location and always comply with applicable local rules and guidelines. Neither I nor anyone on my team at SafetyDetectives condones using a VPN for any illegal activity.

Editors' Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

Why You Can’t Use WhatsApp in China (& Why You Need a VPN to Use It)

WhatsApp is inaccessible in China due to the country’s strict internet censorship policies, often referred to as the Great Firewall of China.

The government tightly controls online content, blocking or restricting access to various foreign messaging platforms, including WhatsApp. This censorship aims to regulate information flow and maintain control over communication channels.

Downloading WhatsApp in China is challenging as well. The app is unavailable on official app stores like the Apple App Store and various Android app markets. This is because of the government’s efforts to promote and control the use of domestic messaging platforms.

The best way to bypass these restrictions is with a VPN. VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, making it harder for the Chinese government to detect that you’re using WhatsApp. It also lets you connect to a server in a country where WhatsApp is available.

How to Use WhatsApp in China on Any Device

iPhone or iPad

  • Select a VPN that works in China. ExpressVPN is a great choice for accessing WhatsApp in China on your iPhone or iPad as it reliably works in the country and has strong security features.
  • Download and install the VPN app. The instructions are straightforward, and the app will be installed in less than 2 minutes (we recommend downloading the VPN and WhatsApp apps to your device(s) before arriving in China to avoid any issues).
  • Enable the obfuscation feature and connect to a server. You can now log into your WhatsApp account and message your friends from China.

Android Smartphone or Tablet

  • Choose a good VPN for China. My recommendation is ExpressVPN, as it has obfuscation across all servers and protocols and maintains fast speeds.
  • Download and install the VPN app. The installation wizard will help you to set it up in less than 2 minutes.
  • Enable obfuscation and pick a server. Log into your WhatsApp account and you can start messaging and video call your friends from China on your Android device!

Windows PC or Mac Computer

  • Pick a VPN that reliably works in China. I recommend ExpressVPN as it consistently works in China and has top-notch security features.
  • Download and install the VPN’s desktop app. Follow the on-screen instructions, and the process will be completed in a few minutes.
  • Enable obfuscation and connect to a server. Log into your WhatsApp account and message or video chat with your contacts securely from China using WhatsApp web.

Best VPNs for Accessing WhatsApp in China in 2024

Quick summary of the best VPNs for accessing WhatsApp in China in 2024:

  • 🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for accessing WhatsApp in China in 2024 (very fast and very secure).
  • 🥈2. Private Internet Access — Great VPN with highly customizable apps for using WhatsApp in China + top privacy tools.
  • 🥉3. PrivateVPN — Good VPN with decent speeds for chatting on WhatsApp in China + has intuitive apps.

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN for Using WhatsApp in China in 2024

Approved by our experts
ExpressVPN
Approved by our experts
Most readers pick ExpressVPN
Servers in countries
105
Key Features
Industry-leading speeds
Number of devices
8
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
expressvpn.com
Editors' Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

ExpressVPN is my top choice for using WhatsApp in China. The VPN’s customer reps confirmed that it works in the country, and the provider has servers in 105 countries, including ones near China, like Hong Kong and Japan — connecting to a server closest to your location typically provides you with the fastest speeds.

The VPN supports obfuscation across all of its servers and protocols. This feature hides your VPN traffic, making it look like regular traffic. That said, the customer reps recommend using the Automatic protocol in China — this is also why ExpressVPN is the best VPN in China.

I also like that ExpressVPN refreshes its IP addresses regularly, so it’s harder for the Chinese government to block your VPN. Moreover, ExpressVPN offers mirrored links, which are copies of the site with different URLs in case you aren’t able to download the VPN from its site while in China. You can get a mirrored link by emailing ExpressVPN’s support.

ExpressVPN has value-packed plans starting at $6.67 / month. All plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out with zero risk.

ExpressVPN: Save 49% on the 12-month plan + FREE months!
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Bottom Line:

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for using WhatsApp in China. It works 100% of the time in China, has automatic obfuscation on all of its servers, and regularly refreshes its IPs. Moreover, it’s very secure and maintains fast speeds. The VPN also offers extra features like split-tunneling for faster speeds. All plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full ExpressVPN review

🥈2. Private Internet Access — Highly Customizable VPN With Strong Security

Servers in countries
91
Key Features
Excellent ad blocker
Number of devices
Unlimited
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
privateinternetaccess.com
Editors' Note: Private Internet Access and this site are in the same ownership group.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is great for securely using WhatsApp in China. It has obfuscation through Shadowsocks, an open-source protocol that disguises your VPN traffic as regular traffic so you can use the VPN in China — there are 6 server locations, including Japan. All you need to do to enable them is click on Multi-Hop under Settings.

The VPN has highly customizable apps that allow you to easily change protocols and encryption levels — I used 128-bit AES encryption instead of 256-bit because I had slightly faster speeds  for WhatsApp video chat while maintaining excellent security.

I like how you can easily navigate PIA’s apps, too. It’s great for beginners as all features are set to a default setting. Plus, there are short explanations for most settings so you won’t feel overwhelmed about using them.

Private Internet Access has affordable plans that start at $2.03 / month. Each plan also has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Private Internet Access: Save 83% on the 24-month plan + FREE months!
You can save 83% if you act right now.

Bottom Line:

Private Internet Access has strong security features for a safe messaging experience while using WhatsApp in China. It works in China via Shadowsocks proxy servers, which are located in 6 countries. You also get customizable apps, fast speeds, and intuitive apps. All plans offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Private Internet Access review

🥉3. PrivateVPN — Beginner-Friendly for Use With WhatsApp

Servers in countries
63
Key Features
Works in restrictive nations
Number of devices
10
OS compatibility
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
privatevpn.com

PrivateVPN has fast speeds for video chat on WhatsApp in China. In my speed tests, I experienced only a minor lag when making video or voice calls, and messages were sent in 2 seconds.

PrivateVPN’s Stealth VPN feature is the VPN’s obfuscation tool, which works really well in restrictive countries (its customer support reps confirmed it works reliably in China). To access Stealth VPN, just click on the tool’s tab on the side of the app.

I like that the VPN’s apps can be adjusted for beginners and advanced users. The Simple view keeps the customization options to a minimum and it’s very easy to navigate. On the other hand, the Advanced view is great if you want to adjust the VPN’s settings to your needs.

PrivateVPN has plans as low as $2.00 / month. All plans offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Save up to 85% on PrivateVPN!
You can save 85% if you act right now.

Bottom Line:

PrivateVPN has fast speeds for video chatting on WhatsApp in China. It has obfuscation through its Stealth VPN feature and has the option for both a beginner-friendly and advanced interface. It has a small server network but has servers in multiple countries near China. Plus, the VPN has decent security features and affordable plans with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PrivateVPN review

Editors' Note: Intego, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN are owned by Kape Technologies, our parent company

Quick Comparison Table

VPN Starting Price Obfuscation Method Full Leak Protection Number of Servers (Countries) Number of Connections Money-Back Guarantee
🥇1. ExpressVPN $6.67 / month Obfuscated servers DNS ✅

WebRTC ✅

IPv6 ✅

105 8 30 days
🥈2. Private Internet Access $2.03 / month Shadowsocks protocol DNS ✅

WebRTC ✅

IPv6 ✅

91 Unlimited 30 days
🥉3. PrivateVPN $2.00 / month Stealth VPN DNS ✅

WebRTC ❌

IPv6 ✅

63 10 30 days

Editors' Note: Intego, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN are owned by Kape Technologies, our parent company

How to Choose the Best VPN for Using WhatsApp in China in 2024

  • Choose a VPN that works in China. All the VPNs on this list reliably work in China and come with obfuscation tools that enable you to use WhatsApp in China.
  • Look for strong security features. I only recommend VPNs that come with industry-standard security features, like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch (which disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops), and a no-logs policy.
  • Consider fast speeds. All VPNs slow down your speeds due to the encryption process, and obfuscation tools will reduce your speeds even more. However, top VPNs like ExpressVPN are still able to maintain fast speeds across all servers.
  • Check server network. The VPN should have servers in countries near China that haven’t banned WhatsApp, like Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, or Singapore. When connecting to a nearby server, you’ll get the best possible speeds.
  • Find a VPN that’s easy to use. The VPNs on this list have an intuitive interface that makes it easier to find the fastest server near China. Plus, they have apps for all major platforms.
  • Pick a VPN that offers good value. The VPNs I recommend have affordable plans and offer a generous money-back guarantee. Plus, they offer extra features like split-tunneling.

Best WhatsApp Alternatives in China in 2024

1. WeChat

WeChat is a free widely used app in China, mostly used for messaging and calling on desktop and mobile devices. It has a scanner to read QR codes, a built-in search engine, and an electronic wallet linked to Chinese bank accounts and credit cards for quick transactions.

However, the app comes with significant privacy concerns. It lacks end-to-end encryption, and WeChat’s privacy policy indicates that it shares user information with a variety of third parties, including advertising partners and regulatory bodies.

The app logs details like social media profiles visited, communication records, and IP addresses. As a foreign user, your activities on WeChat are still subject to monitoring, and there have been cases of government action based on WeChat communication. A VPN will encrypt your WeChat traffic, so third parties won’t be able to spy on your activities.

2. Threema

Threema is a paid app known for its strong privacy features. It doesn’t require an email address or mobile number to sign up. Instead, it generates an 8-digit ID that acts as a private encryption key.

The app uses 256-bit encryption for messages and doesn’t store logs on its servers. Threema’s servers are in Switzerland, a country known for privacy-friendly policies. The app includes standard messaging, group chats, media sharing, and additional features like polls and message pinning.

It’s available for Android and iOS, and can also be paired with a computer for desktop chat​. Although Threema is completely anonymous, I don’t condone using the app to break laws or bypass censorship.

3. Wire

Wire is a business collaboration tool that also serves as a personal messenger for both desktop and mobile devices. It’s particularly suitable for business travelers in China.

It offers end-to-end encryption and its open-source code has been independently audited. While the app and most VPNs are blocked in China, it’s recommended to download both before entering the country.

The app logs some data, which it retains for up to 72 hours, but specific details of the collected information are not clear in the privacy policy. It’s based in Switzerland and is GDPR compliant, adding a layer of privacy protection even in China​.

4. Signal

Signal is a free app known for its strong encryption, but it is blocked in China. This means that you’ll need a VPN to use the app in China.

This app uses an open-sourced cipher for encrypting calls and messages and doesn’t store messages on its server. However, using Signal isn’t entirely anonymous, as it requires phone number registration. Plus, its privacy policy states that it might share user data because of an enforceable governmental request and other reasons.

For better privacy, the app uses a feature for auto-deleting chats after a set period, has an option for password-protect chats, and a screenshot-blocking feature. Signal is available for both smartphones and desktops, but the desktop version requires first installing the mobile app.

5. Telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based app that also requires a VPN to work in China. It’s free and offers features like cloud-based messaging, group chats, and file sharing. I like that it allows you to edit messages after sending them, and you can create polls and quizzes for other users.

Telegram’s security includes end-to-end encryption in its Secret Chats feature, but not all activities on the platform are end-to-end encrypted. Plus, the app logs IP addresses, device information, and username changes for 12 months. Using a VPN with Telegram would protect information like your personal IP address, though.

Once you’ve set up the app and registered with a non-Chinese number, you can link your account to the web app to use Telegram on your desktop. To find contacts easily, you can create a username, but this will enable strangers to send you messages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use WhatsApp in China with a free VPN?

No, most free VPNs don’t reliably work in China as they lack the obfuscation tools necessary to encrypt the internet traffic so it works in China. Moreover, they’re missing strong security features to protect your data when using WhatsApp in China.

I recommend purchasing a premium VPN, like ExpressVPN. It has obfuscation on all servers, strong security features, and maintains the fastest speeds on the market.

Which app is used in China instead of WhatsApp?

WeChat is the dominant messaging app that is widely used as an alternative to WhatsApp. WeChat, developed by Tencent, offers a platform that goes beyond messaging, with features such as social networking, mobile payments, and even gaming.

The Chinese government favors domestic platforms like WeChat, which allows for greater control and monitoring of online activities. If you still prefer to use WhatsApp while in China, I recommend purchasing one of the VPNs on this list.

Why is WhatsApp illegal in China?

China banned the use of WhatsApp because its parent company Meta refused to allow the government to censor and moderate messages between users. If you want to use WhatsApp while in the country, you’ll need a reliable China VPN.

Where is WhatsApp banned?

WhatsApp is banned in a few places like China, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. So, you’ll need to use a VPN to use WhatsApp in these restricted countries. ExpressVPN is an excellent choice since it has effective obfuscation on all servers, has many advanced security features, and has excellent speeds.

Best VPNs for Using WhatsApp in China in 2024 — Final Score:

Our Rank
Our Score
Best Deal
1
9.8
save 49%
2
9.6
save 83%
3
8.8
save 85%
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About the Author
Gjurgjica Panova
Updated on: May 28, 2024

About the Author

Gjurgjica is a cybersecurity writer who is driven by her passion for the written word and anything tech-related. When she is not in the role of a Safety Detective, she can be found wrapped in a comfy blanket, binge-watching her favorite shows.

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