Travel to China behind the big firewall



What works, what not and how to access LinkedIn, Facebook & Co during the time you travel in China. After years of business trips to China I found my solutions and work around.

My first contact with this system was during the 2008 Olympic games. Left home with plenty of good ideas, my blog was well prepared for it. Had a clear strategy with Facebook etc. but….
Once arrived in the Olympic village there was no way to get to on my Facebook
and WordPress blog event outside in town. After many useless discussion I allways got the same typical answer: “Sorry Sir not possible, becouse Beijing” and I gave up.

The solution came a few days later still during the Olympic Games with a young friendly Chinese who was looking at my photos the day before approaching me in the media center:
“Sir I can help for your internet, but please do not say….” VPN was the magic word ! At the end the solution was not really working it was way too to slow.

So what works and what doesn’t ?

Not working
– (all google services) gmail googledrive etc. even google map
– Twitter Facebook, youtube, vimeo

The following services work well even without VPN:
– Instagram, Skype, Facetime, Tumblr, linkedin, WhatsApp

Today it’s still the same you will not get access unless you install your VPN already at home. In the mean time there are plenty of VPN solutions you can buy online. You will find easy some free once but not sure if they work once you are in China. The question is more which one.

I have two criteria I generally apply in this web services:

Is it for free?
Why should I get anything for free? There must be a reason for that. It’s not going to cost a lot so I prefer to chose one I have to pay.

How long is the service around?
Don’t read the success stories but check our the reference list and how long is this operating.

From a technical point of view make sure it offers SSL Security, it will encrypt all the data during communication.

my brother used to be a former IT Manager of a Swiss Bank he installed a own VPN and this one is safe but there are public solutions who work fine:

Here area few:

The same applies for smart phones and tablets:

Personally I use the VPN Express:
fine, they are area few servers around the globe you can choose depending on the website you are accessing. Please remember the connection will slow down a bit.

Here area few more:

Social media in China:
a big thing, probably even bigger than what we expect. Just observe the young people in the subway or so and you will see how focussed they are.

Here are a few services you will probably come across one you are in China:
our Twitter, a micro blog but it’s way more advanced than our twitter, used to be top until 2 years ago but still working very well. Almost everybody is on weibo.
It replaces our WhatsApp and I recommend you to install it. It’s very popular to exchange the QR code when you meet someone to stay connected. Wechat is growing in popularity in these days.
This is the Chinese nr. one video platform and replaces our youtube and vimeo. Even with a VPN they are almost useless as it’s way to slow.

Mobile phone contracts & Wifi:
Data & voice roaming in China can be super expensive, it’s cheaper getting a second smart phone and get a local simcard if you stay longer than a few days. If not make sure you have turned off the data roamingservice.

However you will find a lot of free WIFI around in China mostly in all restaurants, airports etc. in the bigger cities they havea free wifi. Just ask and you will get the login and password.

Hope this information will make you stay in China more enjoyable.

Juerg Kaufmann

About me:
Since the 2008 Olympic games I have been back to China for job’s several times. Three years ago during a photoshooting I had the chance to meet a fantastic women. She did here Master thesis on the social media andhelped me to get into the Chinese way of thinking and working. In the mean time we are a couple.. 😉
My next photoshooting in China will be end of March and I’m already looking forward to it.