Gmail is used by over a billion users throughout world for business as well as personal purposes. Among the many websites and online services banned in China, Gmail is another one which is blocked by the Great Firewall.
This is a huge problem who are used to Google’s mail services and its simple user-interface. Fortunately, it is possible to unblock restricted websites in China. In this blog, I will show you how to access Gmail in China so you can take advantage of the popular email service from the country.
How to Open Gmail in China?
As it turns out, there are more ways than one to open Gmail in China, though the effectiveness of the methods varies.
I will present two of the simplest solutions:
One paid option and one free solution. There are good reasons why you should opt for the former. It will become clearer to you as you read on below.
The Paid Solution: Using a VPN
The best way to access Gmail in China is through a VPN. If you are unsure about a decent VPN provider, check out our blog on The best VPN services for China.
When you have decided to purchase a VPN, follow these steps to beat the Great Firewall (GFW) of China and gain access to Gmail.
Following are the steps involved in unblocking Gmail in China through a VPN:
- Purchase a VPN subscription of your desire provider
- Download the VPN client and install it on your system/device
- Login with your subscription account details to the VPN
- Connect the VPN to a server outside of China such as Hong Kong
- Visit Gmail and use the popular mail service like normal
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This is one way to open Gmail and indeed, a host of other blocked services and websites in China. However, there is another way you can get around the GFW and open Gmail in the country, described next.
The Free Solution: Accessing Gmail in China Using Proxy
If for some reason you are not interested in using a VPN for getting access to Gmail in China, you can try proxy websites. Proxy servers can help you pretend that you are located in a country other than your physical location, eliminating the restrictions that keep you from accessing blocked services.
To open Gmail through a proxy server, follow the below steps:
- Open a proxy server for China. You can find a list of these proxies here.
- In the URL field, enter gmail.com
- Wait for the site to access your Gmail account for free
Which Option Should I Go With?
The free solution is not as effective as the one involving VPNs. This is because Chinese authorities are extremely good at tracking down these proxy sites and blocking them. It can be quite frustrating, therefore, to find a working proxy site before the government can block it, which often requires trial-and-error.
In addition, proxy servers are usually slow and are often unable to open HTML pages without causing all page elements to fall apart. So, frankly speaking, if you want to choose the best solution to unblocking Gmail in China, you should go with the VPN option. The only real advantage of proxies is that they are free, but the lack of encryption and poor speeds is a deal-breaker.
Why is Gmail Blocked in China?
The Chinese government blocks a wide range of popular services and websites. Gmail is only one among these. Google has a difficult relationship with China. The company took exception to the oppressive censorship that the Chinese officials imposed on user accounts on Google, as well as unwarranted privacy intrusions.
Image Credits: Andy Wong
In response to this, Google, in 2010, shutdown offices in China and redirected Google.cn (China) to Google.hk (Hong Kong), in order to allow Chinese users to use uncensored Google search. Unsurprisingly, all Google related services have since been blocked in China, including Gmail.
Other Sites and Apps Blocked in China
Chinese censorship is perhaps the strictest in the whole world. Imagine any social media or news website that publishes content with freedom. Chances are, this website will be blocked in China. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some websites with global popularity that are, unluckily, blocked for Chinese users:
- WhatsApp (Learn How to Unblock Whatsapp in China)
What Email Works in China?
Gmail is undoubtedly the most popular service that people user for sending and receiving emails, but its censorship causes people In China to look for alternatives. It should be noted that other popular mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo work normally in China.
Moreover, there are several alternative services which deserve more notice and appreciation. Tutanota is one email service that is still operational in China. It provides end-to-end encryption for maximum security of your mail content as well as your contacts.
For personal use, it is free of cost. However, business need to purchase a premium subscription to make their account. Thus, Tutanota is a great alternative to Gmail that does not lack in any way when compared to Google’s service.
Traveling to China – Tips to Remember
If you are traveling to China, you will undoubtedly need to use the Internet for communicating with people back home, online banking, work-related tasks etc. It can be extremely frustrating to find yourself hindered from accessing Internet sites and services you might need urgently.
Therefore, here are some pieces of common wisdom to keep in mind while traveling to China:
- Prepare in Advance: Always download all services and apps you want to be using from China before you begin your travel. This is because many services are not only blocked in China, but they can’t even be downloaded from the mainland. So, make sure you load your phone and/or PC with the apps you expect to be using from China, including any VPNs.
- Use VPN even for Unblocked Sites: The Chinese government is notorious for its privacy invasions through surveillance of citizens. This means that your data is always being monitored, even if you are visiting a government-approved website. Thus, I would recommend keeping your data encrypted at all times to escape the eye of the government. VPNs can come be extremely handy in this regard.
- Avoid Publishing Anti-Government Content: Chinese authorities are especially stringent when it comes to bloggers and activists criticizing the government for its dictatorial policies. Although I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech, some prudence should always be exercised when you’re up against an oppressive and powerful government.
Finishing Up: How to Access Gmail in China
Censorship in China has darkened many areas of the Internet, putting it far out of the reach of people in the country. The block on Gmail is a serious restriction on the ability of people to communicate through emails while they are in China. Although alternatives to Gmail are available, you can always use a VPN to unblock Gmail if it is your preferred mail service.