Private Internet Access or PIA is one of the known VPN services on the interweb. The advanced security features and inexpensive pricing plans of this VPN have gained it significant credibility.
Although it is difficult to challenge PIA’s credential as a top VPN provider, its efficiency in China is a different question altogether.
In this article, I will evaluate Private Internet Access for China. However, before we go ahead with the evaluation, it is important to discuss why many VPN services fail to circumvent Chinese censorship.
The Great Firewall of China: A Nightmare for VPNs
The Great Firewall of China is the combination of tools applied by the Chinese government to enforce widespread censorship.
In addition to being a powerful system of mass surveillance and censorship, the Great Firewall (GFW) is a mysterious entity. In that, it is extremely hard to determine where its strengths actually lie.
Hence, it is difficult for VPN providers to devise techniques that can help in bypassing the Chinese censorship. Only the best VPN for China are able to circumvent the Great Firewall.
Private Internet Access China: Does it Work?
In short, PIA works in China but with some limitations. For instance, the VPN is completely functional in the Beijing city but becomes inoperable once you head towards the village areas.
Furthermore, you may find the service working on some ISPs while on others; it is completely blocked. In my experience, you will find better luck using the VPN on 4G than on Wi-Fi.
Pros of PIA VPN
- L2TP for evading the GFW
- Works on 4G
Cons of PIA VPN
- L2TP needs to be manually configured
- Does not work on Wi-Fi
- Unstable and Inconsistent service
Private Internet Access Not Working In China: Is there a Solution?
As of now, connecting to a VPN in China through the conventional method is virtually useless.
The recent updates in the GFW have made many VPNs obsolete. PIA is one of the services that have felt the brunt of the recent VPN ban in China.
Regardless, few tricks might help you access Private Internet Access China services. Just keep in mind that even these techniques do not guarantee success. Sometimes the service won’t work in spite of your efforts.
Private Internet Access L2TP Connection
With regard to its efficiency, privacy advocates consider L2TP connections as dated and inefficient.
These connections are quite often slower and less proficient than the widely used OpenVPN connections. In fact, OpenVPN’s popularity is the reason why the Chinese government has gone after this protocol, ignoring L2TP in the process.
As a result, Private Internet Access China service sometimes works through the L2TP connections. You can configure PIA’s L2TP servers by following the step-to-step guide on the provider’s website.
Note that the configuration uses specific username and password that is different from the login credentials of your PIA account.
Use an IP instead of the Hostname
Most VPN providers recommend that you use IP instead of the hostname while connecting in China.
As it happens, the GFW has the ability to detect hostnames. The reason is explained below.
You can contact the PIA’s support for IP addresses that work best in China.
Pro Tip: Contact PIA via Twitter or Reddit if you need quick answers to your queries. The email support system of the VPN is rather slow.
Private Internet Access China Twitter
Twitter is another forum where you can learn how a VPN service is fairing in particular country.
For instance, a user here is using PIA to tweet from China.
PIA. Has been surprisingly stable compared to my last visit. There’s definitely some 0-day China keeps throwing at my phone that crashes it; I’m sure they’re hoping my VPN isn’t set to connect on boot.
— Johnny Xmas @ Boston/Providence (Security Weekly) (@J0hnnyXm4s) April 1, 2018
I guess it really depends on where you are in China. This user suggests that the VPN is ineffectual in the face of Chinese censorship.
PIA VPN Service cannot be used in China
— Rookiplus (@zhuozhixiong) May 12, 2018
Private Internet Access China Reddit
With GFW being as unpredictable as it is, one is never sure if a VPN is actually working in China. The best thing we can do is see what users have to say on forums like Reddit.
A user from Beijing confirms that PIA work within the city.
In some instances, the VPN does not work even on the L2TP connection.
As I have mentioned before, using IP as an alternative of hostname sometimes does the trick.
And there you have it, the VPN works with the IP provided by the PIA.
After reading this Private Internet Access China review, you may have realized that this VPN is inconsistent in the country. The service may help you unblock sites in some locations, but at times, it will fail miserably.
That’s why, I do not recommend buying PIA just for the sake of using it in China. There are other VPNs that more reliable and have the better equipment to deal with the Great Firewall.