I guess you’ve heard that many apps are banned in China.
It’s a result of The Great Firewall of China which limits the country’s internet.
Essentially, Chinese people are sheltered from apps and websites that the government doesn’t want them to see or use.
And it affects foreign tourists using Wi-Fi in China too.
Luckily though, you can get around this by getting a VPN before you arrive (more on that later).
I’ve listed below all the major apps you can probably think of. The equivalent websites are blocked too.
Apps banned in China
Here are all the major apps banned in China.
- Google Play
- Google Maps
- Google Drive
- Google News
- Basically anything Google related!
Facebook and socials
- Facebook Messenger
- Zoom (you can use the local version)
- Amazon Prime Video
- LinkedIn (phasing out by end of 2021).
- The New York Times
- The Guardian
- The Washington Post
- Daily Mail
- CBC (Canada)
- ABC (Australia).
- Amazon Music
Dating and sex
Why are these apps banned in China?
Generally speaking, an app can be banned in China for any of the following reasons:
- Immoral or illegal, e.g. sex/dating apps, or doesn’t align with socialist ideology
- Religious, controversial or politically sensitive, e.g. Human Rights Watch app
- Huge following outside China (and therefore the government isn’t able to control the narrative).
Many foreign apps are banned in China for the third reason.
It’s important to note that the list of blocked apps and websites does change over time. New ones are often added.
If there’s any particular app or site that you’re worried about, you can check if it’s blocked in China in real time here.
Are there any popular foreign apps that aren’t banned in China?
Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime apps are currently working in China.
Most Microsoft-owned apps like Outlook, Bing and Skype are OK too. However, your personal OneDrive is blocked and LinkedIn is being phased out by the end of 2021 (it’s being replaced with a local version called InJobs).
Luckily, you can still access your bank’s app while in China. None are known to be blocked.
See also: The biggest banks in China
What are the best apps to use in China?
To enjoy China to the fullest, there’s a bunch of helpful apps you can download on your phone.
Take Alipay, for example. It’s one of China’s most popular payment apps.
They’ve built a ‘Tour Pass’ into the app which gives you 90 days of paying on your phone when traveling in China. It’s great for tourists who don’t want to use cash.
Find out more about the best China travel apps here.
What apps do Chinese people use?
China has its own version of all the major Western apps. So, the people who live there still get to experience the latest technology, just in a more controlled environment.
Chinese dating apps, for instance, are moderated and you can’t post raunchy photos.
Some Chinese apps are arguably better than foreign ones. WeChat is used by practically everyone in China with a phone.
The primary function of WeChat is to communicate with people. But you can use the app to pay for practically everything, from food to flights, as well as do fun stuff like play games.
It’s like Facebook on steroids.
You can learn more about the most popular apps in China here.
What about Chinese apps that other countries ban?
Currently, India bans over 200 Chinese apps, citing concerns about data and national security.
India first flicked the switch off for many Chinese apps in July. This followed a deadly clash between India and China in the north of the country.
The banned apps include games, online payment services, dating sites and even software to edit selfies.
Video-sharing platform TikTok, which had a huge following in India, is one of the most well-known apps to be blocked.
Similarly, President Donald Trump has put the wheels in motion to ban TikTok and WeChat in the US, citing national security concerns.
How to access banned apps in China
OK – here’s the most important bit.
As a tourist in China, how do you get access to all your favorite apps?
It’s easy. You just need to download a VPN onto your devices (like your phone and laptop) before you get on the plane.
A month’s access costs about the same as a McDonald’s meal, so it’s really cheap. Plus, you can even share your VPN with others in your travel group.
Forgot to get a VPN?
It’s not the end of the world if you’ve landed in China without a VPN.
But it will be super-annoying, and you’ll have to be a little creative and use non-banned apps like Outlook, Skype, or FaceTime if you have an iPhone.
There’s also the old-school option – text message and phone calls. Just remember to enable global roaming!
Of course, you can use your own mobile data in China instead of Wi-Fi. But depending on the plan you have, you could be in for a shock when you get your next bill.
I hope you now have a better understanding of the apps banned in China. You might also benefit from reading my blog on the foods you can’t bring in to China. Enjoy!