You may have heard that there are many apps banned in China.

Essentially, Chinese people can’t access apps and websites that the government doesn’t want them using.

It’s often referred to as The Great Firewall of China, limiting what you can see on the Chinese internet. This also affects foreign tourists using Wi-Fi in China.

Luckily though, you can get around this by getting a VPN before you arrive (more on that later).

Apps banned in China

Here’s a list of all the major apps banned in China. The equivalent websites are blocked too.

Google lovers

  • Google
  • Gmail
  • Google Play
  • Google Chat
  • Google Maps
  • Google Drive
  • Google News
  • Basically anything Google related!


  • Facebook
  • Facebook Messenger
  • TikTok (the local censored version is called Douyin)
  • Instagram
  • X (formerly Twitter)
  • Pinterest

Forums and blogging

  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger
  • Medium


  • WhatsApp (only text messaging works)
  • Snapchat
  • Slack
  • Viber
  • Line
  • Discord
  • Telegram
  • Signal

Binge watching

  • YouTube
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • Tubi
  • Dailymotion
  • HBO
  • NBC
  • FOX

Search engines and information

  • Google
  • Wikipedia
  • Yahoo!
  • DuckDuckGo

Work tools

  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  • LinkedIn (the local censored version is called InCareer)
  • ChatGPT
  • iStock
  • Shutterstock


  • BBC
  • The New York Times
  • The Guardian
  • The Washington Post
  • CNN
  • Daily Mail
  • CBC (Canada)
  • ABC (Australia)
  • Basically all major foreign news sites

Music, books and shopping

  • Pandora
  • YouTube Music
  • Amazon Music
  • SoundCloud
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Etsy


  • Twitch
  • PlayStation
  • Steam

Dating and sex

  • Tinder
  • Pornhub
  • OnlyFans
  • XVideos
  • Chaturbate

Betting and casinos

  • Bet365
  • Bovada


  • Coinbase
  • Binance

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.

Google is one of the banned apps in China

Google Maps is one of the banned apps in China. Image by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.

It’s important to note that the list of blocked apps and websites changes from time to time. New ones are often added, and previously banned apps may be OK again.

For example, video meeting app Zoom and career site Indeed have previously been blocked, but now they’re accessible.

If there’s any particular app or site you’re concerned about, you can check if it’s blocked in China in real time using the button below.

Note: it’s an external website and will open up in a new window.

Which popular foreign apps aren’t banned in China?

Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime apps are currently working in China.

Most Microsoft-owned apps like Outlook, Hotmail, Bing and Skype are OK too. However, there are issues uploading attachments to emails and your personal OneDrive is blocked too.

You can still access your bank’s website and app while in China, but there have been occasions when some banks have been inaccessible without a VPN.

For instance, Bank of Queensland (an Australian bank) was down in early March 2023.

Bank of Queensland blocked in China

Most banks are accessible in China, but don’t count on it. Image from on 1 March 2023.

This is why it’s important to not be too reliant on any particular app or website while you’re visiting China.

What are the best apps to use in China?

To enjoy the country 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.

There’s a Tour Card feature in the app which gives you 90 days of paying on your phone when traveling in China.

Tourist using an app in China

There are some great travel apps for China. Image by Victoria Labadie on Shutterstock.

It’s great for tourists who don’t want to use cash or card (which is barely used in China these days).

You can find out more about the best China travel apps here. Or, if you’re staying in the country long term, check out the best apps for foreigners in China.

What apps do Chinese people use?

China has its own version of all the major Western apps. So, the locals still get to experience the latest technology, just in a more controlled way.

Chinese dating apps, for instance, are heavily moderated and you can’t post raunchy photos. The same goes for Chinese gay apps.

Some Chinese apps are actually better than foreign ones. WeChat, known locally as Wēi xìn (or 微信 in characters) is used by practically everyone in China with a phone.

WeChat is used in China

WeChat is the most common app in China. Image by Jirapong Manustrong on Shutterstock.

The main function of WeChat is to communicate with people. But you can also use the app to pay for anything, like food and train tickets, 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 2020. 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.


India has banned Chinese-owned TikTok. Image by Cottonbro Studio on Pexels.

Video-sharing platform TikTok, which had a huge following in India, is one of the most well-known apps to be blocked.

There’s also discussion in the US to ban TikTok.

How to access banned apps in China

Alright, 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.

You can even share your VPN with others in your travel group.

Check out my expat review of the best China VPNs to get you sorted. Or, skip the review and go straight to the one I recommend here:

The cheap and nasty ones don’t work in China.

Forgot to get a VPN?

It will be super-annoying and you’ll have to go without all the apps and sites you love. Or, you’ll need 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, and access everything you need to. But depending on the data plan you have, you could be in for a shock when you receive your next bill.

I hope you now have a better understanding of the apps banned in China. Next, dig a bit deeper into all the major things banned in China (it’s not just apps).

Or, check out my article on the foods you can’t bring in to China. Enjoy!

FAQ about apps banned in China

What apps are banned in China?

Most major foreign apps are banned in China, including Google, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, and X (formerly Twitter).

Is Zoom banned in China?

No, it isn’t.

Is OnlyFans banned in China?

Yes, it is. Porn is banned in China.

Is TikTok banned in China?

Yes, it is. The locals use the Chinese version called Douyin.

Is Hotmail blocked in China?

No, it isn’t. You can use Hotmail in China except upload attachments (and OneDrive is blocked without a VPN).

Is Outlook blocked in China?

No, it isn’t. You can use Outlook in China except upload attachments (and OneDrive is blocked without a VPN).

Is Bing blocked in China?

No, but the results are censored. At the bottom of the search results page, you may see fine print that says ‘Some results are removed in response to a notice of local law requirement’.

Is ChatGPT banned in China?

Yes, it is. But there's a Chinese equivalent called Ernie Bot from search engine giant Baidu.

Does Bereal work in China?

Bereal seems to be working in China but some functionality isn’t perfect, e.g. images of your contacts/friends may not appear. My best advice is to get a VPN if you’re worried about staying in contact while in China.