I found the 5 best official and non-official WhatsApp alternatives. Then I researched 20 VPNs to find out which works with messaging apps in China. Although many claim to be reliable, only 3 of them will work seamlessly in China and keep chats secure and anonymous. After my tests, ExpressVPN was the best for messaging apps in China. It bypasses firewalls with lightning-fast speed and top-notch security features. It’s also backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can buy ExpressVPN without risk. Get ExpressVPN for China

Best Chat Apps to Use in China in 2023

1. WeChat

WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app for iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows. It’s free to use and is fully approved by the Chinese government. Although a VPN isn’t needed to access the app in China, a VPN encrypts all WeChat traffic and hides the real IP address of WeChat users in the country for added privacy. In addition to common features like messaging and calling, WeChat has a scanner to read QR codes that are widely used in China. If you need to get more information about a service, make payments, add a friend to WeChat, or follow a business, just scan the code. The app includes a built-in search engine to explore content like articles, videos, and posts from official WeChat accounts. There’s also an e-wallet that connects to Chinese bank accounts and credit cards for payments on iOS and Android. Despite its useful features, WeChat is under constant surveillance just like all approved messaging apps in China. Pictures, comments, and videos are subject to monitoring and heavy censorship, and critical views can be quickly deleted from the platform without warning. Even though WeChat only censors users with Chinese phone numbers, activities on the platform as a foreigner are still monitored. This is possible because the app doesn’t use end-to-end encryption. This is a security risk that provides open access for hackers to compromise your private data and sell it on the black market. I read WeChat’s privacy policy and it didn’t provide much comfort, as I found a long list of third parties whom it shares your information with. This includes WeChat’s group of companies, advertising partners, and regulatory bodies. WeChat also logs the social media profiles you visit, who you communicate with on the app, and your IP address, among other details. There are even documented cases of the Chinese Government arresting people for things they posted or said on the app.

2. Threema

Unlike WhatsApp and WeChat, Threema isn’t free but it’s completely anonymous. Although not officially endorsed, it’s also not blocked in China so a VPN isn’t required to access it. There’s no need to provide an email address or mobile number to get started with Threema. Instead, the app generates an 8-digit ID that becomes a private encryption key which is stored in the user’s device. To communicate securely in China, Threema creates a public key pair and stores it in its servers to be distributed to chat partners. For security, each message is hidden with 256-bit encrypted which makes it practically impossible for Chinese cybercriminals to hack. Additionally, Threema’s no-logs servers are in privacy-friendly Switzerland, where companies have no data retention requirements. As soon as Threema messages are sent, they’re immediately wiped to eliminate any possibility of eavesdropping, data theft, or leaks. It also has an option to password-protect and hide confidential messages. With these safety perks, Threema is one of the most private and secure WhatsApp alternatives that hasn’t been blocked in China. Beyond standard messaging, group chats, media sharing, voice and video calling, Threema has some nice extras. During my tests of its additional features, I found that Threema has the ability to create polls, pin messages for easy access later, and quote previous messages in replies. The mobile app is available for Android and iOS, but you can also pair Threema with a computer to chat on a desktop. Just remember to only use Threema only for approved activities in China. I don’t condone taking advantage of Threema’s privacy features to break laws or bypass censorship.

3. Wire

Wire is more a business collaboration solution than a personal messenger, so it’s a good option for those traveling to China for work. However, since the Wire app and most VPNs are blocked in the country, it’s necessary to download both before entering Chinese borders. During tests, the free plan was sufficient for basic messaging, smooth audio and video calling, and file sharing for up to 5 users at once. The paid enterprise package includes unlimited users, conferencing capabilities, screen sharing, and integration with CRM platforms and other tools. All Wire communications are hidden with end-to-end encryption, and its open source code has been independently audited. This means that no one can read or eavesdrop on Wire messages or phone calls in China. Another plus is that Wire is headquartered in privacy-friendly Switzerland so the company doesn’t have to monitor, record, or share any data. The service is also fully GDPR compliant, so Wire is protected by European privacy laws even in China. I read the entire privacy policy, and Wire does log some data that it keeps for up to 72 hours. It was concerning that I couldn’t find out from the text of the policy what specific information Wire collects. Registering for Wire requires an email address or a phone number, but using a throw-away email created outside of China is recommended to protect privacy. One other downside is that it doesn’t support two-factor authentication for extra security. Similar features are included on both desktop and mobile apps, depending on if it’s a paid or free account. However, there are fewer than a million Wire users worldwide which can limit its use in China.

4. Signal

Signal is free but it’s blocked in China, so a VPN is needed for it to work in spite of internet firewalls. It uses strong end-to-end encryption for all chats, and hides calls using an open-sourced cipher. Being open-source allows a community of expert users to inspect it for bugs and other flaws, which can then be quickly addressed. Using Signal isn’t completely anonymous, as users have to register using a phone number. Chinese phone numbers are accepted on the app, but I found a line in Signal’s privacy policy saying it may share personal data with third parties due to “enforceable governmental request” and other reasons. On the plus side, Signal doesn’t store messages on its own server — it stores encrypted data on the user’s device. Although all messages will have to go to Signal’s servers in order to be delivered, they’re deleted once they’ve been sent. It’s also possible to auto-delete chats after a customized time period. With this feature enabled, even if Chinese cybercriminals break into a device the messages will already be gone. For extra security Signal also has an option to password-protect chats. A screenshot blocking feature is an added bonus that prevents other users from capturing images of text conversations or video calls and saving them for blackmail or other uses. Besides smartphones, the Signal app is available for desktops as well. To use it on a PC or Mac, one of the mobile apps just has to be installed first. After registering on mobile, just scan a desktop QR code to link both devices.

5. Telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based app that requires a VPN to work in China. It’s free and easy to set up but requires registration with a mobile number. China-based phone numbers won’t typically work, so one from outside the country may be necessary. I found some unique Telegram features — for one, I love that Telegram lets you edit messages after they’ve been sent. It’s also possible to schedule messages ahead of time or post polls and quizzes for other Telegram users. Although many websites claim Telegram to be more secure than WhatsApp, it’s actually not. Messages are only encrypted while they move from devices to Telegram’s servers. Once there, messages are decrypted and could potentially be seen or intercepted in China. I read Telegram’s privacy policy and was concerned that Telegram records and stores IP addresses, device information, and username changes for up to 12 months. It’s also required to investigate and provide phone numbers and IP addresses to the authorities if asked to do so. Only the Secret Chat feature uses end-to-end encryption and prevents third parties from seeing the messages. Additionally, these messages (and photos) can be set to self-destruct after a time. These are crucial for using Telegram China (as is a top VPN), since it’s hard to tell who’s eavesdropping. Once registered on mobile, accounts can be linked to the web app to use Telegram on a desktop. To find contacts easily it’s possible to create a username, but this also enables random strangers to send unsolicited messages. This can lead to getting some spam.

How to Access WhatsApp in China?

WhatsApp is accessible in China only by using a VPN. This creates an encrypted tunnel using a server in another location, providing a secure and anonymous connection. By disguising the data as typical web traffic, it unblocks WhatsApp and other messaging services even in countries where they’re blocked. The problem is that only a few VPNs work on the Chinese mainland. Many VPN providers claim to be able to bypass internet firewalls, but very few can actually do so safely. That’s why after so much testing, only 3 VPNs worked consistently with chat apps in China. And since VPN websites are blocked there, it’s necessary to download a China-capable VPN for WhatsApp before entering the country. Trying to download a working VPN from within China will be nearly impossible since app stores won’t list them, and VPN websites don’t work.

Quick Guide: Access WhatsApp in China in 3 Easy Steps

Get ExpressVPN for WhatsApp

Best VPNs for WhatsApp in China

1. ExpressVPN — #1 VPN for WhatsApp in China With TrustedServer Technology That Guarantees Zero Logs of Your Data

Key Features: ExpressVPN is the best VPN for China with fully-audited TrustedServer network to maximize security and privacy on WhatsApp. These RAM-based servers never record WhatsApp data, which leaves no opportunity for anyone to eavesdrop on, steal, or leak sensitive chats. Since they run identical software and are wiped on every reboot, TrustedServers also avoid inconsistencies that hackers can exploit. Other ExpressVPN privacy and security features include:

Headquarters in the British Virgin Islands where there are no data retention laws and the government isn’t part of any surveillance-sharing alliances with other nations An automatic Network Lock that instantly disables the internet if networks become unstable, keeping locations and IP addresses hidden from third parties in China DNS, IP, and WebRTC leak protection ensures that no traffic sneaks past encryption while texting, calling, or file sharing on chat apps Military-grade 256-bit data encryption is strong enough to prevent anyone from eavesdropping on unsecured apps like WeChat Perfect Forward Secrecy protects data from attacks by changing encryption keys for every message sent on chat apps in China

I got fast connections during my tests of ExpressVPN servers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, India, and Vietnam. At 98Mbps during my tests, ExpressVPN had the fastest average speed compared to other VPNs that work in China. This resulted in zero frozen screens in a 2-hour Telegram video call. Since the Chinese government demands that VPN companies reveal data on users, ExpressVPN doesn’t have a network there since it wouldn’t be able to enforce its no-log policy. However, ExpressVPN’s 3000+ servers in 94 countries provide access to a wide variety of global services, sites, and communication apps from within China. To communicate securely within Chinese borders using WhatsApp or similar services, ExpressVPN can be connected to 5 devices simultaneously. I tried maxing out the number of devices and didn’t encounter choppy audio or other issues during my WhatsApp calls on Android, Mac, iOS, Windows, and other devices. One thing that was missing from ExpressVPN during my tests is that it lacks phone-based technical support. However, it has a very responsive live chat support available 24/7 that always replied to my questions in under 2 minutes. For the best deal, get ExpressVPN’s 1-year + 3 months plan for $6.67 per month. Plans are risk-free so if you aren’t satisfied, you can request a full refund within the 30-day money-back guarantee period. When I contacted support via 24/7 live chat, my request was approved in 1 minute and the money was back in my account within 5 days. Access WhatsApp with ExpressVPN

2. PrivateVPN — Uses a Stealth VPN Feature to Obfuscate VPN Traffic in China

Key Features: PrivateVPN’s Stealth VPN can bypass internet blocks to access WhatsApp in censorship-heavy countries like China, UAE, and Pakistan. The feature disguises VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic to hide it from third parties, allowing it to sneak past firewalls that block VPNs. In addition to Stealth VPN mode, PrivateVPN protects your privacy and security with:

A strict no-log policy that guarantees none of your online activities or other data is stored An automatic kill switch disables the internet on unsteady networks to keep chat data private in China IP leak protection ensures all traffic to WhatsApp stays hidden from cybercriminals and eavesdroppers Military-grade 256-bit encryption prevents hacking attempts by hiding your connection Perfect Forward Secrecy continuously changes encryption keys to prevent hackers from seeing any message, video, or anything else on chat apps

If you’re new to VPNs, PrivateVPN’s remote installation is invaluable. A support agent can set up the VPN, demonstrate how to use it, and even troubleshoot problems remotely. One PrivateVPN account covers up to 10 devices including desktops and mobile. Just keep in mind that the PrivateVPN app has to be downloaded before going to China since PrivateVPN’s website isn’t accessible there. With PrivateVPN’s 83Mbps speeds on servers tested in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, there were only mild audio issues during 3 WhatsApp video calls. It was still easy to understand everything the other person was saying, so it wasn’t a big deal. The main downside I found with PrivateVPN is that while its stealth feature is great for China, it can slow down internet speed because it adds another layer of encryption. This can cause some laggy video during in WhatsApp video calls from within China. ExpressVPN makes this delay imperceptible, but PrivateVPN’s affordable short-term plans still make PrivateVPN rank among the best monthly VPNs. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee which means there’s enough time to try it in China and decide if it’s suitable for long-term use. After I sent an email asking for a refund, I was reimbursed within a week. To give PrivateVPN a try with WhatsApp, subscribe to the 3-year plan for just $2.00 per month and you can get the biggest savings. Access WhatsApp with PrivateVPN

3. VyprVPN — Chameleon Protocol With Smart IP Changes IP Addresses to Hide WhatsApp Use in China

Key Features: VyprVPN developed its own Chameleon protocol to avoid internet censorship in China by scrambling OpenVPN traffic. Chameleon makes it seem as if no VPN is being used, which allows it to sneak past firewalls. This proprietary VPN tunnel works with a Smart IP feature that changes IP addresses continuously throughout chat sessions and prevents third-party eavesdropping. With the VPN’s 700+ servers in 80 countries including Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong, there are always nearby options to use WhatsApp in China without sacrificing speed. Even VyprVPN’s long-distance servers could handle fast-paced group chats on Signal with people sending constant gifs and images. Here are some of VyprVPN’s other ways of keeping chats in China secure and private:

Military-grade encryption that provides a secure tunnel for all chat app data A split tunneling feature for secure calling on chat apps while simultaneously using other online services in China without VPN encryption Its location in Switzerland, which has friendly privacy laws and doesn’t belong to any intelligence surveillance alliance Internally-owned servers so that no one at a third-party data center can steal or leak any data

For those who use chat apps on many different platforms in China, VyprVPN can connect on up to 30 devices at the same time. During testing, it was easy to install and run on a wide range of popular operating systems including Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. Though it’s one of the few VPNs that work in China, VyprVPN is more expensive compared to others on this list. The cheapest plan is 1-year at $5.00 per month, making ExpressVPN a slightly better value with its faster connection speeds for using chat apps in China. And like the other China VPNs, it comes with a money-back guarantee. If you give VyprVPN a try and decide to change to a different VPN instead, you can ask for a refund within 30 days. I tested the policy by sending a message via 24/7 live chat, I got my money back in a week. Access WhatsApp with VyprVPN

No, which is why we don’t encourage anyone to use a VPN to access WhatsApp in China. WhatsApp is owned by Meta and is banned in China for not permitting anyone to monitor messages. Only government-approved VPNs are allowed, and the VPNs listed in this article aren’t included. There are no cases of the Chinese government taking action against anyone for using WhatsApp with a VPN, but make sure to never use VPNs to break laws or bypass censorship.

Where else is WhatsApp blocked?

WhatsApp is also blocked in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Russia, Qatar, and Pakistan, but a good VPN like ExpressVPN can access WhatsApp in all these countries. In the UAE, the app is also limited to text messaging only — phone calls aren’t allowed. This is to protect local telecommunications companies from losing profits from long-distance call charges.

Is WhatsApp secure?

Yes, WhatsApp is safe because it uses end-to-end encryption to keep data secured from hackers and eavesdroppers in China. However, it isn’t entirely private — but a good VPN for WhatsApp in China can hide all your data and messages on the app from prying eyes and advertisers. This is because the app shares some of your data with other companies owned by Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company. Another security and privacy limitation is that when you contact a business on Facebook using WhatsApp, that data is stored on Facebook’s servers outside of WhatsApp’s encryption.

Can I use a free VPN to access WhatsApp?

No, even the best free VPNs are too limited to be effective — and not even paid VPN providers usually work in China at all. Besides, most free VPNs interrupt calls with constant ads to recover their expenses. With low budgets, they also give you very few servers to choose from. This causes congestion and slower speeds, resulting in audio glitches and laggy video calls. The really bad free VPNs collect and sell your private data to third parties, risking your privacy. A few are even run by scammers who install malware on your devices to steal your identity and blackmail you with your chat histories. I recommend taking advantage of the money-back guarantee of a premium VPN like CyberGhost to use WhatsApp for free. Its security and privacy features protect your data on chat apps and keep your messages hidden. When you’re done using it, just ask for a refund before the 45-day period is up.

Try CyberGhost with WhatsApp for free

Final Thoughts on Using WhatsApp in China

Chinese government-approved WhatsApp alternatives like WeChat have no end-to-end encryption, and others like Wire store some personal data. The only way to use WhatsApp and similar messaging apps safely and privately in China is by combining them with a powerful VPN. Since hardly any of them work in China, it took extensive tests of the top VPNs to figure out that ExpressVPN has the most advanced security and privacy features for using WhatsApp in China. It can access chat apps reliably and always had high-speed connections for smooth video calls during tests. Plus, it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can buy ExpressVPN in confidence.

Other Top VPNs in 2023