The Great Firewall of China

Inigo Castelo


The Great Firewall of China (hereinafter “GFW”) is a combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the People’s Republic of China to regulate the Internet domestically. The “Great Firewall” is an informal name for the combination of legal, technical and administrative measures undertaken by Chinese authorities to regulate what information its citizens can access, publish or view on the internet.

By 2008, the Chinese government had blocked millions of websites. It blocks sites that contain pornographic material, or any content deemed subversive or critical of the government, including Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, as well as those belonging to Western news organizations and human rights groups.

In addition to blocking websites and search engine results, the GFW monitors online activity of its citizens by using keyword filters on search engines and social networks. When a user types in a blocked keyword or searches for a sensitive topic, he receives a warning that his online activity has been logged in order to deter him from continuing down this path.

How did the Great Firewall start?

The Great Firewall of China has been in place for over two decades. It was started in 2003, and its purpose was to prevent the spread of information about the Tiananmen Square protests and Falun Gong movement. The Chinese government felt that these movements were a threat to their authority because they wanted democracy and religious freedom respectively.

How does the Great Firewall of China work?

The Great Firewall of China, also referred as the Golden Shield Project, refers to how Chinese government use advanced technologies such as DNS filtering, IP blocking, and Deep packet inspection to restrict access to selected foreign websites on the Internet.

  • DNS filtering: DNS filtering is the process of using the Domain Name System to block malicious websites and filter out harmful or inappropriate content. This ensures that Internet Service Providers have control over what their users can access on domestic networks. DNS filtering is often part of a larger access control strategy.

  • IP blocking: The Chinese authorities maintain a blacklist of IP addresses of restricted websites from foreign DNS servers. With these restricted IPs, they use a process called null routing, where all packets that are sent to the specific IP address are rejected, blocking outbound traffic and permitting inbound traffic.

  • Deep packet inspection: In early November 2021, the Great Firewall of China (GFW) deployed a new censorship technique that passively detects—and subsequently blocks—fully encrypted traffic in real time. The GFW’s new censorship capability affects a large set of popular censorship circumvention protocols, including but not limited to Shadowsocks, VMess, and Obfs4.

The Golden Shield project was initiated in 1998 by the Ministry of Public Security and formed a team of computer experts who were tasked with finding ways to block specific web pages from being accessed within China.

In addition to blocking sites that contain information deemed sensitive by Beijing, the firewall also blocks tools used for circumventing censorship such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). This leaves few options available for those looking to bypass it — namely using a proxy server or Tor browser — though these methods can be unreliable and are often shut down by regulators before long.

The Great Firewall has been the subject of controversy in recent years, with critics claiming that it is an infringement on freedom of speech and access to information. The firewall also poses a challenge for businesses operating online in China, as many companies rely on foreign websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to market themselves and communicate with customers. And their business forms a big part of Chinese GDP derived from export.

Can you get around the Great Firewall of China?

Recently the Great Firewall has become more sophisticated in its blocking abilities and has made it much harder to access content from outside of China. However there are still ways around this censorship if you know where to look!

There are mainly 2 ways to get around the Great Firewall, but they can be tricky.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will allow you to connect to a server in another country, which will then route your internet connection through that country’s servers. This means that all of your traffic will appear as though it is coming from the location of your chosen server and not China.

However, please bear in mind that the GFW is also capable to block foreign VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) as they can implement IP blocking, and deep packet inspection that can identify the VPN traffic from normal data traffic.

Also using a VPN may increase your internet speed somewhat if you are connecting via an overseas server; however, this could slow down substantially if too many people use their services at once (as often happens when there are protests).

A proxy server is typically a remote public server that stands between the website you are visiting and your device through a web app or desktop program. All your traffic goes to the proxy server first, which hides your original IP and access web pages on your behalf.

SOCKS5 is the most used proxy protocol that is not limited to web traffic but can be set up for games, streaming, torrenting, etc.

Providers/platforms who have a bunch of proxy servers running with specially optimized connections for Chinese networks are usually called “Airports” in Chinese. While international VPNs do not have optimized servers and connections in China, that’s why international VPN users often feel the speed is very slow when using them in China.

The SS/SSR/V2ray/Trojan protocols adopted by most “airports” are specifically designed for GFW circumvention. In addition to the early Shadowsocks protocol, V2ray, Trojan and some other new circumvention protocols have been gradually born in recent years. They are designed for the Chinese Internet environment, therefore they are more efficient and lightweight than VPN.

We recommend use SimpleLink, an EU company running proxy servers in China using IEPL and IPLC private lines with Trojan protocol since 2019.


The Great Firewall of China has proven to be a very effective means of censorship. It has also become an extremely popular topic among journalists and academics who cover internet freedom. However, many experts believe that the use of the GFW will only increase over time as more people get online and access information that might be considered sensitive by the government.

However, there are multiple ways in which users can bypass the GFW such as using VPN and proxy server apps, though they require some technical knowledge or assistance from others who have experience with this type of activity.

We recommend use SimpleLink, an EU company running proxy servers in China using IEPL and IPLC private lines with Trojan protocol since 2019. SimpleLink’s apps are extremely easy-to-use and speed is really fast. Just download its apps from iOS AppStore or Android Google Play, you can get connected to its China-optimized proxy server right after sign-up. And it’s free to have a test trial.

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